What do the numbers show?

What do the numbers show?
by Kellie Quist ’10 |
With the annual parade of college rankings bigger than ever, SCU scores high, especially when it comes to return on investment.

Every year parents and soon-to-be college applicants scour the lists of college rankings, trying to find the right match. Certainly “best of ” lists exude a certain attraction, but it helps to know what you’re looking for—especially these days, when the field of rankings-compilers has become considerably more crowded.

The proliferation of lists means that the lists themselves “have lost their misplaced position of importance,” SCU’s Vice President of Enrollment Management Mike Sexton told MSNBC earlier this year. “Every magazine has to have some slant on colleges, and everybody and their mother keeps writing books on college admissions,” he added.

Hear, hear! Acknowledging that there might not be simple answers to complex questions (like which college to choose, and why), there are some interesting assessments in the rankings this year.

Bang for the buck

At Businessweek, college rankings draw on research by Payscale on “What is your degree worth?” Santa Clara scores 33rd out of 554 schools nationwide for delivering the most “bang for your buck” upon graduation. The total cost of graduation is around $187,500; net return on investment over a 30-year period for graduates—$1,261,000. That comes to an 11.1 percent annualized net return on investment.

No. 4 among “colleges that will make you rich”

Over at Forbes.com, their ranking of the best schools nationwide saw SCU jump a few notches to No. 115 (up from 150 nationally). But Santa Clara becomes a true rock star when you flip to the list of “colleges that will make you rich” (or, in other words, “These schools do the best job of raising their students above expectations”). Sharing the stage with SCU at the top of the list: Williams, Dartmouth, and Stanford.

Quality of life

In the 2011 installment of Princeton Review’s The Best 373 Colleges, SCU gets a nod for being one of the best institutions for undergraduate education and lands on the list of “Best Western Colleges.” Among especially high marks: quality of life and commitment to sustainability. Only the top 15 percent of 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States are profiled in the book.

Freshmen come back

The granddaddy in the rankings game is U.S. News & World Report, which once again esteems SCU the No. 2 master’s university in the West. When it comes to graduation rates, SCU is in the top three in the country among master’s level universities. Other highlights: The School of Engineering is ranked No. 17; and SCU has the highest freshman retention rate—93 percent—among master’s universities in the West.


Alan Beilharz said on Mar 1, 2012

In the winter issue of Santa Clara Magazine, I was interested to read Cathy Horan-Walker's report on the long, slow decline in alumni contributions, recently reversed but still well below 20 percent. In the same issue is a piece titled "What do the numbers show?" quoting business magazines which describe SCU as providing a good "bang for the buck," and ranking it high on the list of colleges that "will make you rich." That made me wonder: Do alumni support a school because it made them rich? And doesn't the phrase bring up greed, that dreadful drain on hope, and on its product, social vitality?

I always feel glad and deeply grateful when I send my annual contribution, because my alma mater and the Society of Jesus showed me better ways of making choices. Santa Clara's cheerful and confident instruction in matters such as faith, reason, ethics, and service gave me powerful antidotes to toxins like greed, though I must still pour the dose myself. I'm grateful to those who showed me those alternatives, and optimistic about today's students of my favorite school. I know many other alumni have walked similar paths, love their SCU, and donate for the same reason.

And by the way, Santa Clara Magazine is a fantastic magazine. I appreciate your superb editorial work, and the equally fine work of the entire staff. It's always a delight to find the magazine in my mailbox.

Alan Beilharz '68

R. L. Nailen said on Mar 1, 2012

This edition brought home to me how much SCU has changed in 60 years—and not always for the better. Certainly the University then would never have thought to boast of its position on the list of "colleges that will make you rich" [Mission Matters, Winter 2010]; the Jesuits then seemed to have other values on their minds. Next, we see that by 1970 there were classes only four days a week. During much of my time as a student, six days was more the norm, including Saturday-morning labs. The sad news of the death of my classmate Gene Fisher '50 [In Memoriam, Winter 2010], hired soon after graduation to spend many years on the mechanical engineering faculty, reminds me that although he was a good man and surely a fine teacher, he would not even be granted an interview today—no doctorate or even a master's of science; no teaching experience; no research career; no publications list. And finally, no one in 1950 felt that the Quonset hut serving as our "student activities center" needed a "disco ball" hung from a 20-foot ceiling.

R. L. Nailen '50

Summer 2014

Table of contents


A day with the Dalai Lama

High-spirited and hushed moments from Feb. 24: a day to talk about business, ethics, compassion.

The Catholic writer today

Poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia argues that Catholic writers must renovate and reoccupy their own tradition.

Our stories and the theatre of awe

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Marilynne Robinson speaks about grace, discernment, and being a modern believer.

Mission Matters

What would the next generation say?

Hossam Baghat, one of Egypt’s leading human rights activists, was awarded the 2014 Katharine and George Alexander Law Prize for his work defending human rights.

Breaking records on the maplewood

Scoring 40 points in one game. And besting Steve Nash’s freshman year.

How's the water?

A lab on a chip helps provide the answer—which is a matter of life and death when the question is whether drinking water contains arsenic.