MCLA, Williams again score high marks with US News & World Report


NORTH ADAMS — Two Northern Berkshire colleges have landed in the top tiers of U.S. News & World Report's rankings of colleges and universities released on Monday.

For the second consecutive year, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has been ranked No. 7 on the organization's list of top public colleges. It also made the list of the Top National Liberal Arts colleges, coming in at No. 140.

Williams College was ranked No. 1 on the list of Top National Liberal Arts colleges.

This is the highest U.S. News & World Report ranking MCLA has earned. The college has appeared on the organization's list of top public colleges for seven of the last nine years. Williams College frequently ranks in the top 10 on the National Liberal Arts colleges list.

MCLA President James F. Birge attributed much of the credit to the high quality of the faculty, although he pointed out that the administrators and other staff members provide a fully rounded experience that contributes to students' success.

"This puts us in the tall grass with the big dogs," Birge said. "And it's a nice reflection of the quality of faculty we draw, and as a result, our students do well academically."

He noted that at the top of the list of public colleges and universities are the military service academies, such as the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., or the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

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But now that MCLA has moved past a couple of other schools to take their highest spot yet, Birge said the schools ranked higher than MCLA should start checking their rearview mirror, because he is aiming to knock them down the list a bit.

"We edged out a couple of other schools this year, so we feel pretty good about that," Birge said. "We're listed in a good group of high-quality institutions, but I'm hoping to knock some of them off their pedestals. We're good enough to be No. 1 and that's what our hope is."

He noted that the staff and faculty are not in the business of chasing rankings; their focus is providing a quality, effective education that leads to good outcomes after college.

"We don't want to chase rankings, but if we do things right, we'll get ranked," Birge said.

MCLA also appears on a new U.S. News & World Report list: Top Performers on Social Mobility. This list measures how well schools graduate students who receive Federal Pell Grants, which are typically awarded to students whose families make less than $50,000.

U.S. News & World Report ranks colleges based on indicators that reflect a school's student body, its faculty and its financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution achieves its mission of educating students.

Williams College officials declined to comment, as their policy does not allow commentary on college rankings.

Scott Stafford can be reached at or 413-629-4517.


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