College Guide


September 01, 2009 3:55 PM An Explanation of Our Categories

By The Editors

Overall score: Overall score represents the combined score of our three metrics—social mobility, research, and service—where the highest is 100 and the lowest is zero. Each individual metric is worth 33 1/3 total points.

Social mobility: The first column shows the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. The second shows the predicted rate of graduation, based on incoming SAT scores and Pell Grant percentages, versus the actual rate of graduation. The third shows the difference between the actual graduation rate and the predicted graduation rate—a measure of how well the school performs as an engine of social mobility (see “A Note on Methodology”)—arrived at by subtracting the latter from the former. (The higher the number, the better; negative numbers indicate subpar performance.) Rank follows in parentheses.

Research: The first column shows the number of dollars (in millions) in total research expenditures. Rank follows in parentheses. The second shows the school’s ranking in the number of bachelor’s recipients who go on to receive PhDs relative to school size. The third ranks the school by the number of science and engineering PhDs awarded. The fourth column shows the school’s ranking by the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards relative to the number of full-time faculty. The fifth column ranks the school by the number of faculty who are members of the National Academies relative to the number of full-time faculty.

Service: The first column ranks the school by the number of alumni who go on to serve in the Peace Corps, relative to school size. The second column ranks the school by percentage of students who serve in ROTC. The third gives the percentage of funds in federal work-study money that goes to community service (versus non-community service); rank follows in parentheses.
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The Editors can be found on Twitter: @washmonthly.


  • Alan on September 02, 2009 1:27 PM:

    Do law and medical degrees count as PhDs in this scheme?

  • Holger on September 03, 2009 8:16 AM:

    Why do you consider Humanities and Social Science PhDs negligible? Surely that makes no sense, unless you assume that science and engineering are the only academic fields that have anything to contribute to society, and I certainly hope you don't hold that technocratic a view.

  • Daniel Melia on September 03, 2009 8:23 PM:

    In terms of research funding and impact it would be important to distinguish between schools with medical schools (Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, UCSD) and those without (Berkeley, MIT, UC Riverside.) Berkeley and MIT move way up these research scales if medical school funds are discounted.

  • Susan Greenbaum on September 08, 2009 10:21 AM:

    The service measure completely ignores the community engagement activities of a growing number of colleges and universities. Surely, a measure of service should include community-based participatory research, reflective service learning, and bilateral community partnerships. Carnegie recognizes and rates the importance of these activities. There is not even a mention of programs of voluntary community service. Peace Corps and ROTC affect relatively few students and do not have any effect on the communities in which universities are located.

  • Vincent Vuong on October 15, 2009 7:51 AM:

    Yes, UCSF has always been considered the medical school of Berkeley. In fact, Berkeley and UCSF work out many programs together and a lot of labs are used "cross-campus". A professor at UCSF would sometimes keep his/her lab at Berkeley and vice-versa depending on interest.

    I'd like to say that I'm proud to have gone through the public school system in California. Though really, poorly funded, these schools have been able to attract private money and "make it work".

    A friend was mine was a nurse at UCSF before going to Columbia/Cornell Presbyterian and he says there is a huge difference in the credo and atmosphere of the two institutions. UCSF was all about the patient, several nurses at a time. CC Pres, each nurse have their own list of patients -- no cross-nursing. That in itself says a lot.

    When did California go right with the UC and Cal State (regional universities) system...? Amazing.

    And Congrats UC for winning Nobel Medicine and Nobel Econ. Plus, Greider of JHU and Ostrom of Indiana, this years other female winners of the Nobel Prize, were both educated COMPLETELY through the UC system. UCSB, Berkeley, UCLA.

  • sasha on January 02, 2010 10:59 PM:

    I agree with Susan. The service category should include a broader sense of what service is: students who are involved in community service and service learning on campus, the organization, student groups, service projects and colleges by the university, and students who go on to non-profit, volunteer (AmeriCorps, church orgs, etc.).

  • sasha on January 02, 2010 11:03 PM:

    University of Washington produces the most Peace Corps Volunteers, by the way.