Church-related colleges and universities ranked high in every category in the third biennial survey of American higher education reported by U.S. News and World Report.
Duke University and Emory University ranked in the top 25 national universities. Both have strong ties to the United Methodist Church.
Five of the top 25 national liberal arts colleges have Protestant origins. Three are Quaker: Swarthmore, Haverford and Earlham. Carleton College is United Church of Christ-related; Davidson College is Presbyterian.
Questionnaires were sent to presidents of 1,329 colleges and universities asking for their assessments of academic mood and choices in the nation's best and most innovative campuses. More than 760 presidents -- nearly 60 percent -- responded, making it the most comprehensive study of its kind undertaken.
In a category called "smaller comprehensive colleges," church-related institutions capped nine of the 10 spots, including two Lutheran colleges (Gustavus Adolphus and Augustana) and two Catholic colleges (St. Mary's College at Notre Dame and College of St. Catherine).
Other colleges include: Whittier (Quaker), Hood (United Church of Christ), William Jewell (Baptist), Millikin (Presbyterian) and Otterbein (United Methodist).
Church colleges also came in for top billing in several regional rankings.
As in previous years, the survey was restricted to four-year institutions awarding at least bachelor's degrees and offering liberal arts programs as part of their undergraduate education. Presidents were asked to select 10 schools providing the "best" undergraduate education from among those classified in the same category as their own, making it possible for each college to be judged by its peers.
The U.S. News editors noted that colleges in the survey most often singled out for the teaching of values included Goshen College (Mennonite) and Notre Dame (Catholic). What impressed presidents about these schools was that they are places where ethical values are lived as well as taught.
Goshen won favorable comments for its commitment to having its 950 students spend at least some of their years in college on a work-study program in all corners of the world.
And no individual drew more praise than Notre Dame's Father Theodore Hesburgh, who retired in June. He is credited with being the moral force behind the university's strong leadership on issues of world peace and social justice.
Church colleges ranked first in all three regional groupings of "comprehensive institutions."
In the South, Wake Forest University (Baptist-related) was the undisputed winner; in the East the top spot went to Villanova University (Catholic); in the Midwest and West, Valparaiso University (Lutheran) got top billing.
Among the small liberal arts colleges, United Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College topped out in the South; and Alverno College, a Catholic institution, won in the Midwest and West.
"Best buys" among the nation's colleges, according to the editors, include William Jewell College (Baptist), Hanover College (Presbyterian) and Hendrix College (United Methodist). All three institutions have tuition in the neighborhood of $5,000 a year, among the lowest in their respective categories.