Simpson College is worth the investment

by Steffi Lee

Simpson College made top college rankings again, illustrating its brand of “success.”
Affordable Colleges Online recently listed Simpson in the top 10 of Iowa colleges and universities based on return on investment.
Jill Johnson, executive director of public relations, said a ranking like this shows how Simpson is worth the investment.
“I think (rankings) are important for any school,” Johnson said. “But for a school like Simpson, it gets our name recognized as an institution where your dollar does go a little bit further. It does pay off to go here.”
Johnson said these rankings help students and parents distinguish Simpson from other colleges. Affordable Colleges Online lists Simpson’s rival, Central College in Pella, as 13th on the list.
“As we continue to make the value proposition to students and parents, I think that’s definitely important supporting material that can show you a college education really is worth it,” she said. “I think it certainly does benefit Simpson in terms of recognition and being recognized for the right things.”
Simpson College also made national rankings in a list published by The Washington Monthly, coming in 37th as the Best Bang for the Buck liberal arts school in the country.
The college met the four criteria needed to make the cut. At least 20 percent of Simpson’s student body receives the Federal Pell Grant, Simpson’s actual graduation rate meets or exceeds the rate statistically predicted for the college given the amount of lower-income students admitted and the college has a student loan default rate lower than 10 percent.
President Jay Simmons said two rankings putting Simpson on top show how the college’s education provides students with what they need to succeed.
“Those rankings recognize what Simpson’s been doing for some number of years now,” he said. “(Simpson) provides great value in terms of the educational quality of the institution, the academic experience that our students have while they’re at Simpson and what happens to them in terms of their placement in graduate schools and career prospects when they leave Simpson.”
Critics of college rankings have said it’s difficult to find importance in rankings because of the different formulas used. In The Atlantic, journalist John Tierney said rankings from places such as the U.S. News & World Report only aim to “exacerbate the status anxiety” of interested students and parents.


Tierney said to ignore the U.S. News college rankings and to look at The Washington Monthly, illustrating Simpson College is on a beneficial higher education list. Johnson said sifting through the rankings is up to the people who pay attention to them.


“There are a lot of rankings and a lot of different ways people look at institutions,” she said. “Sometimes we come up higher and sometimes other colleges come up higher, but I think on these two particular rankings, it’s really positive to Simpson because it really speaks to people’s minds.”


Simmons said U.S. News’ college rankings don’t provide a full evaluation of student experiences, but The Washington Monthly and Affordable Colleges Online do.


“You really have to go to campus and talk to the students and talk to the faculty members before you can truly make a decision what campus is like for you as a prospective student,” he said. “There is reason to come and give Simpson serious consideration as a choice.”


Students and alumni can also reflect on their Simpson experience with confidence, Simmons said, because it shows how they made a good choice.


Forbes ranked Des Moines as the number one best city for young adults, which Simmons said is even more of a reason for prospective students, current students and alumni to value a Simpson education.


“I think (these rankings) are mutually reinforcing,” he said. “Simpson is doing a very good job as these rankings suggest and at the same time, students who graduate from Simpson College through the Guaranteed Internship program, through the alumni connections we have in Des Moines and the general business climate in the area, it is a perfect match. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for a Simpson graduate than to be in Des Moines.”


Both Johnson and Simmons said they hope Simpson continues to achieve high college rankings showing a valuable experience and proving the college is worth the investment.


“I think it plays right into our brand,” Johnson said. “We tell people that and that we work with them to give them the education that is going to help them succeed.”