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Some Strong External Validation

December 17, 2018

To the UW community:

As the end of the fall semester has arrived and the calendar year comes to a close, it’s a good time to take a few minutes to reflect on not only our individual efforts as faculty and staff members of the University of Wyoming, but also how the university is perceived overall by those we serve -- our students, the people of Wyoming and the public in general.

I truly appreciate the work of so many across campus to implement our strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” which calls for the university to improve its performance in a wide variety of functions. As detailed in our first strategic plan update this year, we are making progress in a number of areas and have work to do in others, but there clearly is a commitment by the vast majority of UW employees to accomplish the plan’s objectives.

Earlier this fall, we released the results of our latest student satisfaction survey, which showed that more than 90 percent of our students are pleased with their UW education. Compared with other schools across the country, UW students express higher-than-average satisfaction with opportunities for intellectual growth, faculty qualifications, campus safety and the belief that their tuition payments are a worthwhile investment. In the few areas where student satisfaction is behind national averages -- such as the quality of our student housing -- we are taking steps to improve.

The perceptions of our most important “customers” -- our students -- are perhaps the best indicator of UW’s performance. But we also are tracking some measures of how the university is perceived by external audiences. A look at those numbers provides plenty of reason to feel good about ourselves, along with motivation to continue striving for improvement.

First, we just received the results of the statewide survey conducted every other year by our Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, and the numbers are overwhelmingly positive. A strong majority of Wyoming residents believe UW provides excellent undergraduate education, has steadily improved in recent years and is an appealing place for Wyoming students to attend college.

Asked to rate the university the same way students are graded, 37 percent of respondents gave UW an “A,” and 46 percent offered a “B” rating, with the average of all responses equating to 3.14 on a 4.0 scale.

Some of the specific highlights:

-- Asked “How well do you think UW appeals to Wyoming students and their families as a desirable place to attend college?,” 28 percent responded “extremely well” and 57 percent “quite well” -- 85 percent combined. Just 8 percent said “not too well” and 2 percent “not well at all.”

-- Twenty-two percent rated UW’s performance as excellent in “providing an excellent undergraduate education,” with 43 percent rating it good (65 percent combined).

-- On the issue of “being responsive to the needs of the state and its citizens,” 13 percent rated UW’s performance as excellent and 46 percent as good (59 percent combined).

-- On whether UW has “a strong level of engagement with your community,” 17 percent said excellent, 39 percent good, 24 percent fair and 10 percent poor.

-- Eighty-three percent of survey respondents did not have a degree from UW. Of those who did, 44 percent rated the quality of their UW educational experience as excellent and 48 percent as good (92 percent combined). Asked about the relevance of their educational experience, 42 percent rated it excellent and 42 percent good (84 percent combined).

To see more details on the statewide survey, go here and here.

There is room for some of these numbers to improve -- particularly in the perception of our responsiveness to the needs of the state and in community engagement -- but, all in all, these survey results show that UW is held in high regard by the people of Wyoming. That’s important, because as the state’s land-grant and flagship university, we have a responsibility to deliver on our education, research and service mission to this key constituency.

Finally, most of the major national and international college rankings are out for this academic year. It’s interesting -- and mostly heartening -- to see that UW stacks up quite well with our peer institutions and others across the country. While striving for high national rankings isn’t one of our top priorities -- some of them, in fact, are based on criteria that don’t align with UW’s mission -- they do play a role in some students’ and families’ college choices, and they do show how the university is perceived around the country.

We don’t track every set of college rankings -- there are too many of them to do so, and it seems there are more every year -- but here are some highlights from several of the most prominent rankings:

-- U.S. News and World Report is still one of the most prominent college rankings, and UW more than holds its own on that list. We’re in the top 100 of “best public universities” (No. 99) and 183rd among all U.S. universities, ahead of all but three of our close peers and above at least two stretch peers. 

-- Niche, which produces increasingly prominent rankings, puts UW No. 74 on its list of best public colleges, significantly ahead of all of our close peers and at least one stretch peer.

-- College Factual puts UW 10th on its “best colleges for the money” list, up from No. 20 last year -- far above all of our peers. We’re also ahead of all but two of our peers on College Factual’s national “best colleges” list.

-- Forbes ranks UW 124th on its list of public colleges, in the top tier of our close peers. Among all 650 national colleges on its list, we’re ranked No. 362, which is up almost 20 spots from last year.

-- Washington Monthly lists UW 71st on its ranking of top national universities, ahead of several stretch peers including Colorado State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

-- Finally, UW is 499th in the Center for World University Rankings of 1,000 universities across the globe, ahead of all of our close peers.

To see our compilation of these rankings and others -- along with how we compare with our close peers and several of our stretch peers -- go here.

There’s good reason to believe that as we achieve the objectives in the strategic plan, the university will rise in several of these rankings in the years to come.

I hope this synthesis of external feedback provides a sense of UW’s strengths, including how we compare to other universities who share similar missions to ours. While there is always room for improvement, the University of Wyoming is truly a fine public institution with a strong statewide, national and international reputation. Thank you for the role you play in helping us achieve excellence.

Sincerely,

Laurie S. Nichols, President

 

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