By Shira Kipnees, Staff Writer ||

F&M recently tied for 37th place— along with Dickinson College, Skidmore College, and Whitman College— among the United States’ best liberal arts colleges in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges 2015.” Additionally, the College placed 26th on a list of “The Most Economically Diverse Colleges” according to The New York Times, as well as eighth place on Forbes’ list of “The Liberal Arts Colleges Whose Graduates Earn the Most.”

The College also appeared on two additional lists in U.S. News: “Up and Comers,” where F&M ranked fourth among liberal arts colleges, and “Great Schools, Great Prices,” where F&M ranked 32nd among liberal arts colleges. “Up and Comers” recognizes schools that innovate in the areas of academics, student life, campus, facilities, and faculty.

The New York Times ranking, called the “College Access Index,” measures ways that colleges attempt to attract and retain students from the lower and middle-classes. F&M’s ranking, therefore, is based on its performance with respect to graduation rates, enrollment, tuition costs, and recruitment of more high-achieving students from modest backgrounds.

Kevin Burke, associate vice president for communications, said that, while there are many factors that influence the College’s various rankings, he believes F&M’s continued emphasis on academic rigor and the individualized attention students receive from faculty lead to its high national rankings.

“Add the College’s increasing investment in financial aid that makes an F&M education available to an ever deeper pool of talented, high-achieving students—as well as its expansion of opportunities for undergraduate research, study abroad, and participation in the vast array of co-curricular and student life activities on campus— and I think it’s clear that F&M offers an exceptional student experience,” Burke said.

Burke also explained that he does not think it is possible for any ranking or survey to accurately account for every aspect of the College, or any institution in general, and that the best way for a student to figure out what college is the best fit is to see how the school’s strengths align with a student’s interests.

“Rankings really should be only one tool, helping students understand what schools offer in such areas as academics, student-faculty interaction and collaboration, quality of teaching, quality of campus life, retention and graduation rates, financial aid, diversity— both in terms of the make-up of the student body and the academic, cultural, and social opportunities that are available—and preparation for career success,” he said.

Burke explained that rankings are of interest to alumni and all of the College’s stakeholders due to the fact that those people support the College and enjoy seeing F&M earn recognition for educating future leaders.

“The College’s ongoing efforts to sustain our profile as a leading national liberal arts college continues independent of any ranking and includes an aggressive recruiting strategy and public outreach, but we acknowledge that the rankings are a tool used by many of the talented students who have an interest in what F&M has to offer,” Burke said.

Senior Shira Kipnees is a staff writer. Her email is