CMU 586th in ‘Top Colleges’ list

Colorado Mesa University ranked 586th out of 650 institutions on this year’s Forbes.com “Top Colleges” list.

The list, released earlier this month, gives Princeton University top billing among the United States’ approximately 6,600 colleges and universities.

Colorado Mesa has bounced around on the list since 2009, when then-Mesa State College ranked 326th on the list. The college dropped to 555th in 2010 and jumped to 537th on the list last year.

Rankings are based on several factors, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason for Colorado Mesa’s movement on the list. About a third of a school’s ranking is based on post-graduate success as measured by how many alumni appear in the biographical resource text Who’s Who in America and how many alumni are chief executive officers or members of the board of directors for companies that appear on Forbes’ “Global 2000 Leading Companies” list.

Forbes also factors in the median starting and mid-career salaries for alumni as listed on Payscale.com. The website lists the average Colorado Mesa alumni salary as $38,200 to start and $61,300 for mid-career professionals. Among Colorado institutions, Payscale.com lists Colorado State University at Pueblo and Colorado Christian University graduates behind CMU in median starting salary, and Colorado Mesa outpaces only Colorado Technical University Online on the site’s list for median salary after 15 years on the job.

The next-largest chunk of Colorado Mesa’s ranking after post-graduate success is student satisfaction, which Forbes rates based on student evaluations on RateMyProfessor.com and how many first-year students come back for another year at the school. Colorado Mesa’s average professor rating on RateMyProfessor.com is 3.87 out of 5, and 65.5 percent of the school’s freshmen in fall 2009 returned for their sophomore year in fall 2010, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the eighth-highest retention rate among 12 public four-year institutions in Colorado and below the state average of 75.7 percent.

The remaining 40 percent of a school’s “Top Colleges” ranking is based on three factors: graduation rate, student debt and alumni who receive PhDs or competitive awards, such as Rhodes Scholarships. Mesa graduated 9.7 percent of the fall 2004 freshman class in spring 2008, a rate ahead of only Metro State University of Denver among state public institutions, according to CDHE data.

As for student debt, the average federal grant amount for Mesa students in 2010 was $4,105, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Erin Scherb, a junior at Colorado Mesa, said she thinks the school’s ranking of 586th is “pretty accurate” and “pretty cool” for a school its size. She said more incentive to graduate may help improve the university’s placement on the Forbes list. “So many people drop out because they know they don’t have a career to go to right after” graduation, she said.

Scherb’s classmate, fellow junior Noelle De Puey, 20, said more clubs at CMU might help engage students and improve retention and Colorado Mesa’s ranking. But she’s satisfied with 586th. “I think it’s really great and helps get our name out there,” she said.


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