By Richard Burnett
From the established ratings of U.S. News & World Report to newcomers such as Gradehacker.com and Prepscholar.com, Beacon College has fortified its resume in the arena of college rankings in 2021.
In early September, Beacon capped off its second straight year landing in the top tier of U.S. News’ Best Regional Colleges in the South. Beacon ranked No. 35 out of nearly 140 small colleges and universities across the region.
Regarded as the gold standard of college rankings, the U.S. News’ annual study is based on 17 metrics of academic quality, with weighted values for graduation and retention rate, student-to-faculty ratio, undergraduate academic reputation, peer assessment survey, faculty resources, student financial resources, and others.
Prior to the latest U.S. News survey, Beacon added a half dozen other 2021 rankings to its growing resume. It topped the list of “10 Great Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities,” compiled by Gradehacker.com. Similarly, Prepscholar.com named Beacon one of the “20 Best Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities,” and the Council for Disability Awareness named it one of the “7 Great Colleges and Universities for Disabled Students.”
In state-specific results, AcademicInfluence.com ranked Beacon No. 19 in its list of “Florida’s Best Private Colleges & Universities,” and GreatCollegeDeals.com ranked it No. 4 among the “Best Deals on Small Colleges in Florida.” The college also got high marks as one of the country’s “20 Best College Programs for Students with ADHD,” according to Affordable Colleges Online.
The accolades this year follow a stellar period of honors for Beacon, now more widely known for being America’s first accredited baccalaureate school for students primarily with learning disabilities and ADHD. Since 2019, the college has topped the list of Best Value Schools’ “20 Best Value Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities,” and in 2019 it rated tops in Peterson’s “20 Great Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities.”
Such recognition has not come by accident, according to Dr. Shelly Chandler, Beacon’s provost. About five years ago, the college began to put more energy into getting the word out about its academic excellence to U.S. News and other organizations, she said.
“That has made all the difference,” Chandler said. “And we are very proud and honored that the world knows more about the amazing things that we are doing.”
In educating the college ranking services about Beacon, it has been especially important to do a good job reaching U.S. News because of its established brand, she said. But Beacon also keeps close tabs on the newer players and what they emphasize in their ranking evaluations.”
“We pay attention to all of them because we want to know what is out there and what kind of rankings they are doing,” Chandler said. “But we don’t get preoccupied with it on a daily basis. Our daily work is focused on the students. If we are doing that job well, we believe it will be reflected in everything we do.”
Indeed, the college’s student-centric emphasis did not go unnoticed by the ranking services.
“Beacon prides itself in having plenty of academic and support resources for their students to use, as well as plenty of quiet and comfortable spaces students can access if they’re feeling overwhelmed,” the Council for Disability Awareness said in its review. “Peer tutoring is highly supported and encouraged by the Center for Student Success, as are a variety of study groups, which are hosted by learning specialists and teaching assistants, often on a weekly basis.”
Affordable Colleges Online noted Beacon’s unique origins as a school created exclusively for students who learn differently: “In addition to classroom and personal support services, Beacon College keeps class sizes small to allow for more attention from faculty members,” the service said. “It also incorporates professional skills and training into the curriculum to ensure graduating students are prepared to enter the workforce.”
It is important for families of students with learning disabilities to know what level of attention their children will need in college, according to Prepscholar.com, an academic skills assistance company that named Beacon one of the top 20 colleges in the country for students with learning disabilities. Among other things, it noted Beacon’s 70% graduation rate, which tops the national average.
“Not all the schools we listed will be appropriate for all students with learning disabilities,” Prepscholar said in a commentary. “Some offer very high levels of structure and support, whereas others only offer more basic check-ins to make sure you’re on the right track. It might be helpful to think about how much support is ideal for your student before you begin your college search.”