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U.S. News & World Report ranks Gonzaga No. 4 among similar regional universities in the West

The front of the administration building hall at Gonzaga University Friday, August 31, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The front of the administration building hall at Gonzaga University Friday, August 31, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

For the fourth year running, Gonzaga University is ranked fourth best among similar regional universities in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual listings.

The rankings rank schools in distinct categories, determined by level and type of certification offered. Regional universities are distinguished from national universities – such as Stanford and the University of Washington – in that they offer few, if any doctoral degrees, though they do offer master’s degrees. Regional liberal arts colleges, another category, offer more than 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines. Regional colleges focus primarily on undergraduate education.

The Western region spans from the coastal states to Montana and down to Texas, and includes Hawaii and Alaska. The three schools ahead of Gonzaga in the regional university rankings are Santa Clara University in California; Trinity University in San Antonio; and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles – all private. Santa Clara and LMU, like Gonzaga, are Jesuit schools.

“I think our excellence is established over a long period of time,” said Peter Tormey, spokesman for Gonzaga. The school has been ranked among the top schools for 20 years running, he said.

In the study, Gonzaga also ranked best in its class in the West for undergraduate teaching, sixth for best value, second for graduation rate, third for first-year-student retention rate, third in best college for veterans and seventh for most innovative.

“This year, we’re recognized for undergraduate teaching,” Tormey said. “We’re very much focused on professors being accessible to students.”

Eastern Washington University tied for No. 77 among regional universities in the West, and tied for 24th for best public schools.

Washington State University tied for 140th in the best national universities list. The University of Washington placed 59th.

Whitworth University tied for eighth place for best regional university in the West.

But a common complaint about the annual study points out that 20 percent of the rankings account for “perceived reputations,” meaning opinions about the school.

U.S. News & World Report doesn’t account for affordability in its rankings; it’s often criticized for favoring wealthier institutions.

“The U.S. News rankings are not rankings of higher education,” said Jim Wolfston, president of CollegeNET, in an Inside Higher Ed article.

Wolfston said that the “incoming SAT scores” factor, which accounts for 7.75 percent of the rating, is unfair.

“They are rankings of the perpetuation of economic privilege,” he said in the article. “We all know the research. The tightest direct correlation to higher SAT scores is family income. Schools with the highest incoming SAT scores are therefore ‘better,’ not because they deliver a powerful education delta to their students, but because they enroll more scions of the rich.”

U.S. News put Gonzaga’s annual tuition at $43,210, with an estimated annual total cost of $59,795. On the other side of the scale is Eastern Washington, with tuition of $7,333 (in-state) and an estimated total cost of $23,004.

Tormey said that rankings are one of many ways that students determine which school to attend.

“There are a lot of rankings out there, and these are one of the most established and accurate,” said Tormey. “It’s one of the few that we report.”

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