Students rank small liberal arts schools higher than Ivy League and UCs

Williams and Bowdoin rank especially high on several student-generated rankings. Every year, the Princeton Review’s college rankings survey 140,000 students across 385 schools to generate 62 different lists of top 20 schools in eight categories. Below we include our picks from the results of five Academic surveys (1).

(1) 2019 Ranking: schools with the attached link (blue) overlap with the Fahey Associates curated college list.

Rank ↓ Best Classroom Experience ⤻ Students Study the Most ⤻ Professors Get High Marks ⤻ Most Accessible Professors ⤻ Best Science Lab Facilities ⤻
1 Reed College California Institute of Technology Sarah Lawrence College United States Military Academy Lehigh University
2 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Williams College Reed College Williams College United States Military Academy
3 United States Military Academy Reed College Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Wabash College St. Olaf College
4 Sarah Lawrence College Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Mt. Holyoke College College of Wooster California Institute of Technology
5 St. John’s College (MD) College of Wooster St. John’s College (MD) Webb Institute United States Naval Academy
6 Grinnell College Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Grinnell College Whitman College Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
7 University of Richmond College of the Atlantic Thomas Aquinas College Colby College University of Scranton
8 Williams College Harvey Mudd College Bennington College Harvey Mudd College William and Mary
9 St. Olaf College Webb Institute Vanderbilt University Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Stanford University
10 Marlboro College United States Military Academy Wabash College St. John’s College (MD) Harvey Mudd College
11 Bucknell University Brown University Marlboro College Thomas Aquinas College Johns Hopkins University
12 Mt. Holyoke College St. John’s College (NM) Hillsdale College Furman University Bucknell University
13 Wabash College Lehigh University Hobart and William Smith College Hillsdale College Loyola Marymount University
14 College of Wooster Gettysburg College Dickinson College Wake Forest University United States Air Force Academy
15 Earlham College Wellesley College Bowdoin College St. John’s College (NM) Grinnell College
16 Bennington College Grinnell College Emory University Carleton College St. Lawrence University
17 Thomas Aquinas College St. John’s College (MD) Wheaton College (IL) Grinnell College Trinity University
18 Gettysburg College The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art Williams College Randolph College Georgia Institute of Technology
19 Bard College Hillsdale College University of Richmond University of Richmond Emory University
20 Hamilton College Bowdoin College Wellesley College Bowdoin College Wheaton College
Note: See the Princeton Review article for the complete set of 62 college rankings
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COVID-19 Threatens College Fall Enrollment

…as 95% of incoming students say they would expect a decrease in the cost of attendance if coursework moves partially or fully online. As students finish up an online spring semester, a clear dislike for remote learning has emerged; students perceive the value of online coursework as significantly lower than in-person classes. 62% of respondents say they are less likely to enroll in the fall if their school offers no additional financial aid resources for the 2020-2021 school year. Schools waiving student fees/ administrative costs or significantly reducing the cost of attendance are more likely to retain all of their freshman commitments. 42% of respondents indicated that they would not delay their education under any circumstances, and will seek schools that financially adapt to their preference.

Likelihood of Fall Enrollment under Different Financial Scenarios

Data: Carnegie Dartlet Full 2020 Report, Data Tables
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Retention Rates Lower at Technical Colleges than Liberal Arts Colleges

Retention rates measure the percent of first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at the school the next year, indicating student satisfaction and the ability to handle their schools’ academic environment. The average retention rate of the top 20 liberal arts schools is 97% while that of the top 20 technical colleges is 89%. This rate is especially important at technical schools providing specialized training (usually in STEM fields) where students may be forced to drop out or transfer if they want to switch to a liberal arts major. High retention rates at these technical schools indicate strong student support, high quality of teaching, and student confidence to complete their STEM degree. Among technical schools, the Open Educational Database dataset placed Georgia Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute at the top of the list.

Retention Rate Rank US News Rank 2020 School Retention Rate
20 29 Georgia Institute of Technology 97%
34 64 Worcester Polytechnic Institute 96%
47 54 Colorado School of Mines 94%
50 74 Stevens Institute of Technology 94%
54 74 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 94%
56 NA California Polytechnic State University – SLO 93%
61 48 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 93%
63 NA Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 93%
119 NA California State Polytechnic University – Pomona 89%
130 104 Rochester Institute of Technology 89%
148 NA SUNY College of Technology at Alfred 88%
161 117 Illinois Institute of Technology 87%
166 147 Michigan Technological University 87%
169 179 Missouri University of Science and Technology 87%
178 NA Milwaukee School of Engineering 87%
Note: "Retention Rate Rank" refers to the list of US colleges with the highest retention rates, while "US News Rank" is based on the US News annual ranking of best US colleges, and is provided for further context.
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