Bobbie Myatt chose The University of Texas-Pan American to earn her master's degree because it allowed the single mother of two teenagers to receive a high-quality education close to home.
Myatt, like many other graduate students, is also grateful for the opportunity to attend an institution that has been ranked recently as the top public master's university in Texas by the Washington Monthly magazine.
The Washington Monthly - a nonprofit, bimonthly magazine published in Washington, D.C., covering politics, government, culture and the media - ranked UTPA 16th overall out of the 682 public and private master's institutions nationwide. UTPA offers 53 master's programs in its seven colleges.
"The ranking is an indication that UTPA is being viewed as a university that makes a high quality education accessible to students," Dr. Cynthia Brown, vice provost for Graduate Studies, said.
The Washington Monthly's 2012 top master's universities list rates schools based on their contribution to the public good in three categories:
• social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students),
• research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and Ph.D.s), and
• service (encouraging students to give something back to the country).
In a press release Washington Monthly publisher Diane Straus Tucker said, "The Washington Monthly's Annual College Guide takes an innovative approach to college rankings, putting aside dubious reputation surveys and alumni giving statistics in favor of measures that assess how well colleges and universities serve their communities and the country."
When calculating an institution's overall score the three categories are weighted equally. Out of the possible score of 100, the lowest being zero, UTPA's score is 84.
Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, provost and vice-president for Academic Affairs, said the recognition provides incentives to continue to build, strengthen and enhance the University's programs.
"These types of rankings help raise the visibility and reach of our institution. They help us disseminate information about the academic excellence that we espouse at UT Pan American," he said.
Only Trinity University, a private school in San Antonio, ranked higher in Texas at No. 1.
The methodology for the rankings focuses on factors that include the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, predicted and actual rate of graduation, and the net price of attending the institution in regard to social mobility. In research assessment, the magazine considered how much money is spent in research and how many bachelor's degree recipients go on to earn Ph.D.s relative to the school size. The service category looks at the number of alumni who serve in the Peace Corps, the percentage of students who serve in ROTC, funds in federal work-study that goes into community service and numbers of students involved in service.
Other schools ranked in the top 20 of master's universities include Creighton University (4), New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (7), California State University-Los Angeles (11), and State University of New York at Geneseo (17).
"UTPA is not just a university, it is a reflection of the entire community it serves, and we should be proud of what we have here in this institution. Sixteen out of 682 in the nation is an incredible ranking. With the pending merger this institution will surely be within the top 10 in no time, given the massive research initiatives and social mobility that are on the horizon," Myatt said.
See a complete list of Washington Monthly's master's universities rankings and more about its methodologies here.