Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School: Anxious Parents' Edition

Honestly, we've never made much of US News and World Report's college rankings. Apart from selling magazines, they exist primarily to torture anxious parents of the striving class. Nobody else can, or should, take them too seriously.

Case in point: our own alma mater is currently tied for 11th place among liberal arts colleges. Eleventh? It's an outrage. Why, the school we're tied with isn't even on the East Coast. (Our safety school, incidentally, came in 14th among national universities. Which is just as silly, since that would place it behind schools in the Midwest and South. We aren't having any of that nonsense, thanks!)

Looking for church-related colleges on the list can be a somewhat dispiriting adventure. It's easy enough with "national universities." Emory, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, tied for 18th place, jump out and smack you on the face. But small colleges? Many of the best were begun by church bodies, but have since renounced the relationship (Wesleyan University, for example, isn't really Wesleyan at all). Many others have tenuous relationships to their churches. Bard (37th), shockingly, retains its Episcopal affiliation. We grew up nearby, have had friends who graduated and even worked there, and have even graced the campus with our own collegiate inebriety -- and nobody ever said a word on the subject. (On the other hand, Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, seems pretty frankly Jesuit -- and Wheaton, at 56th, is as as protestant as the day is long. Or more so.)

So what is a church-related small college? And how good can they be? These are practically metaphysical questions, but they are the kind that parents and students may be inclined to ask.

Anyway, let's skip the metaphysics and get to the part Egg readers really care about: Lutheran colleges. We didn't read all that closely, so apologies if we missed somebody, but the answer seems to be St. Olaf at 47th place, followed by Gettysburg at 49th. St John's, Collegeville and Drew University -- respectively, Benedictine and Methodist -- are tied with Muhlenberg for 71st. Others follow. And all of these, by the way, are ranked higher than some better-known schools, including Virginia Military Institute and even Bennington. (Not to mention higher than some schools with good reps among conservative Christians, like Westmont and Calvin).

As for the Concordia system that the LCMS and its disjecta membrae continue to brag about ... well, we couldn't find them in our search. But maybe we just didn't go far enough down the list.

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