Welcome from the President

July 2014 Letter from Virginia College Presidents Expresses "Serious Reservations" About Proposed Higher Ed Rating System

Logos"A one-size-fits-all rating system fails to acknowledge the unique missions of various higher education institutions in America....We feel the proposed rating system will result in negative unintended consequences and will be harmful to many of the students we seek to serve in Virginia." Read the entire letter (PDF)

Top Virginia Legislators Voice Opposition to Proposed “College Rating System”

US Congressman Bob Goodlatte"Recently, 50 Virginia college and university presidents signed a letter expressing their concerns surrounding President Obama's proposed college ratings system. I agree with their concerns, which is why I've introduced H.Res. 614, a resolution opposing the proposed ratings system." Read the entire letter. (PDF)

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte

US Congressman Robert Hurt" ...a one-size-fits all approach cannot accurately evaluate success rates, and it would unintentionally disadvantage certain institutions and prospective students." Read the entire letter. (PDF)

U.S. Congressman Robert Hurt

Dear Students, Families, & Friends,

Welcome to Ferrum College!  We hope your visit to our web pages has inspired you to learn even more about what Ferrum stands for!

In April 2014 Ferrum received an invitation from President Barack Obama inviting colleges to join him in the “Interfaith and Community Service Challenge.” The President wrote in his letter, “In America, our diversity is strength, not a weakness. I have always believed that when people of different backgrounds and beliefs come together in the service of humanity, our Nation grows stronger as a result.”

An immersion into the campus fabric at Ferrum would reveal how a diverse yet harmonious population thrives on a college campus dedicated to the very principles the administration has challenged us to champion. The student body at Ferrum College is a microcosm of young men and women in the United States, many of whom may not have had an educational opportunity handed to them. Our 100 year historic mission has long been one of opportunity, accessibility and affordability. Our students are rich, poor and in between. They come from rural Appalachia as well as cities and suburbs throughout Virginia and the entire country. We serve honor students, “average” students, and those who struggled in high school, some with unique learning needs. Our students come from all walks of life and all socio-economic backgrounds. Approximately 60% are Pell Grant eligible, and our campus diversity is the envy of our sister schools with nearly 40% of our students representing minority groups. Ferrum invests $20 million annually in institutional financial aid, over one third of our budget.

President Braaten with StudentsAt a meeting last year with United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and private college presidents from around the country, the Secretary praised the collective work of schools like Ferrum by saying “we all share the same goals.” This fall, the Administration is expected to release its metrics for rating and assessing higher education institutions. While we do not yet know the criteria that will be used to develop those ratings, the diversity reflected within the Ferrum community, indeed the entire higher education community, demonstrates just how complicated this effort will be. It also highlights the folly of the commercial college ratings that exist in the media and foundation marketplaces.

There are serious unintended consequences that arise from rankings that rely solely on statistical “scorecards” and artificial value judgments for measures of success. Reporters, editors, researchers, and policy makers are inserting their own value choices into these rankings, especially when using partial, outdated, or self-selected data to fit a predetermined agenda. We are happy to be held accountable, but would also like to be evaluated on what we accomplish rather than on the disadvantages some of our students of promise struggle valiantly to overcome.

Ferrum College StudentsWhat does Ferrum value? We value the fact that for some students, their first college success is the day their Ferrum acceptance letter arrives in the mail, when they become the first in their family to receive such a letter. We value the student who could not initially get into Virginia Tech but was accepted at Ferrum where she grew academically, was nurtured socially and culturally, and later was accepted into VT. We value the economic development efforts that Ferrum has helped drive in our community, leading to job creation and community well-being. We value the Ferrum alumni, who include Fortune 500 executives, lawyers, educators, clergy, health care professionals, business people and military personnel, including two current Army Brigadier Generals, one of whom was the youngest ever to achieve that rank. We value our mission and that of higher education … to educate students and ensure that we have an informed and socially and culturally-minded citizenry.

Ferrum tracks and makes available relevant data to prospective students and families, current students, and others, and we constantly strive to improve metrics such as graduation rates and retention. While important, these figures when used alone often result in “one size fits all” factoids, which are worthless when used out of context. While data helps inform the chapters of a broader narrative, the narrative itself is far more revealing than the numbers.

Ferrum College classroomFerrum College is proud to begin another century in higher education. Like other colleges and universities with similar missions and student populations, we will not be daunted by those who hand-pick data to serve their own purposes. At Ferrum College, our motto is “Not Self, But Others.” It is our hope that those who choose to rank colleges and universities would keep these words in the forefront as they seek to force their self-imposed standards on complex, mission-driven institutions—institutions whose chapters and stories gain much needed clarity when explored behind the raw data to the multitude of additional indicators of student success.

At Ferrum we are accountable to the students we serve who increasingly represent the future of our country. These students are the faces of today’s United States of America. Many of them might never have a college opportunity if not for a school like ours. While publications and organizations funded by their foundation partners are free to espouse their own perspectives, Ferrum is proud to focus on “mind, body and spirit.” We emphasize academic excellence, involvement in athletics and wellness, and exposure to ethical problem solving, civic engagement and spiritual growth.

To reiterate President Obama’s words, “In America, our diversity is strength. “ Those six words embody and inform the student experience at Ferrum College.

We hope you will schedule an in-person visit to our beautiful campus in the very near future.  We invite you to become a member of the Ferrum family and to begin your journey to success the “Ferrum Way,“ through learning & involvement, faith & action, and hope & promise.

Sincerely yours,

Jennifer L. Braaten