College of the Atlantic is ranked as the 82nd Best National Liberal Arts College in the country for the 2015-16 academic year, a 17-point jump from last year’s ranking of 99.

The rating is an indicator of many exciting things happening at COA, President Darron Collins ’92 said, including innovative energy work, a commitment to experiential education, and an incredibly diverse and engaged student body.

“This recognition is fantastic,” Collins said, “but what we do here is much bigger and much broader and really hard to capture in a numeric ranking.”

COA ranks very highly in the U.S. News “Best Value” category, coming in at #11 nationally among liberal arts colleges. U.S. News considers the most significant values to be among colleges that are above average academically, and considers the best value schools to have high quality programs and lower costs.

One major, many rewards

COA’s one major, human ecology, offers a unique educational path for every student. There are few degree requirements, and students have the freedom to build a curriculum that is right for them. With that freedom comes great responsibility and even greater rewards, Collins said.

“We demand an exceptional level of maturity in our students, because our degree in human ecology is self-designed, and it puts them at the reins of their own education, working closely with an advisor,” he said. “Perhaps maybe more than anything else, that self-designed nature of the curriculum and a very, vey tight connectivity between advisors and advisees, mentors and mentees, is what makes our students successful, not only here at the college but in whatever they do after graduation.”

A mark of excellence

Within one year of graduation, 22% of COA alumni have gone on to graduate school and 65% are working at a job in their chosen field. A total of 55 percent of graduates go on to study at the masters or doctoral level.

The U.S. News rankings focus on academic excellence, with schools ranked on up to 16 measures of academic quality. The rankings emphasize outcomes, with graduation and retention rates carrying the most weight in the methodology at 30 percent. The top schools all have high six-year graduation rates and strong freshman retention rates.

COA is noted for a low student-faculty ratio of 10:1, small class sizes, with 93.3 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students, and an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 83 percent.