September 13, 2011

SIUC rises in U.S. News & World Report rankings

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale earned recognition from U.S. News & World Report in its “Best Colleges 2012” rankings, released today (Sept. 13).

SIUC appeared on the “Best National Universities” list at 170, among universities considered to be “Top Tier,” or the top 75 percent of schools.  The showing represents improvement from last year’s appearance in the national rankings, which SIUC ranked at 183.

The authors of the “Best National Universities” list use the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education 2010 revisions to the Basic Classification -- the first major category revision in several years.  The “National Universities” list includes 251 institutions.  “National Universities” are those offering a full range of undergraduate majors, master’s and doctoral degrees, and having a significant research enterprise.

The rankings also provide a statistical sketch of each university, making it convenient for students to compare such details university to university as faculty to student ratio, class size, and other factors.

SIUC, for example, improved its overall score by 10 points.  The overall score is a composite of other scores that factor statistics such as average freshman retention rate, class size data, range of median SAT/ACT scores, and acceptance rate.

SIUC showed strongly in maintaining a high percentage of full-time faculty (95 percent), and in having a low percentage of classes numbering 50 or more students (6 percent).  The University also improved its freshman retention and graduation rate.  In addition, SIUC’s score for undergraduate academic reputation index is second only to the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses) in the state.

Chancellor Rita Cheng noted that rankings from U.S. News & World Report and other sources are among the many factors prospective students and their parents consider in choosing a college.

“We continue to make progress in the overall rankings thanks to the commitment of our faculty and staff to student success and academic excellence,” she said.  “The low percentage of large classes and the high percentage of full-time faculty are essential elements of a high-quality educational experience that focuses on the individual needs of students.”

The recognition the University is capturing is an important part of its new messaging initiatives.

“It’s critical that everyone understands what our University means to Illinois and the world,” Cheng said.  “We are making sure that our reputation for providing a challenging academic program, for outstanding teaching and for meaningful research, is reaching the broadest possible audience.”

U. S. News & World Report includes with its rankings a list of “Academic Programs to Look For.” Those programs are: First-year experiences, internships/co-ops, undergraduate research/creative projects, learning communities, study abroad, service learning, senior capstone, and writing in the disciplines.

SIUC students enjoy many benefits from attending a university ranked among the top 5 percent of all U.S. higher education institutions for research by the Carnegie Foundation.

“Our students are learning from recognized leaders in their fields, faculty members who are dedicated to meaningful research and quality classroom instruction and mentoring,” Cheng said.  “By making so many opportunities available to conduct research, our undergraduates develop critical-thinking skills and contribute new knowledge.”

Undergraduate research and creative opportunities include Research Rookies and Saluki Scholars Research Opportunity, which give freshmen the chance to engage in individual research or creative projects from their very first semester at SIUC.  Other programs include REACH and McNair Scholars.

SIUC’s Saluki First Year program, which helps students make the transition from high school to college life, is part of the University College.  This model centralizes and coordinates all services supporting new freshman and transfer students to further enhance student success.

Several academic programs at SIUC require an internship, and have the resources to help students obtain them. The SIU Alumni Association’s extern program uses the extensive SIUC alumni network to place students with Saluki professionals in their chosen careers. The extern program generally takes place over spring break. Internships often last the duration of an academic year or longer.

Living Learning Communities in the residence halls offer students the opportunity to live on a designated floor or in a hall with other students in their major or in similar majors. LLCs help students improve academically and help students feel more connected to their University community, which can be a key factor in keeping a student on the graduation track.

SIUC students travel the globe through the Study Abroad program, which offers opportunities pertaining to every college on campus. Students may choose to study abroad for a few weeks or for an academic year. Students have learned business management skills in Japan, studied ecosystems in Costa Rica and Panama, and immersed themselves in French culture in Paris, to name a few recent study abroad experiences.

Service learning is a major part of SIUC’s commitment to community outreach. The Saluki Volunteer Corps helps students find volunteer opportunities relevant to their majors and future career goals, helping students learn by helping but also giving them a preview of the possibilities their majors offer. In addition, the University is home to more than 450 Registered Student Organizations, many of which incorporate service learning into their mission.

Many programs at SIUC include a senior project in major requirements, and writing skills are part of the University Core Curriculum. Writing centers across campus help students meet the demands of writing in different disciplines.