Kenyon is ranked the 96th institution of higher education in the United States, according to the 2018 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings (WSJ/THE), a ranking system that claims to prioritize student experience over wealth and prestige.
According to WSJ/THE, Kenyon is an inferior school to nearby Denison University, ranked 81st, which Kenyon usually beats in rankings, and a far inferior school to Oberlin College, ranked 63rd, which is generally a comparable institution to Kenyon.
“It is interesting, while the number certainly appears low, we’re in decent company,” Dean of Admissions Diane Anci said. Kenyon appears near several other small, selective liberal arts schools, like Scripps College and Trinity College.
Founded last year, the WSJ/THE markets itself as an alternative to traditional college rankings, which “reward colleges simply for being rich,” according to the introduction to the 2018 rankings, published on the Times Higher Education’s website. Their rankings claim to put a greater emphasis on student experience and success.
Kenyon has fallen one spot since the WSJ/THE rankings began last year, when Kenyon was ranked 95th.
In the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings, a well-known college ranking system, Kenyon is tied at 26th with Oberlin College in the liberal arts colleges category. Denison is 46th in that category. In Forbes’ college rankings list, Kenyon is 63rd overall. It falls well above Denison, at 120th, and slightly below Oberlin, at 53rd.
The WSJ/THE ranking may come, in part, as another consequence of the College’s lack of cultural and economic diversity in the student body; student and staff diversity account for six percent of the total WSJ/THE score, and the percent of international students account for another two percent. Kenyon scored low on this portion of the methodology; only 22 percent of Kenyon’s class of 2019 consists of domestic students of color, according to the College’s website, and only four percent are international students. Kenyon’s campus racial diversity is worse than Oberlin’s, whose first-year class was 27 percent domestic students of color and 12 percent international, according to Oberlin’s website. Denison’s website lists 33 percent of its student body as “multicultural,” which includes international students.
Kenyon also scored low on the portion of the methodology that measures student post-graduation success. But Dean of Admissions Diane Anci noted that WSJ/THE only took into account the salaries of recent graduates. “Institutions with engineering programs, with very large computer science programs, would fare better in the short term,” Anci said. “That can skew things for sure.”
In an email to the Collegian, the Times Higher Education rankings team wrote, “You will often find that some types of schools have different strengths and weaknesses: Liberal Arts schools for instance show good performance in faculty per student and interaction metrics, and perform less well in research-related metrics — the reverse can be seen with Research schools.”
Anci also pointed out factors that are heavily weighted in the U.S. News and World Report rankings but absent from the WSJ/THE rankings. U.S. News and World Report that take into account the school’s selectivity, as well as the school’s retention rate, two factors WSJ/THE leaves out.
“When you think about Kenyon’s assets, you know, I mean the academic caliber of its students and all of those measures around selectivity, it would have a positive impact,” Anci said about those factors.
Retention rate is more importanr than selectivity to Anci. “I quite agree with the weight that U.S. News assigns to retention rate,” she said. You want to enroll students who will stay.”
Ultimately, Anci concluded, rankings can only say so much. “They’re a very reductive scale,” she said. She does not think prospective students should base their decisions on rankings alone. “You want to do a big Excel spreadsheet, and list everything that matters to you,” Anci said.