A U.S. News and World Report Special Issue (October 15, 1990) included an annual ranking of America’s best colleges. The system used to rank 1374 four-year colleges was based on a numerical score representing the quality of academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources and student satisfaction.
The top 25 big universities and small colleges were chosen in view of the overall quality of each school. These were institutions which had “first-class students, top faculty and a reputation for excellence.” Most of these schools could also be called “the most famous schools in America.”
The best big universities were chosen for a blend of matchless scholarship and research and a superb range of academic choices. The top ten, in order of rank, were: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, California Institute of Technology, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell and Columbia.
Choosing Harvard as the country’s leading university may seem a bit redundant. However, this is the first time since 1983 that Harvard has finished first on U.S. News’ list. Founded in 1636 as a school for ministers, Harvard is both the richest and oldest learning institution in the country. The campus sprawls along the Charles River in both Cambridge and Boston and boasts 10 graduate schools and more than 90 libraries. The university has been a pioneer in innovative education since its beginning and has provided the training ground for the nation’s political and intellectual establishment.
In choosing the top 25 best small colleges, the same criteria was applied. To many, small, liberal arts colleges represent what higher education is all about. The top ten small colleges were: Amherst, Swarthmore, Williams, Bowdoin, Wellesley, Pomona, Wesleyan (CT), Middlebury, Smith, and (tied in a three-way place for tenth) Davidson, Vassar and Carleton.
Amherst College had a strong showing in the intellectual achievement of the students. According to one Amherst College professor, the students arrive with a self-confidence that comes from prior academic success and readily adapt to the method of Socratic debate that is the backbone of most of the school’s courses. Nestled in the picturesque Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, Amherst College shares the academic resources of four other schools in the area, in a consortium which provides the greatest range of interdisciplinary programs available anywhere in the country.
The educational institutions of our country provide the foundation for our quality of life. New discoveries, expert knowledge and highly trained people are the contributions to our society that these institutions produce. Significantly, the two winners in this year’s U.S. News survey, Harvard and Amherst have notable histories as Christian institutions.
Although the students and faculties of these two schools may have forgotten, Harvard was founded “For Christ and the Church,” and Amherst’s frequent revivals in the early history of the school made the college one of the focal points of the Great Awakening in the 1800s. These schools remain great today because God Himself had a hand in bringing them into being.
See also: The Boston Awakening