Columbus State soars in U.S. News Best Colleges rankings

Columbus State University has made significant improvement in the latest U.S. News Best Colleges rankings compared to last year.

CSU’s ranking increased 25 spots to 75th in the magazine’s 2020 undergraduate ranking of 136 regional universities in the South.

Among public regional universities in the South , CSU’s ranking increased 12 spots to 30th.

“It’s a tremendous recognition of the reputation that CSU is gaining within our region,” Columbus State president Chris Markwood told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday. “. . . “I credit the tremendous focus and dedication of our faculty and our staff, who are really committed to putting students first. That, I think, is a differentiator for us at Columbus State.”

CSU debuted this year in the U.S. News social mobility rankings, at 62nd among regional universities in the South. The magazine defines social mobility as enrolling and graduating large proportions of disadvantaged students awarded with Pell Grants.

Markwood said CSU’s social mobility ranking “speaks to the impact that Columbus State University is having on the students and the community that we serve.”

He referred to a point retired Synovus chairman Jimmy Yancey has made when he added, “For a community that has such tremendous wealth and such tremendous needs, Columbus State University has helped bridge and build that middle class.”

Although the improved rankings are compared to last year, the reasons come from years of effort, said Markwood, who was hired in 2015.

“It’s consistent focus and message to really serve students and to serve the economics needs of this community and this region,” he said.

Recent examples Markwood cited are CSU establishing cybersecurity and robotics engineering programs and becoming a Georgia Film Academy campus.

“These are programs that are responsive to state needs,” he said. “… We are very committed to helping not just build the middle class but to help drive the creation of the creative class here in Columbus and this region.”

U.S. News has been publishing these rankings for 35 years. This year, it made several changes in the methodology for the rankings, including “a greater focus on outcome measures like graduation rates, retention rates and social mobility indicators,” according to the explanation on its website.

The classifications for the colleges also were adjusted in this year’s rankings, resulting in 13% of ranked schools being reclassified, U.S. News says.

CSU remained classified as a regional university.

Markwood said he doesn’t think the reclassification of other colleges affected CSU’s ranking and he would have to “dig more” into the metrics to determine the impact of the other changes, but he did praise them.

“I know they’re trying to be more attentive to some hard data and less reliant on surveys,” he said. “… It’s a little more accurate reflection of institutions when you have the data behind it and when you’re taking into consideration the student population that they serve.”

In the past three years, according to CSU’s news release, Columbus State has:

  • Increased its peer assessment ranking 33 spots to 40th among regional universities in the South. Peer assessment is the ranking given a university by other presidents, provosts and deans of admissions.
  • Increased its faculty resources ranking among regional universities in the South has moved up 36 spots to 43rd. Five factors are used to assess faculty resources: class size, faculty salary, faculty with the highest degree in their fields, student-faculty ratio and proportion of faculty who are full time.
  • Increased its average six-year graduation rate 7 percentage points to 38% percent.
  • Increased its percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students 5 percentage points to 52%. For the past two years, more than half of CSU’s classes have had fewer than 20 students.
Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.