Campus News

College rankings offer opportunities to discuss hidden value

Dr. Eric Buckles, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of biology, works with a student during a microbiology class in 2020. Photo: Sabree Hill/Dillard University.

September 12, 2022
Contact: Eddie Francis, 

NEW ORLEANS—Today, U.S. News & World Report released their annual college rankings, an event highly anticipated annually by high school guidance counselors, prospective college students, parents of high school students and even employers. Dillard University is one of the institutions that views the U.S. News & World Report rankings, in addition to other college rankings, as an opportunity to expand the national conversation about a hidden area where institutions of higher learning such as Dillard provide a wealth of value–community.

“Last year, Malcolm Gladwell dedicated an episode of his ‘Revisionist History’ podcast to Dillard,” said Dr. Rochelle L. Ford, president of Dillard. “He noted that HBCUs have found a way to turn community into, as he said, ‘an effective academic culture.’ Many see this community of inclusion culture at Dillard, and we’re proud of it. Dillard has built an academic community where students have a sense of belonging, take full advantage of opportunities to become their best selves and remain inspired to achieve great things.”

Mablene Krueger, Dillard’s new interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said that she was drawn to the University because of its history of exceeding expectations. “An expression that I heard about Dillard is that the University ‘punches above its weight.’” she said. “Rankings don’t tell the whole story; the majority of Dillard students are Pell Grant eligible. Some students come from underperforming high schools. Yet, Dillard graduates them at rates higher than the state and national averages,” said Krueger. “I’m a first generation college student who also had to work through college; like me, our faculty understand our students’ challenges. We have high expectations of them and we nurture, support and push them to meet those expectations.”

A Dillard alumnus who has seen those possibilities is filmmaker and New Orleans native Edward Buckles Jr. ‘15. His critically acclaimed documentary, “Katrina Babies,” won the Human/Nature Award and The Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. Buckles said that Dillard changed his life. “Being surrounded by so many Black, beautiful and intelligent people is one of the main reasons I ever picked up a camera. The Dillard experience showed me that there was power in our voice, thoughts and skin,” he said. 

During Gladwell’s 2021 visit to Dillard, he conducted a focus group discussion which included Marissa Pittman ‘24. Currently, the University’s Student Government Association president, Pittman commented that she “feels significant” at Dillard during the discussion. Expounding later on the comment, Pittman added that she feels like a contributing member of Dillard’s community. “It has prepared me to excel in my life after Dillard, and the feeling of significance has empowered me to give back to the Gentilly community as well,” said the Memphis, Tennessee native.

A critical part of how that sense of community converts into the effective academic culture that Gladwell referenced is the support that Dillard’s faculty provide. Jessica Justin ‘22, a native of Richmond, California, chose Dillard for its nursing program after earning her bachelor’s degree in health sciences from the University of California, East Bay. Justin said that none of the University’s instructors turned her away or brushed her off. Instead, Justin said that she enjoyed the closeness and support of the nursing faculty. “It just made for a better experience,” said Justin. 

One of the alumni who returned to Dillard to be part of that support system is Dr. Shaniece Bickham ‘00, associate professor and program coordinator of the mass communication program. “When I was a student at Dillard, my professors not only taught me, but also mentored me,” she said. “Dillard gave me opportunities for internships and for student media participation, which fully prepared me for a career and graduate school. More importantly it gave me a safe place to explore my past as a Black person and challenged me to be a change agent by finding solutions to the problems we face today.”

In the 2023 U.S. News & World Report rankings, Dillard is ranked #14 among the 104 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and #33 among 196 institutions in the social mobility rankings, up from #47 in the 2022 social mobility rankings. The social mobility ranking analyzes how well colleges do at enrolling and graduating large numbers of students who are Pell Grant eligible or considered economically disadvantaged. Washington Monthly also recently released their 2022 rankings where Dillard is ranked #122 of 227 institutions for Best Bang for the Buck Rankings: South. 

“We know that there is a national debate about these rankings, yet the rankings can never tell the full story” said Ford. “Dillard continues to strive to provide an excellent, affordable education that cultivates leaders who live ethically and act courageously to make the world better. Our community continues to make improvements, and I’ve seen those efforts and the results since I started on July 1st. I have seen the resilience and the pride in this community. Excellence is an expectation here and I am committed to excellence without excuse.”

President Rochelle L. Ford is available for comment about college rankings and the future of Dillard University as an institution of choice. Please contact Eddie Francis at or 504-816-4024 for more information.

Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting