The top 11 colleges for student engagement

The colleges and universities that are succeeding at student engagement aren't the same institutions that typically top college rankings, Melissa Korn writes for the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education (THE) used roughly 189,000 survey responses from the past two years to score colleges on student engagement, including how challenged and inspired students feel on campus and the range of courses the colleges offer.

According to their analysis, the colleges where students feel most engaged are:

1. Dordt College
2. Oklahoma Baptist University*
3. Cedarville University* (tie)
3. Harding University (tie)
3. Texas Christian University* (tie)
6. Brigham Young University, Provo (tie)
6. Brown University* (tie)
6. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion (tie)
6. Lee University (tie)
6. Texas A&M University, College Station* (tie)
6. University of Southern California* (tie)

*Note to readers: EAB congratulates member institutions that appear on the list. Member institutions listed here are marked with an asterisk.

Eight of the top 11 colleges listed above have a religious affiliation, including the top school for student engagement, Dordt College. The liberal arts college topped the engagement ranking for the third year in a row, despite tying for the 365th spot on the publications' overall college ranking. 

This may be due to the fact that colleges with a religious affiliation "often include in their missions the education of the entire student—body, mind and soul—and put a premium on group projects, mentoring and self-reflection," Korn writes.

How to get more faculty involved in student engagement & success

In fact, Dordt College hosts monthly speaker series on a variety of topics, such as race and faith. And Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), which ranked second on the engagement list, holds book discussions for first-year students and encourages students to participate in community service projects. "Students understand pretty quickly that it’s a holistic experience here," says Bruce Perkins, OBU's vice president for enrollment and student life.

Elite schools that dominate other rankings had mixed results on the Journal's engagement ranking. Brown University is one of the few schools that performed well on both lists, ending up tied for the seventh spot on the Wall Street Journal's overall college ranking this year and tied for sixth place for student engagement.

Brown's provost, Richard Locke, attributes his university's high ranks to hands-on learning efforts and course design. At Brown, students aren’t required to take specific courses, allowing for more engaged classroom conversations: "You only have students in your class who want to be there," Locke says (Korn, Wall Street Journal, 9/5).

Related: 3 ways to reconnect disengaged students with their advisors


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