Fort Hays State University, with almost a third of its enrollment over the age of 25, has been recognized for being among the best four-year colleges in the United States for modern students.
This marks the second consecutive year the university earned top-10 honors in Washington Monthly magazine’s annual Best Colleges for Adult Learners rankings. Fort Hays State University President, Tisa Mason, believes this recognition is again the result of the university’s keen focus on meeting the needs of the modern adult learner.
“Serving the needs of the non-traditional learner has long been the focus of our university,” she said. “Whether our students pursue their educational goals on campus in Hays, online, or in their hometown, they all benefit from the unique blend of academic challenge, personal attention and unmatched affordability that are the hallmarks of a Fort Hays State University experience.”
Fort Hays State University is the only public university in Kansas to earn a top-100 ranking. MidAmerica Nazarene, a private liberal arts college in Olathe, earned a No. 46 ranking.
“Over the last 15 years, we’ve steadily added new data to our rankings of what colleges do for their country by promoting social mobility, research, and public service,” said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at New America, editor of The Washington Monthly’s 2019 College Guide.
The Monthly used data from several sources: the federal government; the Annual Survey of Colleges; the College Board; and university records on enrollment, graduations and other information.
The magazine considers eight primary criteria in reaching its adult learner rankings:
(1) Ease of transfer or enrollment: not only how easy it is for students to enroll or transfer in, but also whether students can transfer in at an upper level and whether a transfer advisor is available.
(2) Flexibility of programs.
(3) Services available for adult students: financial aid counseling, on-campus daycare, counseling and job placement services and veterans services.
(4) The percent of adult students (age 25 and older): “the age at which students are automatically considered independent from their parents for financial aid purposes.”
(5) Graduation rates of part-time students: “part-time graduation rates are more relevant for students who will be juggling work, school, and family obligations all at the same time.”
(6) Mean earnings of adult students 10 years after entering college: a three-year average of data gathered from the College Scorecard.
(7) Loan repayment rates of adult students five years after entering repayment: based on a three-year average of College Scorecard data to get a percentage of independent students who “were able to pay down at least $1 of their loan’s principal.”
(8) Tuition and fees for in-district students: for the adult learner category, a measure of affordability based on federal data rather than a ranking of net prices, which mainly apply to first-time, full-time students.
Fort Hays State was also No. 27 Best Bang for the Buck of the 372 institutions in the 12-state Midwestern Region. This category, separated into five geographic areas, ranks institutions “according to how well they help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices.” It focuses on the Social Mobility set of criteria from the overall four-year university rankings.
Washington Monthly’s overall four-year rankings are based on three sets of criteria:
- Ten social mobility measures, including percentage of students graduating within eight years, a first-generation performance rank and a net price rank; the number and success rate of Pell Grant recipients and first-generation students;
- Two research criteria – total amount of money spent on research and the number of “bachelor’s recipients who go on to receive Ph.D.s, relative to college size”; and five service criteria, two based on the number of alumni who serve in the Peace Corps, another on ROTC service, Work Study funds spent on service grants, AmeriCorps matching grants and voting engagement points.
FHSU was the top institution in Kansas in its category, Master’s Universities, which covered 606 colleges that offer a “significant number” of master’s degrees but few or no doctorates.
The other categories for four-year institutions are National Universities, which award “a significant number of doctoral degrees”; Liberal Arts Colleges, baccalaureate colleges that focus on arts and sciences; and Bachelor’s Colleges, which confer bachelor’s degrees “almost exclusively.”
The Washington Monthly’s full rankings, explanations of methodology and articles on issues in higher education are available at washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september-october-2019/.