For the second year in a row, Centre College in Danville is ranked #1 in the nation for Overall Happiness according to the recently released 2013 Alumni Factor guidebook.
The Alumni Factor measures six main outcomes College Experience, Overall Assessment, Financial Success, Overall Happiness, Alumni Giving and Graduation Rate to calculate its rankings. While it then delineates between colleges and universities, The Alumni Factor also calculates an Overall Rank for all institutions, public or private.
In addition to claiming the leadership position in the Overall Happiness category, Centre’s Alumni Giving rankings were among the best in the nation, coming in at #2 among liberal arts colleges and #3 overall in the nation. Center also garnered a #3 liberal arts college ranking and a #6 national ranking in the Overall Assessment category.
Collectively, these strong outcomes earned Centre an even higher Overall Rank than last year. Among liberal arts colleges, Centre is ranked #5 in the nation, and among all colleges and universities, Centre is ranked #8 in the nation.
As the guidebook suggests, “Centre grads simply can’t glow enough about their tiny academic gem in the geographic center of Kentucky.”
The new ranking system raised eyebrows at its debut last year because of its “revolutionary” methodology. “We give voice to college alumni,” declared The Alumni Factor, “the people who most directly know the impact their college years have had on their life, but whose perspectives are sadly missing from other rankings.”
Created by Monica McGurk, formerly with McKinsey and Co., The Alumni Factor follows a J.D. Powers-like “customer satisfaction” approach by conducting extensive interviews with tens of thousands of college alumni to help prospective students and their families best determine expected return on their educational investment.
“Centre focuses on offering an education that combines high achievement and high opportunity,” says President John A. Roush. “This requires creating a highly personal and intensely engaging educational experience that holds up to measurable outcomes and is at the same time affordable.
“Alumni are the best judge of our success,” Roush adds, “and it’s gratifying to know that they believe our mission to prepare young men and women for lives of purpose is on the right path.”
The #5 national ranking among all liberal arts institutions represents an increase of five spots over last year and puts Centre just behind Washington and Lee University, the Naval and Military academies, and Claremont McKenna College. The #8 overall ranking, an increase of ten spots, also keeps Centre among strong company, including Princeton, Washington and Lee, the Naval Academy, Yale, West Point, Rice and Claremont McKenna.
Contributing to these high overall marks, Centre alumni ranked the College among the top 10 in several of the 13 subcategories.
In the College Experience category, Centre was ranked #2 and #3, respectfully, in the “social” and “intellectual development” subcategories. The “career success” subcategory did equally well, landing Centre #5 among liberal arts colleges and #6 overall. The Alumni Factor suggests that these aspects “reflect the most common non-financial expectations students have for how their college experience will set them up for success in the real world.”
In the Overall Assessment category, Centre received top rankings in all three subcategories of “would personally choose again” (#5 for all liberal arts colleges and #11 overall), “ would recommend” (#4 and #10) and “value for the money” (#5 and #11). “The willingness to recommend and one’s desire to attend a school again, if one had to do it all over again,” suggests The Alumni Factor, “are two of the most powerful indicators of value of an education at a given institution.”
As for “value for the money,” Centre is among the most affordable among all private institutions in the top 50, and by at least $5,000 but more often by an average $10,000 less per year. In fact, only two private colleges in the top 50 are less per year than Centre, and by small margins.
Director of Alumni Affairs Megan Haake Milby ’03 is not surprised by the rankings and can testify to the loyalty Centre graduates have for their alma mater.
“Alumni often refer to themselves as the Centre Mafia, because of their fierce devotion to the College,” says Milby. “Their profound connection to Centre stems from the deep ties they established with professors as students and continues on years later through email correspondence, visits to campus during Homecoming and invitations to alumni weddings.”
"Centre promotes lifelong learning,” Milby adds, “as well as lifelong friendships.”
There’s even an Alumni Factor subcategory for “friendship development,” and Centre ranks #10 in the nation for liberal arts colleges and #12 overall.
While The Alumni Factor information is accessible by subscription on its website, a printed guidebook is also available this year. Those reading the printed version will find current Centre first-year student Elliott Martin of Hermitage, Tenn., quoted on the back cover of this year’s guidebook.
“The Alumni Factor completely changed the way I applied to colleges,” Martin says. “All in all, the reason I am going to the college that is right for me is because I used The Alumni Factor rankings.”
And if his experience remains par for the course, Martin will end up being extremely happy that he did so.