By Caroline Hroncich
VATICAN CITY — What are the best Catholic colleges and universities in the United States? Thousands of students applying to college ask themselves this question every day, and there is no simple answer.
Catholic colleges and universities provide students with diverse opportunities, both educational and spiritual, and there are a variety of methods for evaluating them. Many Catholic colleges appear frequently in secular ranking systems such as US News and World Report and the Princeton Review. US News ranks colleges based on admissions selectivity, average SAT/ACT scores, availability of scholarships and other financial resources, alumni giving rate, GPA, and retention and graduation rates. The Princeton review ranks schools based on how current students respond to surveys. They question students about such factors as academics, extracurricular activities and general quality of campus life.
Another basis for evaluating Catholic colleges and universities is through indicators of what is often called Catholic identity: consistency of curriculum with church teaching; and faith-enhancing activities such as campus ministries, daily Masses and community service programs. Guides published by the National Catholic Register and Cardinal Newman Society look at Catholic higher education from this perspective.