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Xavier University of Louisiana named #5 HBCU in America

The nation's Catholic HBCU drops two spots in new rankings from U.S. News & World Report, but remains in the top 5 alongside high regional rankings.

Xavier University of Louisiana has been named the #5 HBCU in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, part of a nationwide shakeup in the organization’s much-discussed college rankings released each fall.

This year’s rankings were released by the organization on Monday, September 12.

The historic Black Catholic school in New Orleans is down from #3 among HBCUs last year, now trailing Spelman College (which repeats at #1), Howard University, Tuskegee University, and Morehouse College. Xavier had held their previous spot for three years straight.

U.S. News noted in its methodology explanation that the list was limited to 77 of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, of which the top 75% were given numerical rankings. Changes this year include updated calculation of faculty salaries and class size, inclusion of part-time faculty in terminal degree assessments, and fallback measurements for schools not requiring SAT/ACT scores for admission.

“The U.S. News rankings system rests on two pillars: quantitative and qualitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality, and U.S. News' view of what matters in education,” the organization said on Sunday.

The categories and weighting used to determine rankings include student outcomes (40%), “assessment by administrators at peer HBCUs” (20%), faculty resources (25%), financial resources (10%), standardized test scores and high school class rank (7%), and alumni giving (3%).

Unranked in U.S. News’ more well-known “National Universities” rankings, XULA is tied this year for #14 in the Regional Universities South category, up one spot from last year, and was ranked in four other categories in the same region, including a tie for #12 in Best Undergraduate Teaching.

XULA stood along at #25 for Best Value Schools, and jumped two spots to #5 for Most Innovative Schools, which measures “improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities.” Also among Southern schools, XULA was tied at #65 in the area of social mobility.

Originally founded as a high school by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament with the help of the Josephites 107 years ago this month, XULA was originally intended by the sisters’ founder St. Katharine Drexel to revive Southern University, a public institution that left New Orleans in 1914 due to racist opposition from White neighbors.

The sisters’ new school would later be renamed officially after St. Francis Xavier—the patron saint of Francis Drexel, Katharine’s father—and attain university status in 1925, becoming the first and only Catholic HBCU in history.

In the years since, XULA has become known for its unique Catholic and social justice legacies, for its legendary former president and civil rights activist Dr. Norman Francis, and for its stellar science programs. (Xavier today produces more Black science grads, pharmacists, and doctors than any school in the country.)

XULA was ranked as high as #2 among HBCUs in rankings released earlier this year by Plexxus, Inc, one of several companies that publishes an annual list of top schools. XULA was also included in The Princeton Review’s unranked list of best colleges, expanded this year to a field of 388 schools.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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