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CUA Ranks Last Among D.C. Universities; What’s Next?

Image Courtesy of WSJ/Times Higher Education Rankings of DC Universities

By Shannon Rose Miekka

Out of the five major universities in Washington D.C., Catholic University recently ranked fifth in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education Ranking. According to the US News annual ranking of U.S. universities, CUA ranked 143rd, a twenty point drop since 2017.

The CUA Faculty Assembly page is a place for faculty and staff to confer, often anonymously, about the ongoings at the university. Unsurprisingly, the Faculty Assembly is filled with perspectives on the recent rankings, as well as suggestions for potential reform. 

Two weeks ago, the Faculty Assembly published an official Statement on CUA US News Rankings. The statement reads, “The CUA Faculty Assembly is concerned that our institution’s ranking has significantly declined in recent years and is in danger of falling further without careful planning and strategic action.”

“CUA’s steady drop in USN rankings from #123 (2017) to #143 out of 388 in 2021 sounds an alarm, especially when rankings by others… echo the same,” said Dr. Janet Selway, President of the Faculty Assembly and Associate Professor of Nursing.  

Source: CUA Faculty Assembly Statement on CUA US News Rankings

The US News is transparent with its methodology behind the US News College Ranking (USNCR). Included in the criteria is graduation and retention rates (22%), social mobility (5%), graduating rate performance (8%), academic reputation (20%), faculty resources (20%), student selectivity (7%), financial resources per student (10%), alumni giving (3%) and graduate indebtedness (5%).

“By improving its ranking, CUA can increase tuition and auxiliary revenues, boost advancement efforts, and facilitate faculty hiring and retention,” reads the Faculty Assembly statement. 

Contributors to the Faculty Assembly Discussion board have chimed in with their opinions as to the cause of the ratings slip.

According to one commenter, “Rather than referring to CUA as ‘The Bishops’ University’, it might be more appropriate to refer to CUA as ‘The Koch University.’”

Another directly addressed President Garvey, “As a friend of CUA, I am appalled at how poor CUA has been faring in the annual US News Rankings of American universities.” 

Several concerned community members have recommended paths toward reform. One suggestion is the formation of a standing National Rankings Committee. 

“The Catholic University of America is in need of a paradigm shift while holding onto the basic good tenets of Catholicism : charity, acceptance, kindness and respect for all,” another commenter promoted.

CUA is also not listed on the 25 Best Catholic Universities ranking by College Consensus.

“Where is the recurring evidence that CUA is making a difference outside of academia?” asked a faculty member. “Show us all, and talk about it, every single day- to each other, our students and all you meet outside of CUA ZOOMs.”

Faculty members are divided in regards to whether they should “fight the top” or “work together, from the bottom, for the common good, to uplift and recognize rewards from people so desperate for our help around the CUA campus.” 

This divide among the faculty has surfaced several times in the past year, in response to the faculty salary cuts, COVID-19 policies, and public statements made by the CUA administration and President Garvey.

Some believe that fighting the top has proven to not be fruitful and faculty members can “leave” if they are unhappy with the administration.

In response, one member illustrated an opinion shared by many: “To choose to leave will just hasten the demise of a once great university. So, my recommendation to you is that you keep the faith, do good and fight against injustice.”

What is the best path forward? The Tower reached out to Dr. Selway, the President of the Faculty Assembly, for insight.

“With the current urgent focus on increasing enrollment, CUA Administration should make boosting our national rankings a key priority,” Selway said.

“Overall ranking scores may not tell the whole story,” Selway continued. “In 2021, USN ranked CUA’s online Masters’ nursing program a robust #5 out of 173 similar programs. USN scored CUA above its peers in two categories- our alumni average giving rate and financial resources for students. Two areas where CUA ranked below peers include student indebtedness and graduation rates for Pell grant recipients. Just reporting the percent of CUA students who graduated in the top 10% in their high school class could also raise our score. For unknown reasons, this metric was not reported.” 

“Another area for improvement is faculty compensation- this comprises 7% of USN’s total ranking score,” Selway explained. “Recent cuts imposed by [the] administration on a salary scale that already lags well below peer institutions will likely hurt CUA’s national rankings for at least the next two years. The tide needs to turn on these issues- or CUA will fall further.” 


For more information on this developing story, visit cuafacultyassembly.com.

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