MCLA named among top schools by U.S. News & World Report

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NORTH ADAMS — MCLA has been ranked ninth out of about 170 American public colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report.

James Birge, president of MCLA, said the credit should go to the quality of the faculty and the achievements of the students.

U.S. News & World Report published its list of top ranked college and universities Monday. The top ranked school was the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Number two was the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The 10th ranked school was the State University of New York's Purchase College.

"The great thing about this is that we're getting recognition for the things we do well and we're really proud of," Birge told The Eagle Wednesday. "We've got faculty who are intellectually brilliant with ethics of service that run deep, and if that's a reflection of who we are, then I am really proud of our faculty."

"Among our award-winning faculty are those associated with the Fulbright Program," he said. "Our faculty members are the recipients of grants from prestigious funders such as the Mellon Foundation, the Davis Educational Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and are sought-out as experts in their fields to speak at academic conferences around the world."

According to U.S. News & World Report's website post about the rankings, the formula uses exclusively statistical quantitative and qualitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality.

"To calculate the overall rank for each school within each category, up to 16 metrics of academic excellence are assigned weights that reflect U.S. News' researched judgment about how much they matter," the posting says. "These measures are grouped into the following indicators: outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving."

In addition, this year a new factor was considered: a school's success at promoting social mobility by graduating students who received federal Pell Grants.

Birge noted that a third of MCLA students come from households with an annual income of $30,000 or less and receive Pell Grants to help them afford a college education.

And the vast majority of them "get a great liberal arts education and go on to get really good jobs," he said. "In four years, we've been able to end the cycle of poverty for many of our students. If there's a higher calling, I don't know of it."

After the announcement of the rankings, congratulations came from local and state officials.

"This recognition affirms what people in North Adams and the Berkshires have always known: that MCLA is a great public liberal arts college and an incredible asset to the community and the commonwealth," said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard. "MCLA's students, staff, and faculty enrich and enliven North Adams, and in turn the city itself serves as an extension of the college's campus."

"I'm delighted to offer my congratulations to the leadership, students, faculty and staff of MCLA on this well-earned national recognition," said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. "MCLA is one of the crown jewels in our public higher education system, a critical institution meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student body while also playing a role in its local community."

In 2016 the U.S. Department of Education recognized MCLA as one of "26 Four-Year Public and Private Colleges with Low Educational Costs and High Salaries" for graduates. All 26 colleges enroll more than 40 percent low-income students. These institutions feature an affordable net price and good graduation rates for all of their students. In addition, the Department of Education last spring recognized MCLA as one of 13 institutions nationally for graduating students from low-income families at the same rate as students from high-income families.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.

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