Drew University, a National Liberal Arts College based in my home state of New Jersey, is one that should become one of the Colleges That Change Lives. It is already listed in another college book, Colleges That Create Futures, published by the Princeton Review. But the Colleges That Change Lives have had a 20-year head start.

I have read each edition of the books that profile the Colleges That Change Lives. The author of the first two, Loren Pope, selected liberal arts colleges that were not at exceptionally selective in their admissions, yet offered most of the same academic opportunities as the more selective schools. Pope did not use numbers to select the schools. His research was mainly qualitative. Pope’s focus was on schools that did an excellent job of educating students who did not always enter college with the best high school education and turning them into successful college graduates with rewarding lives.

Like Pope, I sought to identify schools that should become part of the Colleges That Change Lives. But I used some numbers, and will apply them to Drew.

  • For schools that accept the ACT or SAT, a 27 (out of 36) or 1300 (out of 1600) should place an applicant in the upper quarter of the class to qualify for merit-based aid. Drew met this standard.
  • The school should have a history of graduating at least two-thirds of a freshman class on time. The very best public colleges and universities either meet or exceed this standard, or at least best those of the flagship state university where the school is located. New Colleges That Change Lives should, too. Drew did not meet this standard; four-year graduation rates for the classes that arrived in 2009 and 2010 were 63 and 57 percent. Drew’s four-year graduation rates were better than Rutgers, New Jersey’s flagship state university, in 2015, but not in 2016.
  • The school has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the national liberal arts honor society. Only 286 US colleges, small and large, have been so honored.  What makes Phi Beta Kappa significant is that a college faculty recommends the college and the top ten percent of its junior and senior classes,  as being worthy of a chapter. Twenty-eight of the 44 Colleges That Change Lives have a chapter. Drew does too.
  • The school should use its financial aid budget to help make the education more affordable to its students, not only to make it easier for them to complete their degrees, but also to leave them with less debt to worry about as they move on to employment or further education. Drew graduates over the past two years who took out loans have borrowed less than the maximum in Federal loans ($27,000) that they could have borrowed, so the university met this standard.

If the Colleges That Change Lives welcomed Drew over the next two years, I would not argue with the decision. The university fits into Loren Pope’s intentions. Drew also has some excellent academic and experiential (out-of-the-classroom) opportunities that are offered by no other liberal arts college.

But when other schools that are not currently Colleges That Change Lives are held to these four standards, there are at least two that are more qualified. They are:

  • DePauw University (IN)
  • St. Mary’s College of Maryland

It is not that Drew is “better” or “worse” than these two schools. It’s just that these two schools have a longer history of posting the numbers. St. Mary’s  has the added benefit of being Maryland’s public honors college. Only two of the Colleges That Change Lives are public: New College of Florida and Evergreen State College (WA)

Hopefully, you will see these schools, and Drew, in the next edition of the Colleges That Change Lives. It should be out by 2020.

For more insights on liberal arts colleges, The Colleges That Change Lives, and other schools, contact me at stuart@educatedquest.com or call me at 609-406-0062. 

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