Lawrence University (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is ranked among the top colleges in the nation in a report released Monday by U.S. News & World Report.

The annual rankings place Lawrence as the No. 36 Best Value among national liberal arts colleges and the No. 63 liberal arts college overall. The Best Value ranking comes as Lawrence’s Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) financial aid initiative has pushed past its initial $85 million fund-raising goal.

“We appreciate that U.S. News has recognized Lawrence University as a Best Value college,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communication. “Thanks to the generosity of the Lawrence community all over the world, we have been able to build a financial aid endowment to ensure that lower- and middle-income families can afford a top-notch college experience like the one we offer.”

To be considered for U.S. News’ Best Value Schools listing, a school first had to be ranked among the Best Colleges in the nation. Those qualifying schools were then examined on the basis of net cost of attendance and available need-based financial aid.

“By design, the Best Value Schools rankings place significant emphasis on affordability for students who may be eligible for need-based aid,” U.S. News & World Report said in its release of the rankings. “The 2021 edition introduced a new ranking indicator, contributing 20% toward a college or university’s Best Value Schools rank, which incorporates the proportion of need-based aid in the form of grants and scholarships.”

Lawrence’s Full Speed to Full Need fund, part of the $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, is a key effort to make sure the University is accessible to academically qualifying students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The FSFN fund surpassed the $85 million mark earlier this year, drawn from more than 1,200 donors.

The University is working to reach full-need status, meaning it will have the resources to cover 100% of every student’s demonstrated need after other financial aid packages are factored in. Launched in 2014, the ambitious effort would make Lawrence one of fewer than 70 universities nationwide designated as full-need institutions.

The average debt of Lawrence’s graduating seniors has declined by $5,000 since the campaign began even as the University’s comprehensive fee has increased. This lower average debt at graduation is in contrast to rising debt numbers nationally.

“The way in which this community has rallied around that strategic priority to provide more financial resources for students has been breathtaking in terms of the number of donors, the amounts of gifts, the pace in which we’ve been raising money,” Cal Husmann, vice president for alumni and development, said at the time the goal was reached. “It has resonated with this constituency unlike any other philanthropic priority.”

The U.S. News rankings follow an announcement in August that the Princeton Review has named Lawrence to its Best 386 Colleges for 2021 list, which included placing Lawrence at No. 3 on its Best Impact Schools list.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu