Colorado Mesa moves up on Forbes’ colleges list

Colorado Mesa University ranked 537th this year in Forbes magazine’s annual America’s Top Colleges list.

The Forbes lists ranks nearly 10 percent of the nation’s approximately 6,600 higher education institutions based on teacher quality, career prospects, graduation rates and low levels of student debt. Colorado Mesa senior Ashley Sutton-Daniels, 21, said the list ranked her school fairly.

“For the size of the school, it makes sense,” she said. “It’s growing but it’s not at CU (University of Colorado) status yet.”

Fellow Colorado Mesa senior Katie Schultz, 22, said the school has more to offer than in past years.

“There’s always been great teaching here. Now there’s facilities and resources that will enhance that teaching,” she said.

The change Schultz has perceived is reflected in Colorado Mesa moving up 18 slots in the Forbes ranking since last year. University President Tim Foster predicted the school will continue to improve its rank as it works on student engagement and improving technology in classrooms.

“We think we’re number one but at least we agree with them that we’re in the top 10 percent,” Foste   r said.

The number one spot went to Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. this year. The United States Air Force Academy placed 10th, earning it the highest rank among the 12 private and public Colorado institutions that made this year’s list.

Washington, D.C.-based research group the Center for College Affordability and Productivity ranks each school by evaluating alumni salaries and the kinds of jobs they get, professor evaluations, the number of students who win prestigious scholarships and fellowships, student retention rates, four-year graduation rates and debt loan amounts and default rates.

Of the 8,130 students enrolled at then-Mesa State College last fall, 5,384 had loan debt, according to Colorado Mesa Student Services Vice President John Marshall. The average loan package for 2010-11 at Mesa State was $3,913, Marshall said.

Colorado Mesa students’ loan default rate is 9.3, a few points lower than Adams State College and Metro State College of Denver, but slightly higher than Western State College and Fort Lewis College.

As far as graduation rates, 10.2 percent of students who started at Mesa State in fall 2005 or transferred to the school before spring 2009 graduated within four years, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The state average was 28.4 percent during the same time frame.

Sixty-three percent of students who enrolled at Mesa State in fall 2008 returned for the 2009-10 school year, a higher rate than just Adams State, Fort Lewis and Western among Colorado’s four-year institutions. The state average for retention among Colorado’s four-year institutions in 2009 was 75 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education.


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