U.S. News ranks Mercer as #1 value school in the South

Mercer University’s academic excellence was recognized on a national scale by the U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Mercer high on its lists of regional universities.
The most notable ranking is that Mercer was named the number one best value school in the South.  Mercer was also named the seventh best university in the South and the University debuted at sixth place on the list of “Up and Comers.”
According to the U.S. News & World Report, Mercer was named fifth most ethnically diverse university in the South.
In addition, Mercer’s School of Engineering was named as the 44th best undergraduate engineering program in the nation.
Mercer Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications Larry Brumley, feels that this is a sign that Mercer is being recognized by its peers for its accomplishments. Brumley explained that the U.S. News surveys are the result of subjective reputational surveys that are sent out to academic officers and university heads such as President Underwood.
The people who receive the surveys rank the other schools in their region. Mercer’s high ranking in so many category shows that the school’s reputation is spreading. This is especially evident with Mercer’s placement on the list of Up and Comers. This list is purely subjective and is based on which schools the voters feel are doing the most interesting work.
Other, more objective data is used as well. This set of data includes academic scores and admissions statistics. These statics are gathered by the Department of Institutional Research. Sarah May, the Director of Institutional Research explains that her department takes the various data and statistics about Mercer and compiles them into collections of data called the Common Data Set. The CDS is then given to various college guides and surveys that express an interest in Mercer’s statistics. For instance, the CDS shows the ethnic diversity of the campus, which was the criteria for Mercer being voted as the fifth most ethnically diverse in its region. She explains that because 64 percent of the student body are minorities, Mercer achieved a high rank.
The objective academic data is combined with the surveys and the net cost of the school to determine the best overall value. Mercer is number one in best value in its region. “This is all due to President Underwood,” Brumley explains, “he has worked hard to keep the tuition increases as low as possible.” In the tough economic times, President Underwood is trying to keep Mercer as affordable as possible, despite other schools rapidly raising their tuition rates. The best value score was reached by taking Mercer’s overall score of 82 out of 100 and comparing it to the cost of tuition.
The final ranking that Mercer is in is the Top 50 Undergraduate Engineering programs, where Mercer ranked at 44th. This is another great honor for Mercer as there are many highly competitive Engineering schools in the same category as Mercer. Dr. Wade Shaw, Dean of the Mercer School of Engineering, is pleased that the faculty and students hard work in engineering is being recognized. When asked about why Mercer placed as high as it did in the list, Shaw said that he felt it was because, “Our programs interest people.” He cites the amazing work that the students have done through various Mercer on Mission projects, as well as the work they do in various fields, such as prosthetics.
One reason that he feels is essential for the Engineering School’s success are the students themselves. He credits the hard work and student Honor programs with how well Mercer has been recognized. Part of the Honor program requires students to present their work at conferences, further spreading the name and accomplishments of Mercer. He is also quite pleased with the fact that companies are actually approaching Mercer looking for students to hire. He estimates that within four to six months of graduation, roughly 80-90% of graduates from his department find work. This is not counting the numbers that attend graduate schools. This is an excellent rate of employment, and their accomplishments reflect well upon Mercer. “We don’t try to over promote,” he says, explaining that word of the School of Engineering gets out through the accomplishments of the students. Despite the feelings of satisfaction that obtaining such rankings may give, not all reactions to the rankings have been positive.
“I’d honestly prefer if the scores would just go away,” Brumley admits. Brumley adds that he is glad that Mercer has done so well in its ranking, but he does not feel as though these lists should be used as “measures of the quality of the school.” He feels that such lists only serve to commoditize education and there are more criteria that should be taken into account. “Just because a school has a lower rank does not mean that it is a bad choice for a student,” it may still fit their needs in other regards. Brumley takes pride in the diversity of American education, saying, “American higher education is a world leader due to its diversity.” The ranking system takes away from some of that diversity. “They should be taken with a grain of salt,” Dr. Shaw says, pointing out that the lists are not linear. While the School of Engineering is at the 44th position, there could be several other schools that share this spot. Both agree that the school should not be judged in a list but instead be judged by the accomplishments of its students and alumni.