Both Gustavus Adolphus College and Minnesota State University moved up in the 2015 U.S. News and World Report’s Best College rankings, released online early Tuesday.

Gustavus Adolphus College of St. Peter is ranked No. 64 among Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. This is the highest Gustavus has appeared on the list in recent history and represents a jump of 12 spots — in the 2014 rankings, the college was ranked No. 76.

The ranking is the highest the college has gotten in almost a decade.

“It’s affirmation of our approach to education, the quality of our education and really an affirmation of liberal arts education in the way that Gustavus does it,” Gustavus President Rebecca M. Bergman said.

Minnesota State University ranked 69th among four-year institutions in the 12-state Midwest region, tying with colleges such as University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and University of Wisconsin, River Falls. Last year it ranked 75th.

Dan Benson, director of media relations at MSU, said the university is pleased with the results and that the rankings are commonly used by students and parents looking at colleges.

U.S. News & World Report has been publishing college rankings since 1985 and is widely considered to be the most respected resource for parents and prospective students when it comes to such rankings. Its methodology is based on several key measures of quality including graduation and retention rates, assessment of excellence, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

MSU improved in several of those areas this year, Benson said. Not only did its first-year student's one-year retention rate increase from 70 percent to 74 percent, class sizes decreased.

The percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students went from 31.6 percent to 35.3 percent, while the percentage of classes with more than 50 students went from 8.1 percent to 7.9 percent.

“More of our classes are smaller, less of our classes are larger,” Benson said.

But the rankings are just one way for recent high school graduates to get an idea of what MSU is like, Benson said. Though they can be an important part of a prospective student's decision-making process, soon-to-be freshmen are encouraged to consider multiple factors when picking a college.

“We also encourage prospective students to make individual contact with the schools they’re interested in and hopefully make personal visits to campus,” Benson said.

Bergman agreed. Because Gustavus is a residential college, a visit to its campus is incredibly important, she said. Not only can the students then get a good feel for St. Peter, but they can experience the school’s culture firsthand.

The rankings are important in that they draw attention to Gustavus and help the college get noticed by students, but in the end they are only one piece of data.

It’s one thing to know that the faculty to student ratio at Gustavus is 1 to 11; it’s another to see the tight knit relationship the college’s tenure track professors have with their pupils.

“I guess I would say that I would aspire to be in the top 50, but this is one of those areas where there can be, in any given year, a lot of variability,” Bergman said. “... We really don’t focus on trying to improve the score. We focus on trying to provide a good education to our young students.”

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