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October 28, 2013 4:35 PM A Serviceable Education

By Ryan Cooper

Our current top-performing piece from our November/December issue is one by Zach Wenner, Jonny Dorsey, and Fagan Harris looking at which school’s graduates go into government and nonprofit careers. (Rankings of schools seem to be on a par with listicles features pictures of baby otters when it comes to internet love.)

The top schools on our liberal arts list are unsurprising: West Point and the Naval Academy. But the rest aren’t what you might expect:

The results…are surprising. Only two of U.S. News’s top ten national universities are in our top ten*, edged out by places like Brandeis, the University of Chicago, and the University of Rochester. The overlap on liberal arts colleges is a little closer: five of U.S. News’s top ten (Swarthmore, Pomona, Carleton, Wellesley, and Haverford) make our top ten.

What’s the secret to success?

…what’s changed since back in the day when the Ivys were seen as stepping stones for students who wanted to go into public service or launch a career in government? One factor, perhaps, is that the most prestigious Ivy League schools are now the primary target for Wall Street recruiters—a species that was not so prevalent a few decades ago. But another factor is that the leading schools on our list didn’t get there by accident. All of them actively cultivated cultures of service on campus, and then built the financial and programmatic infrastructure to support students’ trajectories in service after graduation.

The lack of public-spiritedness and a culture of service among our elite institutions has long been a Monthly hobbyhorse. This is one small effort to change the status calculations that go into one’s choice of career—the country could certainly stand a rebalancing between investment bankers and skilled legislators and staffers.

To see the rest of the article, click here.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

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