A Different Kind of College and University Ranking

Washington Monthly has recently published its college and university rankings, and the result is much different from the more traditional kinds of rankings published by outlets like U.S. News & World Report. Conceived of as a counter to the U.S. News rankings, which emphasize admission rates and prestige, Washington Monthly‘s rankings focus on “how well individual colleges and universities were meeting their public obligations in the areas of research, service, and social mobility” and rank schools accordingly. Factors analyzed include the number of students admitted with Pell Grants; an emphasis on community service, including the amount of work-study money used and the numbers of graduates who join post-graduate service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps; graduation rates; and what graduates go on to do with their lives, including attend graduate or professional school. As a result, schools that usually fair quite well in the U.S. News rankings, like Princeton and Yale, fair much more poorly in Washington Monthly‘s rankings. On the other hand, colleges and universities like Morehouse College in Atlanta, Reed College in Oregon, Wellesley, Smith, and five University of California campuses (San Diego, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Davis, and Santa Barbara) do quite well in Washington Monthly‘s rankings, due to the diverse populations they serve, their high graduation rates and commitment to service, and the success of their students after they graduate. In response to the claim made by some schools that rankings don’t prove anything, the editors of Washington Monthly contend,

“While colleges do have a point when they complain about U.S. News’s ratings, the problem isn’t that U.S. News ranks colleges, but that it does so based on the wrong factors—like wealth, fame, and selectivity—that incentivize college administrators in the wrong ways. A college president vying for rankings glory on our list, by contrast, would have to enroll more low-income students, help them earn degrees, orient academic programs toward service, and invest in new scientific research. The country needs more of that kind of competition, not less.”

Read more and see the rankings in Washington Monthly.

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