Photo by Julia Kelley

The U.S. News and World Report ranked Otterbein at number 12 out of 157 colleges in the Midwestern region, putting the school ahead of 92% of Midwestern universities in 2021. 

This represents a sizable jump from last year’s report, where Otterbein ranked at 21, and corroborates a longstanding trend of Otterbein rising up the ranks. The numbers themselves are impressive, therefore studies will show if they will have a tangible effect on the university.  

“I have seen no indication that they significantly impact a student’s decision to apply, especially for regional universities like Otterbein,” said Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, Otterbein’s vice president of enrollment management. 

He further clarified how the university conducts itself in regards to its rank. 

          

“We don’t make any institutional decisions for the sole purpose of influencing our rankings. Our decisions are driven by what we believe is best for our students, and it’s nice when the rankings follow, but we wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t.”

Studies support Blackburn-Smith’s statements. For example, a 2004 study by Marc Meredith found that a higher ranking in the U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” list had a small impact on admission rates at universities like Otterbein. 

The study found that private universities that move into the top 25% on the list have an increased population of students who were in the top 10% of their high school class by 1.5%. At the same time, the university’s acceptance rate decreased by about 4%.

          

Despite the dubious statistical benefits, the outlook among other faculty members was positive. 

“Anytime that we can rank higher, those who do put stock in the rankings will see that and I think that that reflects well on our reputation.” said Jennifer Hill, Otterbein’s director of marketing and communications.

Student reactions to the news of the ranking were also positive. 

“It’s validating to know that the school you’re going to is receiving some recognition,” Luke Maynus, an Otterbein sophomore said. "It’s nice to see Otterbein doing well of course, but I don’t really care much about rankings. I think your educational experience is really influenced by what you make of it or what you personally get involved in.”