Last month, the popular trendcasters at Kiplinger called out the Top 100 Values in Public College Education and five Maryland schools made the cut: University of Maryland, College Park, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Salisbury University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Towson U.
Then, earlier this month, Kiplinger ranked the 10 Best Public Colleges with the Highest Graduation Rates, and one Maryland school made the grade: St. Mary’s College. So why all the press?
I’ve always heard positive things about St. Mary’s, which is located in historic St. Mary’s City and features a scenic waterfront campus whose land was settled in 1634 – and frequently, when I’m reading journals or attending lit readings, I come across fantastic writers with ties to the school’s fine English department, like writer Jeffrey Hammond, for instance, who serves as the school’s George B. and Willma Reeves Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts, teaching courses in English and American literature, biblical and classical literature, and nonfiction writing. But I didn’t know much more about the quiet, esteemed institution beyond English department praise. So I decided to study up. Here are some factoids to file in your wallet if you (or someone you know) are in the market for higher education in a lower price point.
As we know, graduation rates are thought to be an excellent indicator of school quality and affordability. At St. Mary’s, not only do most stick around to toss their tasseled caps in the air, class size is small and tuition costs far less than you’d pay at a private school with similarly intimate seminar settings.
Here are some of St. Mary’s key stats (source Kiplinger’s):
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,982
Four-year graduation rate: 74 percent
Six-year graduation rate: 77 percent
Total in-state cost: $26,360
Total out-of-state cost: $38,437
Average debt at graduation: $17,505
“Designated an honors college in 1992, this small, liberal arts institution outperforms its Maryland counterparts, including the flagship University of Maryland in College Park, on grad rates and student-faculty ratio (12-1). The college not only nurtures students on their way to a degree but also encourages them to explore the world before graduation. Nearly half of the most recent graduating class studied abroad,” notes Kiplinger’s copy.
According to About.com (referring to the National Center for Educational Statistics), the school’s most popular majors are biology, economics, English, history, political science, and psychology.
And additional nitty-gritty from About: “The school’s academic strengths earned it a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. [Plus,] student life on the water has led to some interesting student traditions such as an annual cardboard boat race and a winter swim in the river.”
And one more word from me about that stellar English department: “Awards,” that’s the word. St. Mary’s annually awards an impressive slew of sophisticated prizes, including the English Department Award for Scholarship, the Michael S. Glaser Award for Creative Writing, the Margaret Eagle Dixon Award in Literature, the Gail Parmentier Arts Alliance Award for Creative Writing, and (open to everyone) the sizable and equally prestigious Lannan Fellowships.
Am I the only one who wants to go back to college after reading about this serene place so close to home? I could major in history this time around…or poli-sci. But still take great English courses. I could apply for prizes. I could swim in the winter and take naps and study abroad… Or I suppose I could also urge my niece and nephew to apply. And you could mention it to your kids. Or if you’re a high school student right now, you there, reading this on your iPhone: Don’t forget St. Mary’s cool stats when the time comes. (Lucky.)
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