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August 26, 2013 8:50 AM College Rankings That Aren’t Ridiculous

By Paul Glastris

Today the Washington Monthly releases its annual College Rankings. This is our answer to U.S. News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings. Instead, we rate schools based on what they are doing for the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.

The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology yields strikingly different results.

Only two of U.S. News’ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Washington Monthly’s top ten. Yale and Dartmouth don’t even crack our top 50. Instead, the University of California - San Diego (our #1 national university for the third year in a row) and the University of Texas - El Paso (unranked by U.S. News but #7 on our list) leave several members of the Ivy League in the dust.

While all the top twenty U.S. News universities are private, 14 of the top twenty Washington Monthly universities are accessible, affordable, high-quality public universities.

This year we also offer an exclusive list of “Best Bang for the Buck” colleges — schools that do the best job helping non-rich students earn marketable degrees at affordable prices. Last week, Barack Obama called for a new federal rating system for colleges that would be remarkably similar to our “Best Bang for the Buck” ranking.

Dominating our list are schools that U.S. News relegates to its lower tiers—places like CUNY Queens College, California State, Long Beach, and East Carolina University. These schools may not be big names nationally, but they deliver for their students big-time.

In addition, this year we turn our attention to a vast category of schools that other college guides never bother to evaluate: community colleges. While U.S. News glorifies schools that promise to initiate their students into the elite, the best community colleges serve a far more important mission: granting lower-income and minority students admission into the middle class.

This year’s College Guide also includes in-depth feature stories that ask tough questions about our increasingly unfair and expensive higher education system, including how colleges fail black students and profit off a boom in foreign undergraduates and which metro area has the worst community colleges (hint: it’s San Francisco). We also look at new experiments in “credentialing,” which could make employers your college and traditional degrees obsolete.

Read the 2013 College Guide and Rankings here.

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.

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