In more college ranking news, Washington Monthly magazine announced today what it is calling a new kind of college ranking list.
Citing concerns about growing student debt and public investment in higher education, the editors charge popular college ranking systems with “gaming” the system through price increases and selectivity measures. Harkening to a more Dewey-ian belief in higher education as a mobility vehicle the WM editors say their new list rewards accessibility, affordability, and social mobility:
The Washington Monthly rankings are based on three factors. The first is social mobility, which gives colleges credit for enrolling many low-income students and helping them earn degrees. The second recognizes research production, particularly at schools whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. Third, we value a commitment to service. The more expensive college becomes, the more students are encouraged to see higher education as a mere return on investment. The students in our best colleges are taught by example and design to look beyond themselves and give back.
And because the cost of higher education has become so crucial, we have added a new factor to our college rankings this year. The social mobility measure that rewards colleges with better-than-expected graduation rates has been improved to account for college prices. Colleges that are both effective and inexpensive get the highest marks. As Robert Kelchen and Rachel Fishman explain in more detail on page 31, some institutions are doing an outstanding job while keeping prices low at the same time, helping students earn valuable diplomas without being shackled by debt. The complete list of our national university rankings begins on page 54, liberal arts colleges on page 68, and master’s universities and baccalaureate colleges on page 80. Some of the names are familiar. But others show that ranking colleges by social mobility, research, and service produces surprising results. Some famous (and expensive) colleges that routinely top the U.S. News rankings fare poorly by our lights, while some far less costly institutions are providing huge benefits to their students and their nation. Here are highlights from the 2012 Washington Monthly college rankings.
The WM rankings put UC-San Diego at number 1 in 2011. In contrast, Yale University is ranked 41st. The editors explain:
Six of our top twenty universities hail from the UC system, a testament to their commitment to enroll an economically diverse student body while supporting world-class research. Tragically, the system has been rocked by budget cuts and price increases in recent years. We hope this trend is reversed before the UC campuses fade from prominence.
Well-known private universities, by contrast, look different when judged by our criteria. Yale is only forty-first on our ranking. New York University, which has floated to national prominence on a sea of student debt, is seventy-seventh. NYU ranked thirty-three places higher in 2011, but our new cost-adjustment measure penalizes it for being among the most expensive universities in America. Similarly, Northeastern University in Boston has climbed eighty-eight places in the U.S. News rankings since 2001, all the way to sixty-second, within shouting distance of the coveted “First Tier.” We rank Northeastern number 237, in the bottom 20 percent of all national universities. Why? Because Northeastern doesn’t enroll very many low-income students, graduates fewer students than it should, and is unusually expensive. Most national universities are better than Northeastern at graduating students who go on to earn PhDs, and the university’s faculty research awards and service statistics are mediocre. Universities that purchase a facade of greatness are recognized by U.S. News , but not by us.
Read more and see the UW college rankings list here.