In a September 28, 2012 op-ed, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera decried the U.S. News and World Report college rankings for being inherently flawed — much as I did in my recent blog post, How Reliable Are College Rankings? Nocera blamed U.S. News for creating a status-climbing frenzy among colleges and the students who want to attend them. He argued that this system encourages colleges to try to improve their ranking by cheating the system, and indeed, there are several examples of such trickery.
Nocera suggested an alternative set of rankings: those published by The Washington Monthly. The magazine’s editors argue that U.S News “rewards colleges for spending more money, raising prices, and shutting out all but the most privileged students. While the college cost crisis has many causes . . . the relentless chase for status is undeniably driving prices up.” (The Washington Monthly)
Rather than focusing on how selective colleges are and the resources they provide for their students (as is the case with U.S. News), The Washington Monthly‘s system examines what colleges do for the country as a whole. Since 2005, these rankings have been based on three factors: social mobility, as determined by the number of low-income students a college enrolls and the percentage of them who graduate; research conducted by the college; and student invovlement in community service both during and after college. This year, the magazine’s editors added another factor, which they call “cost-adjusted graduation rate”. This measure is designed to give a higher ranking to colleges with above average graduation rates and below average costs.
To read more about The Washington Monthly‘s methodology and to see its rankings, click here. And remember, any rankings you consider in your college search should be just one of many sources of information.