MORAGA, CA (August 25, 2003) -- In its latest ranking of U.S. colleges and universities, U.S. News & World Report rates Saint Mary's College of California ninth best among all schools in the western U.S. offering comprehensive undergraduate and masters-level programs. Saint Mary's ranked fourth overall among schools in its category for average graduation rate (68%) and freshmen retention (88%).

U.S. News also rated Saint Mary's a "best value" among schools in its category. This distinction is based on an assessment of academic quality and available financial aid.

Saint Mary's top-ten ranking was based in part on a reported increase in the number of classes offered with fewer than 20 students (43% vs. 35% last year); higher freshmen retention (the number of first-year students who return the following year - 88% this year vs. 85% last); and higher average SAT scores among last year's admitted freshman class.

"We're pleased to see Saint Mary's College of California rated among the best colleges and universities in California and the western U.S.," said Michael Beseda, Vice Provost for Enrollment. "This result is consistent with other surveys that have awarded Saint Mary's high marks for its academics and overall quality of campus life."

The magazine ranked over 1,400 U.S. colleges and universities nationally on various objective and subjective factors. Saint Mary's was compared to other schools in the western U.S. offering comprehensive undergraduate and masters-level programs, but few if any doctoral programs.

The entire survey is accessible at http://www.usnews.com.

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Saint Mary's College of California is one of the most distinguished colleges in the West. The College's reputation for excellence, innovation and responsiveness comes from its heritage as a Catholic, Lasallian Christian Brothers, Liberal Arts institution. This heritage creates a unique, personalized, student-centered learning community. An outstanding, committed faculty that values teaching and student interaction brings these traditions to life. Saint Mary's offers undergraduate and graduate programs integrating liberal arts and professional education. The College is located in the Moraga foothills, just 20 miles east of San Francisco.

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