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August 25, 2014 9:58 AM College Rankings That Aren’t Ridiculous - Washington Monthly’s 2014 College Guide, now online

By Paul Glastris

Today the Washington Monthly releases its annual College Guide and 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. This fall, the Obama administration will release its plan to rate America’s colleges and universities based on measures of access, affordability and outcome, similar metrics to those used by Washington Monthly for years.

The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology yields striking results.

* Only two of U.S. News’ top ten schools, Stanford and Harvard, make the Washington Monthly’s top ten. Yale, Columbia, Brown and Cornell don’t even crack our top 50.
* Instead, the University of California - San Diego (our #1 national university for the fifth year in a row) and the University of Texas - El Paso (unranked by U.S. News but #8 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. Dominating the list are schools that U.S. News relegates to its lower tiers—places like CUNY Brooklyn College and California State-Fullerton. These schools may not be big names nationally, but they deliver for their students big-time.

In addition, we present the first-ever ranking of “America’s Affordable Elite Colleges” - schools that give high-achieving non-rich students a break in price rather than breaking their bank accounts. UCLA comes in #1, inching out #2 Harvard. Other richly-endowed Ivy League schools don’t do so well, like Princeton (#30) and Yale (#33), because they charge moderate income students three or four times as much as Harvard does.

Another innovation this year is our ranking (or rather rankings) of “America’s Worst Colleges.” Though we set out to make one list of the poorest-performing schools-an exercise the Obama administration must also undertake for its new rating system-we wound up creating several, reflecting the many ways colleges fail students.

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:

* Ten Ways Colleges Work You Over.
* How the powerful higher ed lobby and its Republican friends are trying to kill Obama’s proposed college ratings.
* Is the Master’s Degree an Expensive Anachronism?
* Why Are Harvard Grads Still Flocking to Wall Street?

The complete 2014 college rankings and feature stories can be found here.

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

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