To underscore just how important these publications are, let me share a brief personal story. Being neither a Baptist nor an Oklahoman, I was an unlikely prospective student at Be a Bison Day. But because I was young and in love, I was determined to follow my girlfriend to OBU. My parents were concerned, to say the least. After visiting the campus and hearing descriptions of the anti-social dorm visitation policy and compulsory chapel attendance, my parents thought OBU was pretty weird. I'm pretty sure OBU's decent performance in the U.S. News rankings was the only thing that reassured them about my decision. Without those rankings, I doubt they would have let me go to OBU.
Even after my graduation in 2002, I would periodically glance at the rankings to see how OBU was doing. U.S. News changed its categories a few times, from "Liberal Arts Colleges - West" to "Comprehensive Colleges - West" to the current category "Regional Colleges - West" (where we are currently #3 among some not very illustrious peer institutions).
I had not glanced at the Forbes rankings until today. It was pretty depressing.
Friends, sliding wholesale into fundamentalism has its costs in terms of academic respectability. At this rate, we will soon struggle to attract the best and brightest students and faculty. And once word gets out that professors are being fired for ideological reasons and that philosophy (a core discipline in the liberal arts) is being gutted in favor of Christian apologetics, the decline is only going to get worse. In a few short years, OBU is devolving from one of the most desirable small liberal arts colleges in America (religious or otherwise) to just another fundamentalist Bible academy.
I hope OBU does not have to slide even further before people start to realize that the BGCO's fundamentalist stranglehold on OBU has grave consequences for students, faculty, and alumni. Not only is the current trend robbing students of the balanced, moderate Christian liberal arts education that made OBU great. It is also devaluing their expensive and hard-earned diplomas. Unless we demand that OBU return to its proud liberal arts heritage, I'm afraid this trend will continue.
Forbes's methodology is here.