Benedictine named one of ‘America’s Best Colleges’

by Jane Graves

ATCHISON — The Benedictine College Ravens here soared into the top tier of colleges and universities this year, as reported in the Midwest Master’s category of the 2008 edition of “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report magazine.

“It’s exciting for us,” said Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College. “This is the first time that this has ever happened for the college. It’s nice to be recognized in that way, although I’m not surprised, because we think we’ve been doing an incredible job educating our students in Atchison for going on 150 years now.”

As reported on its Web site, the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings compare more than 1,400 accredited four-year colleges and universities. The schools are grouped into categories as established by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Colleges and universities are given a ranking based on total weighted scores from up to 15 indicators of academic quality. The Master’s Category is divided into four regions as well as Top Tier, Tier 3, Tier 4 and Unranked Schools.

Benedictine College ranked 56th overall in the top tier. Within individual indicators, Benedictine College ranked first in its category for its high percentage of classes under 20 students (87%) as well as first for not having any classes over 50 students. It was also listed in the top 10 for the indicator of colleges’ average alumni giving rate (23% at Benedictine).

Minnis said that while U.S. News & World Report emphasizes academic quality, Benedictine also excels in areas not reported by the magazine.

“We take a broader view of education that is not purely academics, although that’s critically important,” Minnis said. “We’re trying to create intellectual, personal, spiritual greatness in these young people. There’s nobody gauging how colleges do in that regard, but if they’d judge, we’d be at the top.”

Enrollment seems to support Minnis’ claim. Applications have doubled, there is a waiting list for the first time in the college’s history, and this fall marks the largest enrollment ever for Benedictine, Minnis said.

“We’re experiencing a renaissance of sorts at the college. In the last 10 years, our enrollment has increased 85 percent. We’ve built a number of buildings, added a number of programs, and basically our reputation has grown in the marketplace,” he said.

Yet small class size will remain a constant.

“We’re pleased that in conjunction with our growth, we’ve been able to maintain the small class size and personal attention from our professors,” Minnis said. “We’re very proud that Benedictine College is known for its close sense of community, and we’re not going to change that.”

Minnis said the revitalization of Benedictine College began about 10 years ago when the administration made a concerted effort to embrace the college mission.

“Everything we do, every decision that we make, is based upon our mission — our mission as a Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts, and a residential college — the education of men and women within a community of faith and scholarship. Once we as a college embraced that mission, that’s when all this success happened for us and we just kind of took off.”

“You never want to lead a college and university and make decisions just so that you get mentioned in U.S.News & World Report,” said Minnis. “What you want to do is lead your organization pursuant to your mission and do the things that will help educate the young people.

“If it just so happens that you get mentioned in U.S.News & World Report, then that is just icing on the cake for us.”

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