As Union was welcoming 783 students to campus this semester (a 2.4 percent increase from last fall), the annual U.S. News “Best Colleges” special edition was going to press. The annual rankings provide the most widely read direct comparison between institutions of higher learning in the United States. With a rank of 31, the magazine placed Union in the top tier of Midwestern colleges for the sixteenth consecutive year.
“When I see us in these rankings each year, I think about the stories behind the numbers,” said Dr. Vinita Sauder, Union College president. “The stories of faculty and staff who put their whole hearts into training successful graduates. The stories of students who persevere despite or because of the difficulties they face at home. The stories of the alumni who sacrifice to support future generations. For those of us who get to see behind the scenes, the statistics reflected in these rankings aren’t just numbers. They’re the headlines of heart-warming and mission-affirming stories.”
In addition to the traditional rankings, U.S. News also rated Union highly in two supplementary lists emphasizing economic diversity and accessibility.
The college took eighth place as a “Top Performer for Social Mobility” in its category. That means U.S. News found low-income students are more likely to enroll at and successfully graduate from Union College than most other schools. According to national statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, only nine percent of students from the lowest quarter of incomes complete a college degree by the age of 24. In comparison, 77 percent of students from the highest income quartile graduate within the same window of time.
“It’s no secret that low-income students face pressures many of their peers don’t have to worry about,” said Sauder. “The national trend over the last year has been particularly disheartening. The instability of the pandemic meant fewer low-income students enrolling in college and many dropping out to help their families. I am so proud of the work we’ve done at Union to support students and families through the pandemic, and I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough to the alumni and friends who fund desperately needed scholarships.”
Union also weighed in at number 26 in its category on the list of “Best Value Schools,” a ranking which tries to balance academic quality with the total cost of attendance. This is the fourth consecutive year Union has earned this distinction.
“At Union, we work hard to keep our tuition low and provide opportunities like the Bridge to Union Scholarship that make a quality education accessible to as many students as possible,” said Sauder. “Those of us who work in higher education have seen the analyses of the U.S. News and similar rankings. We know the methodology puts highly diverse schools like ours at a disadvantage. And yet, Union shines through despite the obstacles. That makes the dedication of our faculty, staff and students all the more impressive.”