What do the numbers show?

With the annual parade of college rankings bigger than ever, SCU scores high, especially when it comes to return on investment.

With the annual parade of college rankings bigger than ever, SCU scores high, especially when it comes to return on investment.

Every year parents and soon-to-be college applicants scour the lists of college rankings, trying to find the right match. Certainly “best of ” lists exude a certain attraction, but it helps to know what you’re looking for—especially these days, when the field of rankings-compilers has become considerably more crowded.

The proliferation of lists means that the lists themselves “have lost their misplaced position of importance,” SCU’s Vice President of Enrollment Management Mike Sexton told MSNBC earlier this year. “Every magazine has to have some slant on colleges, and everybody and their mother keeps writing books on college admissions,” he added.

Hear, hear! Acknowledging that there might not be simple answers to complex questions (like which college to choose, and why), there are some interesting assessments in the rankings this year.

Bang for the buck
At Businessweek, college rankings draw on research by Payscale on “What is your degree worth?” Santa Clara scores 33rd out of 554 schools nationwide for delivering the most “bang for your buck” upon graduation. The total cost of graduation is around $187,500; net return on investment over a 30-year period for graduates—$1,261,000. That comes to an 11.1 percent annualized net return on investment.

No. 4 among “colleges that will make you rich”
Over at Forbes.com, their ranking of the best schools nationwide saw SCU jump a few notches to No. 115 (up from 150 nationally). But Santa Clara becomes a true rock star when you flip to the list of “colleges that will make you rich” (or, in other words, “These schools do the best job of raising their students above expectations”). Sharing the stage with SCU at the top of the list: Williams, Dartmouth, and Stanford.

Quality of life
In the 2011 installment of Princeton Review’s The Best 373 Colleges, SCU gets a nod for being one of the best institutions for undergraduate education and lands on the list of “Best Western Colleges.” Among especially high marks: quality of life and commitment to sustainability. Only the top 15 percent of 2,000 four-year colleges in the United States are profiled in the book.

Freshmen come back
The granddaddy in the rankings game is U.S. News & World Report, which once again esteems SCU the No. 2 master’s university in the West. When it comes to graduation rates, SCU is in the top three in the country among master’s level universities. Other highlights: The School of Engineering is ranked No. 17; and SCU has the highest freshman retention rate—93 percent—among master’s universities in the West.

Growing Home

A garden finds a home where once little could grow: A decade ago, the Forge sprung from a lot filled with construction debris. Today it nurtures students in new directions.

Hidden Treasure

Andrea Hoff dug into the SCU Artifacts collection looking for history. She hit gold.

A Campus Transformed

A look into the physical future of Santa Clara

Germ Fighter

Finding the source of outbreaks can prevent people from getting sick. One professor is making that search take less time.