SUNY New Paltz was recently named one of the “104 smartest public colleges in America,” according to Business Insider. New Paltz ranked No. 100, alongside other well-known public institutions such as the College of William and Mary, SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Geneseo.
According to Business Insider’s official online release, these “colleges offer brainpower and affordability.” The rankings were based off of SAT and ACT scores, which most schools report to U.S. News for statistical purposes. ACT scores were “translated into SAT scores (math + verbal) . . . so that all schools could be compared using one metric.”
However, SAT and ACT scores continue to face much criticism among education administrators as accurate measurements of test takers’ intelligence, memory and cognitive ability. David Eaton, vice president of enrollment management at New Paltz, explained how admissions faculty view these tests as “a part of the whole application package.” He also said that high performance on SAT and ACT tests requires “a good college preparatory program” above all else.
“The SAT and ACT are not intelligence tests,” Eaton said. “They measure an individual’s academic preparation and aptitude or knowledge of subject matter. To do well, one must have a well developed vocabulary, be able to read and understand the meaning of written narratives and have a sound knowledge of geometry and algebra, among other things associated with a good college preparatory program.”
Eaton also explained how other rankings take more categories into consideration instead of relying solely on standardized test scores, which leaves more room for individual complexity.
“The various rankings are based on a combination of metrics including but not limited to four and six-year graduation rates, first-year retention rates, academic profile of the students body as measured by high school grade point averages and standardized test scores,” Eaton said. “Some rankings also factor in cost of attendance, loan debt and loan default rates, and these combined with the aforementioned metrics are often used to measure ROI (return on investment) and value (high quality education at affordable levels of cost).”
According to Eaton, students at New Paltz “are smart and academically well prepared when they get here,” regardless of standardized test scores.
“Because our graduation rates are much higher than the national and state averages for public and private four-year institutions, we know that our students perform well while they are here and successfully complete their degree programs in a timely manner, because that is what academically strong students at an academically rigorous institution do,” Eaton said.
Ultimately, Eaton welcomed the improved ranking.
“[This ranking] continually enhances the value of a New Paltz degree,” Eaton said. “The limitation such rankings have, however, is that they can never capture the personality and essence of a college community.”