Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In its New College Rankings, Washington Monthly Magazine Asks 'What Do Institutions of Higher Learning Do for the Country?'

/PRNewswire/ -- As an alternative to U.S. News & World Report's much-criticized college rankings, the Washington Monthly magazine today is releasing its own annual College Guide and Rankings. Whereas U.S. News relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of money and prestige, like alumni giving rates and a vague reputational survey, the Washington Monthly ranks schools based on their contributions to society.

To compile the list, the Washington Monthly's editors gathered reams of publicly available data and settled on three criteria: social mobility, research and service. America's best colleges, the editors reasoned, are those that produce new scientific discoveries and highly trained PhDs, help economically disadvantaged students earn degrees, and emphasize the obligations students have to serve their communities and the nation at large.

The Washington Monthly's unique methodology yields strikingly different results:

-- Only one of the U.S. News top 10 universities -- Stanford -- makes the
Washington Monthly's top 10, while high profile institutions such as
Princeton, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania fail to even crack
Washington Monthly's top 25.
-- Some of the top universities on the Washington Monthly list, like
South Carolina State (#6) and Jackson State (#22), are non-elite "red
state" schools buried in the lowest tiers of the U.S. News list.
-- While all the top 20 U.S. News universities are private, 13 of the top
20 Washington Monthly universities are public.
-- The University of California system grabs the top three slots --
including number-one-ranked Berkeley -- even as the state of
California is slashing higher education funding.
-- Women's liberal arts colleges score well in the Washington Monthly
rankings, with Mount Holyoke, Smith, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley all in
the top 10. Historically black institutions, such as Spelman and
Morehouse, also make strong showings.

"Instead of just measuring what colleges can do for you," explains Washington Monthly editor-in-chief Paul Glastris, "we ask 'What are colleges doing for the country?'"

The Washington Monthly's College Guide and Rankings appear in the magazine's September/October issue. They are also available online at a new College Guide Web site the magazine is launching today, http://washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/. The Web site will be devoted to covering higher education reform, a subject the editors believe will emerge as a major political story in the next decade thanks to average tuition prices that are rising faster than health care costs.

Other stories in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly:
-- "College for $99 a Month": Why the next generation of online education
could be great for cash-strapped students, but catastrophic for
traditional universities.
-- "Pie in the Sky": How Domino's Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan built, and
then destroyed, an elite law school.
-- "Higher Ed's Bermuda Triangle": Vast numbers of students enter
community college remedial classes every year, and are never heard
from again.

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