U.S. News and World Report has once again named Lander University among its top colleges and universities in the publication's annual ranking of schools.
The rankings, released yesterday, show Lander climbing three spots - from #19 to #16 - in the Best Regional Colleges category, South division. The university has risen 48 spots over the past three years in that category, which includes almost 325 colleges and universities nationwide that focus mainly on the undergraduate experience.
In the Top Public Regional Colleges-South category, Lander moved up one spot to #3.
For the first time, Lander was also named to the Best Colleges for Veterans category, finishing #6 among Regional Colleges in the South.
U.S. News and World Report has been ranking schools for 33 years and considers factors such as student graduation and retention rates; assessments of the institution by counselors and peers; faculty and financial resources; student selectivity and alumni giving.
Lander also earned accolades in Washington Monthly's annual ranking of schools, released in August, coming in at #43 in the Best Bang for the Buck-Southeast Colleges category. It was also ranked among the publication's Top 100 baccalaureate colleges in the country. Earlier this year, Schools.com named Lander as one of its Top 5 four-year colleges and universities in South Carolina.
The climb in rankings coincides with the university's announcement of record-breaking freshman enrollment for the fall 2017 semester, which saw an astonishing 26 percent increase over last fall. At 768 students, it's the largest freshman cohort in the university's 145-year history. Academically, it's also the strongest, with average SAT scores 50 points higher than last year's class and an average GPA of 3.79.
Freshman enrollment at Lander has grown 38 percent over the past two years, thanks to initiatives outlined in the university's strategic plan. "Our freshman recruitment strategy has seen tremendous results over the past two years, and especially this fall," said Andy Benoit, Lander vice president for Enrollment and Access Management.
As a whole, this year's student body saw a 25 percent increase in enrollment of transfer students from public community and technical colleges, as well as a 96 percent increase in the number of ROTC cadets. Lander's ROTC program is one of the fastest growing in the state, Benoit said.
Lander's student body is also geographically diverse. Benoit noted that Lander students come from all 46 South Carolina counties and from 25 U.S. states. "There are great things happening at Lander University and prospective students from all across the state and the country are taking notice," he said.
Lander's recruitment efforts are paying off globally, as well. This fall, Lander welcomed its second-highest number of international students in the school's history, with 30 countries and six continents represented.
The news of the rankings and record freshman enrollment are clear indications that the university's strategic efforts are working, said Lander President Richard Cosentino.
"I am very proud of the faculty and staff for their work to continually improve how we serve our students," President Cosentino said. "Our message is resonating, our brand is strong, and I am certain that with our sustained efforts, we will continue this upward trajectory."