College Consensus, an all-encompassing university and college ranking company, named Arizona Christian University as the No. 1 college in Arizona for the second consecutive year.
ACU, followed by The University of Arizona, ASU-Tempe and Prescott College in the top four, was recognized based on data from Forbes and U.S. News & World Report along with public sources including student reviews of their college experience and education.
Along with the No. 1 ranking in Arizona, ACU was ranked No. 10 in the Best Regional Colleges in the West and No. 14 in the Best Online Christian Colleges and Universities rankings by College Consensus.
“There have been a number of organizations that have rated our university highly over the last four or five years, which is really new for us in our 60-year history. We’re really grateful,” said Len Munsil, the university’s president.
While the school’s rankings have increased under Munsil since he began his service as president in 2010, so have enrollment numbers. ACU announced in late August that the student body had grown to more than 750 students, a 20% increase since last academic year and the fifth straight year of record enrollment.
Munsil credits rankings and a growing reputation among students as some of the reasons for the boom.
“What I’ve learned about academia is that it takes time to build recognition. It’s a slow process, but we have fairly quickly started to establish ACU as an elite small college and university experience,” Munsil said.
The main factor for the increase in school pride and numbers, he believes, is the school’s new campus in Glendale. Since the school swapped land with the Thunderbird School of Management from its former Phoenix home before this academic year, there is even more to like for prospective students.
Munsil said returning staff and students used to the old campus “need to pinch themselves.”
“We’re getting a lot of alumni coming back with jaws dropped wide open. Going from a 20-acre campus with, really, three main buildings to a 68-acre campus with dozens of buildings and incredible student areas that we didn’t have before, it continues to amaze me,” Munsil said.
Additional construction and renovation on campus is ongoing. Better athletic facilities, music rooms and science labs are among the planned additions for the school, as the previous owners did not need them for a graduate business school. All of the additions should only increase enrollment further.
In the old campus, Munsil said enrollment numbers were at about the maximum the school could hold. The Thunderbird School of Management regularly held about 2,000 students, so there is no reason to believe ACU enrollment will not creep toward that total in the future.
For now, though, those at ACU are still marveling at how much their school has grown, both physically and reputation-wise, before even thinking too far about adding more students in years to come.
“We’re not in a hurry to get there, because we don’t want to lose the close-knit community feeling we’ve created, the culture here. But, what we’re seeing is really exciting,” Munsil said.