Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Whitworth named a Kiplinger's best value among private universities

Whitworth remains one of the highest-ranked schools in the Pacific Northwest

In an economic environment that makes a college education even more essential and yet also more difficult to afford, Whitworth University was included for the fifth straight year on Kiplinger's annual rankings of the 100 best values among private liberal arts colleges and 100 best values among private universities in the United States. The university joins some of the most elite schools in the country in the magazine's 2011-12 rankings. Whitworth is one of the smallest universities to appear on the list, yet it is the third-highest-ranked school in the Pacific Northwest and ranks ahead of all but a handful of other private universities on the West Coast.

The list is posted to the Kiplinger website and will appear in the December issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, due on newsstands Nov. 8. The magazine ranks the 100 best values among private liberal arts colleges and the 100 best values among private universities separately but based on the same criteria of academic quality and affordability, with academic quality accounting for two-thirds of the formula. Whitworth University placed in the top 100 because of a high four-year graduation rate, low average student debt at graduation, good student-to-faculty ratio, excellent on-campus resources and overall great value.

"The institutions on Kiplinger's rankings for best value in private colleges represent schools that provide high-quality academics as well as affordable cost even in these tough times," says Jane Bennett Clark, senior associate editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. "With money tight and the college choice so important, you have every reason to expect the best bang for your buck."

Princeton University tops Kiplinger’s list of best university values, followed by Yale, the California Institute of Technology and Rice. West Coast schools joining Whitworth (No. 62) in the rankings are Stanford University (No. 10), Gonzaga University (No. 30), the University of Southern California (No. 39), Santa Clara University (No. 44), the University of Portland (No. 46) and Pepperdine University (No. 52), among others. Whitman College is ranked 31st on the list of best liberal arts college values. The complete rankings can be accessed online at http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/privatecolleges/.

The academic quality measures in Kiplinger's rankings include the percentage of applicants granted admission; the percentage of 2010-11 freshmen who scored 600 or higher on the verbal and math sections of the SAT or 24 or higher on the ACT; student-faculty ratio; and four- and five-year graduation rates. This year, Kiplinger adjusted its criteria so that the rankings give more weight than they did previously to the four-year graduation rate and to colleges that keep student debt down.

Whitworth's student selectivity has increased dramatically as the number of freshman applications has grown more than 629 percent, to 7,043 for fall 2011, from 1,115 in 2000. With a freshman class of about 530 students this fall, Whitworth's 54 percent acceptance rate was among the lowest of its peers. Whitworth also welcomed this fall the most academically successful freshman class in its history – with an average high-school GPA of 3.7 and average SAT of 1807. Whitworth has a three-year average freshman-sophomore retention rate of 86 percent, while 85 percent of students who graduate from Whitworth do so in four years; both of those measures are well above national averages. In addition, the university has lowered its student-faculty ratio to 11-to-1 even as undergraduate enrollment has risen. Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of Whitworth students have studied abroad and more than 50 percent of students have completed an internship or practicum by the time they graduate.

"We are thrilled to be ranked by Kiplinger's as a top private university value for the fifth year in a row," says Greg Orwig, Whitworth's vice president for admissions and financial aid. "Being recognized as a best value by Kiplinger's, U.S. News and World Report and other outside ranking organizations reflects Whitworth's strong commitments to academic quality and financial aid. Our outstanding faculty members engage students inside and outside the class room in experiential learning opportunities that equip graduates for long-term success and that make Whitworth a great investment."

The financial aid measures factored into Kiplinger's rankings include total costs for the 2011-12 academic year, cost minus the average need-based aid amount (excluding loans), the average percentage of a student's financial need met by the school's aid package, the percentage of the average aid package that comes from grants or scholarships, the cost for a student with no demonstrated need after subtracting the average non-need aid amount (excluding loans), the percentage of all undergraduates without need who received non-need-based aid, and the average amount of debt owed by a graduate who took out an educational loan.

Whitworth will provide more than $39 million in grants and scholarships to undergraduate students this year, and the average financial aid award for Whitworth students receiving aid is $25,366. Ninety-eight percent of freshmen received financial aid from the university this year.

"We want to do everything we can, particularly in the current economic climate, to ensure that Whitworth remains in financial reach for as many families as possible," Orwig says. "Whitworth is investing more than $39 million this year in gift aid – grants and scholarships that students do not need to pay back or earn through work-study."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Greg Orwig, vice president for admissions and financial aid, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or gorwig@whitworth.edu.  

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.