Aug 31, 2011

'Washington Monthly' Rankings Not Too Kind to DC Area Colleges

In the race to steal a little thunder from U.S. News & World Report (USNWR), Washington Monthly recently brought out a third college ranking, following similar efforts by the Princeton Review and Forbes Magazine.

And despite what might seem like a natural focus on local institutions, Washington Monthly was not too kind to DC area colleges and universities. None managed to crack the top 10 in any of the rankings (National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Masters Universities, and Baccalaureate Colleges).

In fact, only Johns Hopkins made it to number 20 in the National Universities category based largely on its huge research budget—about $1.7 billion—by far the largest in the country.

Coyly playing on President Kennedy’s famous inaugural quote, Washington Monthly modestly claimed that unlike similar rankings, theirs asks “not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country.”

To arrive at the answer, the magazine rated schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low income students), Research, and Service. Within each category were a series of metrics including the distribution of Pell grants, graduation rates, research expenditures, success of students and faculty, Peace Corps Rank, ROTC rank, work-study expenditure, community service participation and hours served, and allocation of institutional resources to community service.

While the broader categories were weighted equally when calculating a final score, metrics within each category seem a little fuzzy with the research score rewarding large schools simply for their size. Hence the top ten National Universities are:

  1. UC San Diego

  2. UCLA

  3. UC Berkeley

  4. Stanford University

  5. UC Riverside

  6. Harvard University

  7. Case Western Reserve University

  8. UC Davis

  9. Jackson State University

  10. University of Michigan

To compensate for the fact that liberal arts colleges offer little in the way of “extensive doctoral programs,” the research component was reconfigured to take into account “alumni success.” And the top ten Liberal Arts Colleges are:

  1. Berea College

  2. Morehouse College

  3. Bryn Mawr College

  4. Spelman College

  5. Swarthmore College

  6. Macalester College

  7. Amherst College

  8. Pomona College

  9. Harvey Mudd College

  10. Carleton College

For the record, Johns Hopkins (20), William & Mary (24), Georgetown (30), George Washington (41), and Virginia Tech (43) made it into the top 50 National Universities. Washington and Lee University (23), the University of Richmond (35), and Emory & Henry (49) were recognized among the top Liberal Arts Colleges. Loyola University of Maryland (35), Hampton University (37), James Madison University (38), and the University of Mary Washington (47) were ranked among the top 50 Master’s Universities.

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