MCLA Hits Top 10 List of Schools


By Jennifer Huberdeau 

NORTH ADAMS -- For the second year in a row, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' national profile is receiving a boost from the annual U.S. News and World Reports Best Colleges rankings.

The state university was ranked No. 10 on the 2013 Top 10 Public Liberal Arts Colleges list in the annual publication, which was released Sept. 12.

"There's always a challenge for students and parents to find the right college experience," Denise Richardello, vice president of enrollment and external affairs, said Wednesday. "Parents and students take their college searches very seriously. Our inclusion in the list of top public liberal arts colleges not only acknowledges our strong academic programs and out-of-classroom experiences, but it makes us more visible to students across the nation. It puts a spotlight on us, which is advantageous to our recruitment efforts."

Harvard University retained its spot as No. 1 on the Best National Universities list. Williams College remained No. 1 on the list for Top National Liberal Arts Colleges, making it the ninth year the college has been named as a top national liberal arts college and the second consecutive year that it hasn't had to share the ranking with its rival, Amherst College.

"We are pleased to be recognized as part of this distinctive consortium of institutions for the second year in a row," MCLA President Mary K. Grant said in a release. "A crucial element contributing to this recognition is faculty excellence. Each day, through well-rounded academic programs, our dedicated educators provide our students with a strong knowledge base. In the process, our students are exposed to the arena of ethics, social values and civic engagement, inspiring them with a larger vision."

She added, "In an increasingly complex world, MCLA's first-class public liberal arts education equips our students with a diversified skill set that prepares them to succeed in graduate study, in careers, and as informed and engaged citizens."

Also appearing in the Top 10 Public Liberal Arts College rankings were: U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Aca demy, U.S. Air Force Aca demy, Virginia Military In stitute, New College of Florida, St. Mary's College of Maryland, the University of North Carolina at Ashville, the University of Minnesota at Morris and State University of New York-Purchase College.

Richardello said that being recognized by U.S. News for two consecutive years plays a large roll in making MCLA more visible to prospective students, specifically those students residing outside of its direct recruitment areas.

"We have a very strong freshman class that comes from 11 states," she said. "They are very strong academically and very diverse."

Over the last seven years, MCLA has seen a 37 percent increase in admissions applications, which Richardello attributes to a variety of factors.

"It's a substantial increase," she said. "I don't believe that all of that increase can be attributed to the economic times we've been living in. Part of it is because of the recognition of our academic and out-of-class experiences. The economy does challenge families. But families have become even smarter consumers. They want to ensure that whatever they pay for college is going to prepare their students for the world, whether that be graduate school or employment."

Adding to the increase in applications she said is interest in the college's science and arts majors.

"We've seen applications for our science majors increase substantially," she said. "About 20 percent of our freshman class is majoring in the sciences. About 35 percent of our students are majoring in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields. We've also seen a tremendous increase in interest in our new arts majors."

According to U.S. News, there are 251 national liberal arts colleges in the country -- 223 private colleges, 27 public colleges and one for-profit. To be considered a liberal arts college for the rankings, a college must award at least 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines.

The rankings are based on a variety of factors, including average freshman retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, class size and SAT scores.