For the ninth straight year, Oklahoma Baptist University has been ranked as the top comprehensive college in the state in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of "America's Best Colleges."
OBU was listed second among "Comprehensive Colleges-Bachelor's" for the western region in the 2003 rankings, which appear in the Sept. 23 issue of the weekly newsmagazine.
OBU has been Oklahoma's top college in the U.S. News rankings every year since 1995. The regional area defined as "West" by the newsmagazine includes Oklahoma, Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
OBU was ranked second in the category for the second consecutive year. In the 2003 rankings, as in 2002, the private liberal arts college in Shawnee was ranked after Linfield College, a private institution in McMinnville, Ore. It marks the 11th consecutive year for OBU to be ranked in the top-10 for colleges in the West, and the 13th time in 14 years for the university to be listed as one of "America's Best Colleges."
Other Oklahoma institutions listed in the Comprehensive Colleges-Bachelor's category include Oklahoma Christian University (7), Oklahoma Wesleyan University (18), St. Gregory's University (19), University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (20), Langston University (33), and Oklahoma Panhandle State University (34).
OBU also was ranked in the top two in the region for graduation rate. In 2001, a total of 56 percent of OBU students had graduated within six years of freshman enrollment. That percentage was second to Linfield College, with a graduation rate of 66 percent.
In addition to being ranked second for overall quality, OBU was listed as a "best value" institution in the U.S. News rankings. The university was third in the listing of comprehensive colleges in the region. The rankings appear under the heading "Great Schools at Great Prices." USAO was ranked first in the category, followed by Carroll College (Mont.).
"As a private evangelical Christian college, we are extremely pleased to be ranked so highly academically, and as a 'best value' institution," said OBU President Mark Brister. "That is a tribute to the dedication of our faculty and staff, and the support of our alumni and friends."
Among colleges in the regional rankings, OBU had the highest percentage of 2001 freshmen who were in the top 25 percent of their high school graduating classes. A total of 73 percent of OBU's freshmen were in the top quarter. The closest school in the region was Linfield, with 61 percent in the top 25 percent of their classes.
"We are grateful for such strong placement in the annual U.S. News rankings," said Brister. "For more than a decade, national recognition has been a by-product of the OBU educational experience. As more people realize the quality of our educational program, we continue to attract top-notch students who seek to learn from outstanding educators."
"A strong graduation rate should be the outcome for our kind of personalized education," said Dr. Joseph R. Weaver, OBU senior vice president for academic affairs. "The quality rankings are reflective of our commitment to providing instruction from qualified, full-time faculty members."
In the statistical rankings, OBU had the highest percentage of faculty serving full-time among the top-10 and Oklahoma colleges in the region. A total of 90 percent of OBU's faculty serve at the university full-time.
OBU also was ranked second in the region in "peer assessment," a category which is based on an academic reputation survey sent to presidents, chief academic officers and admission deans at peer institutions in the region. Linfield garnered the top spot.
"The U.S. News rankings have attracted people both inside and outside our state to consider pursuing their college education at OBU," said Brister. "The kind of qualities U.S. News measures have been categories we have fared well in for many years. It is a welcome confirmation of the quality of our programs. Still, the success of our alumni in fields like medicine, business, nursing, education, ministry, the arts, psychology, and other areas remains the strongest indicator of OBU's overall quality."
OBU students reacted to the news with a view to the future.
"I'm not surprised. The Unified Studies program does make us one of the best all-round schools," said Tiffany Monhollon, a junior journalism major from Eufaula, Okla. "Being a junior who's looking toward the future, just knowing that others respect OBU and view it as a quality school gives me confidence when I'm out looking for a job."
Others saw the ranking as validation of OBU's mission.
"OBU promotes faith and learning and challenges students spiritually and academically, so it is wonderful that we are known not just for being religious, but for our high standards of academic excellence," said Alisha Baker, a junior cross-cultural ministries and public relations major from Ramona, Okla.
Founded in 1910, OBU offers nine bachelor's degrees, with 75 majors. The university's fall 2002 enrollment is approximately 1,850. OBU students are from 38 states and 22 other countries.