Area schools ranked among best neighbors; WU behind the pack

| News Editor

A recent survey ranking “Best Neighbor” colleges and universities lists Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the top 25, with Washington University listed among 100 additional honorable mentions.

“It’s terrific that St. Louis had three institutions in the top rankings,” said Hank Webber, executive vice chancellor for administration at the University. “I think that reflects a broad commitment of higher education institutions to the city and the region.”

The survey considered several aspects of a university’s contributions to its community for the ranking, including faculty and student involvement in community service; presence felt through payroll, research and purchasing power; effect on local student access and affordability to attend college; and length of involvement with the community.

The University of Pennsylvania and University of Southern California tied for first in the ranking, while the University of Dayton and the University of Pittsburgh tied for second. The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Case Western Reserve University and Emory University also made the top 25.

Evan Dobelle, president of Westfield State College in Massachusetts, announced the top schools during a presentation titled, “Saviors of our cities: A Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships.” Dobelle delivered the address to the 15th annual conference of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities.

Community service was an important criterion in the rankings.

According to the University’s Community Service Office, 73 percent of students participate in community service compared to a national average of 61 percent. Eighty-six percent of seniors have been involved in service while at the University.

Although the ranking puts an emphasis on “real dollars invested” in the community, it can be difficult to put a fixed value on the University’s involvement in the area, said Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs. Adelstein noted that the University’s impact is made clearer in difficult economic times.

“The University in a recession doesn’t leave. While [other businesses] have contracted, the University stays, continues to build and continues to invest,” Adelstein said.

Washington University has some 13,000 employees, more than half of whom work on the medical campus. Barnes Jewish, the University’s healthcare partner, is the largest employer in the city.

Webber mentioned that SLU is also one of the top employers in the city.

“These [universities] become the largest economic entities, [and] we don’t go anywhere, we’ve stayed and grown,” Webber said.

Despite the state of the national economy, Adelstein said the University has a $2.5 billion economic impact on the area.

The survey report cited Saint Louis University’s efforts to revitalize downtown St. Louis as a principle reason for its selection. The school’s emphasis on social justice and the urban poor in research and student involvement was another point made in the report.

The report also mentioned social services in explaining its selection of UMSL. UMSL operates several clinics, including Community Psychological Services and University Eye Center.

The full list of schools and additional information about Evan Dobelle’s report can be found at

For information on Washington University’s programming and impact in St. Louis:

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