Carroll College was named the best regional college in the West by U.S. News and World Report for the eighth consecutive year, the college announced Monday.
The school received a perfect score of 100 from the report, which rates 1,800 academic institutions nationwide. The college received Best Regional College in the West for Veterans for the fourth year in a row and ranked third for Best Value College in the West, staying in the top three for three years in a row.
Carroll topped the list for the new category of Undergraduate Teaching, which is a particular point of pride for new President John Cech.
“Here at Carroll our focus is on teaching because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We do research, but our primary focus and attention is on teaching our students. The teaching and value rankings really go hand in hand.”
Carroll faced similarly sized colleges in the regional category, with universities and national liberal arts colleges competing in their own divisions. Other Montana schools fared well on the list including Montana Tech at No. 5, Rocky Mountain College at No. 8 and University of Montana Western at No. 9.
The rankings are based on 16 quality measures, with 35 percent of the score coming from student outcomes.
“I think what’s really important there is that if colleges aren’t graduating their students, they aren’t doing their jobs,” Cech said. “We graduate 71 percent of our incoming students, which is the highest in Montana, and highest in several states, and that’s something we’re really proud of. The national rate is about 44 percent so that’s something that really makes Carroll stand out.”
He also touted low faculty-to-student ratios, financial resources and alumni giving as major components of the high rating.
Cech, who is starting his fourth month as president, convened a campus-wide meeting in August to talk about Carroll’s vision through 2025.
“As we chart our future we have to ask what we want to be and what are the key things we need to do academically and co-curricularly to enhance student life, improve our financial vitality and increase enrollment,” he said.
That meeting included discussion of the challenges Carroll and other institutions face, with an aging population one of the prime issues.
“The Montana Department of Labor and Industry anticipates 25 percent of our population retiring in the next 10 years, and that’s far higher than most other states,” Cech said. “Montana will have huge needs, particularly in health care. With that kind of demand for health care it will take Carroll College stepping up in some ways we haven’t in the past and all of us working together to address the future workforce needs in our state and in the region.”
Carroll also faces challenges in recruitment, as its student base is largely traditional students coming directly from high school. That pool, which is highly recruited, has ebbed in recent years.
Cech said another point of pride for the College is the 60 percent of graduates who chose to stay in Montana to work, and that programs like the Early Access program that allows high school students to enroll in college classes will prove beneficial.
“I think opportunities for institutions like Carroll College in the future are extremely bright and we value our partnerships with Helena community,” he said.