By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
Each year, a number of publications release their rankings of top colleges and universities. While rankings can help folks understand a school’s retention and graduation rates, colleges in rural states say these lists don’t tell the full story.
Phillip Engelkemier, a college recruitment specialist at the West Virginia University School of Nursing and president-elect of the West Virginia Associate of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said schools in rural regions often are home to specific programs that aren’t offered elsewhere.
“I know there’s an institution called Fairmont State University that offers an aviation program,” he said. “It’s a program that many other states just may not offer.”
Research shows that while some rural community colleges are seeing growth, nationwide student enrollment at rural higher-education institutions is trending downward.
Engelkemier said lower cost is another important benefit to attending college in the Mountain State.
“Out-of-state tuition at some of our West Virginia institutions is still more affordable than what an in-state tuition might be for somebody else that’s residing in another state,” he said.
The magazine Washington Monthly bills its higher-ed ranking as an alternative that’s more relevant to average families. Editor-in-chief Paul Glastris said he feels some other guides, such as U.S. News and World Report, place too much emphasis on prestige and wealth. He said Washington Monthly ranks schools based on other metrics.
“Whether a college is creating the scholarship and scholars that drive innovation and economic growth and human flourishing,” he said, “and whether a college is helping encourage their students to become active citizens – by serving in the Peace Corps, by voting.”
Charleston University, Marshall University and West Virginia University all appear on Washington Monthly’s list.
Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.