by President Jo Allen, ’80
One of our most critical messages to prospective students, faculty, and staff is the extraordinary quality of the Meredith experience. And while Meredith proudly touts an exceptional quality of life and community spirit, we are especially proud of the way we live our mission by offering a high quality academic experience. This foundation of academic excellence has been true throughout our history, as our alumnae can attest, and continues to grow, as can be seen in the rising academic quality of our incoming classes.
As evidence, Meredith employs a number of measures of academic quality. Most prominent in the public eye, of course, are our rankings. Although we may question their methodology, numerous rankings recognize the strength of a Meredith education and, in turn, often drive inquiries and applications. Meredith consistently ranks in the Top 5 in US News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges in the South and, impressively, in the Top 6 among its “Best Value” institutions – a relevant factor here since this ranking combines considerations for cost plus academic quality. Equally relevant is Meredith’s #2 ranking for academic excellence among women’s colleges (second only to Wellesley), and we are #5 in Best Women’s Colleges overall according to College Choice. We are ranked in Top 10 BEST colleges in North Carolina by Niche, among the top 20% of colleges in the country according to Forbes, and one of the “Best Colleges in the Southeast,” according to Princeton Review.
For those who look beyond rankings for indications of academic rigor, and as required by our institutional accreditor, Southern Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), our faculty are deeply engaged in conversations, research, and analysis of what a student should know at specific milestones throughout her education and what she, in fact, does know. Each major and program’s faculty devise criteria against which her performance is measured, and individual assignments and experiences provide evidence of understanding and mastery. And various fields at Meredith, such as business, education, interior design, and music, offer discipline-based accreditations that require their own additional measures of learning quality.
In addition, some areas also require standardized tests that measure knowledge and ability, resulting in licensure and other specialized credentials. Weighing the performance of our students against those of other institutions – as well as against our own standards of excellence – is a healthy indicator of Meredith’s quality. In education, for instance, licensure candidates must complete faculty-created assessments as well as standardized licensure tests. Not surprisingly given our reputation for excellence, Meredith students perform better than the state average for pass rates. In fact, our students’ scores are almost always substantially higher than the state pass rate. Specifically? The pass rate for our teacher candidates for all licensure tests during 2015-16 is 100%. Further, Meredith teacher candidates outperform the state average on all measures.
High Employment and Graduate School Acceptance Rates
Next, we find affirming evidence from employers and top-tier graduate programs who eagerly seek our graduates. Over the past three years, for instance, 95% of our graduates are employed or in top graduate programs within a few short months of graduation. How prestigious are these employers and graduate programs? Well, Credit Suisse, SAS, Lenovo, and the Wake County Public School System, among many other stellar organizations have hired our recent graduates. Equally impressive are the frequent comments from employers praising our students, including those eager to hire more Meredith students and those who say they would choose a Meredith graduate over any other graduate they could hire. They commend our students for being, among other descriptors, professional, work-ready, talented, competent, and confident.
And graduate programs at Duke, UCLA, UC-Berkley, Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, DePaul, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and others have admitted our graduates. Increasingly common, in fact, are our students’ experiences of having to choose between multiple extraordinary offers from exceptional institutions.
Our students are also engaged in learning experiences outside the classroom, many of which carry academic credit. In fact, 94% of our students participate in experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, and community-based learning, along with involvement in leadership initiatives, clubs and organizations, and athletics. Meredith students’ participation in politics and advocacy places us #4 among colleges and universities in North Carolina for civic engagement. These out-of-class experiences are excellent proving grounds that let students test what they have learned in class with what they experience in the field, in the workplace, or in the community.
Satisfied and Supportive Alumnae
Little wonder that the results of the latest alumnae survey (Spring 2016) show 99% of alumnae respondents agreeing there are important benefits to attending a women’s college; 99% saying they would recommend Meredith to prospective students; and 96% saying they would attend Meredith all over again. And at the crux of the matter, 98% say they are satisfied with their academic experience here.
Finally, a compelling reason our comprehensive campaign, Beyond Strong, has met such extraordinary and early success (as of this writing, we have $56 million toward our $75 million goal) is the absolute confidence that donors feel in the academic quality of a Meredith education. They see the kind of evidence presented here play out in the maturity and growth of their daughters, new hires, colleagues, community leaders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and others who have benefited from a Meredith education – either decades ago or in 2016. That is the history and legacy of this college and why, 125 years after its founding, we are still Going Strong.