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November/ December 2013 Selective Service

Which elite colleges send the most graduates into government and nonprofit careers?

By Zach Wenner, Jonny Dorsey, and Fagan Harris

There are, of course, many different ways of slicing schools’ achievements. Some of the great colleges and universities that top the Washington Monthly’s annual college rankings—like the University of California, San Diego, which ranked number one on the 2013 list, in large part because it successfully recruits and graduates lower-income students—don’t distinguish themselves on this one. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that careers of service often require sacrificing compensation—an option that’s less immediately available to less affluent student bodies. Moreover, schools that do a superior job channeling their graduates to become entrepreneurs, engineers, primary care doctors, and others in the private sector also serve the public interest and deserve commendation.

But our goal in this index is a narrower one: to celebrate the success of the institutions that are doing a great job shepherding students into public service careers, and to motivate similar progress at more of our nation’s colleges and universities. With colleges and universities receiving tens of billions of dollars in direct public support, and billions more in the form of tax write-offs to donors, all of us already have a dog in this fight.

*Update: this sentence has been corrected, reflecting the fact that Brown is also in the Ivy League.

Zach Wenner, Jonny Dorsey, and Fagan Harris are associate director and directors, respectively of the Aspen Institute’s Impact Careers Initiative.

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