Sep 5, 2012

DC Area Colleges Score Low in 'Washington Monthly' Rankings

University of California--San Diego
In the race to steal a little thunder from U.S. News & World Report (USNWR), Washington Monthly recently brought out yet another college ranking.

And despite what might seem like a natural focus on local institutions, the magazine 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, the highest ranks achieved by any local institutions were granted to William & Mary (24 in National Universities), St. John’s College (19 in Liberal Arts Colleges), and the University of Mary Washington (12 in Master’s Universities)—all of which scored high in “Service,” particularly on the “Peace Corps” metric.
For whatever reason, most locals actually dropped in the Washington Monthly rankings. A high-scorer from last year, Johns Hopkins University dropped from 20 all the way down to 46 among National Universities. The addition of the new “bang for the buck” factor probably explains the mysterious change in fortune from one year to the next.

Modestly distinguishing itself from other rankings that rely “on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige” for their rankings, Washington Monthly claims theirs rates schools on what they are doing for their students and the country—whether they’re “improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.”

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.

After computing the numbers and waving a magic wand over the results, the following institutions placed at the top of the National Universities list:
  1. University of California—San Diego (1 last year)
  2. Texas A&M
  3. Stanford University (4)
  4. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
  5. University of California—Berkeley (3)
  6. UCLA (2)
  7. Case Western Reserve (7)
  8. University of Washington—Seattle
  9. University of California—Riverside (5)
  10. Georgia Tech
To compensate for the fact that liberal arts colleges offer little in the way of “extensive doctoral programs,” the research component was reconfigured to emphasize “alumni success.” And the top ten Liberal Arts Colleges are:
  1. Bryn Mawr College (3 last year)
  2. Swarthmore College (5)
  3. Berea College (1)
  4. Carleton College (10)
  5. Harvey Mudd College (9)
  6. New College of Florida
  7. Williams College
  8. Macalester College (6)
  9. Wellesley College
  10. Amherst College (7)
For the record, the College of William & Mary (24), Virginia Tech (44), Johns Hopkins (46), UVa (48), George Washington (52), Georgetown (79), and Howard (82) made it into the top 100 National Universities.  St. John’s College (19), Emory & Henry (33), Hollins (35), Washington & Lee (46), and the University of Richmond were recognized among the top Liberal Arts Colleges.  The University of Mary Washington (12), Mary Baldwin (48), and James Madison University (69) ranked among the top 100 Master’s Universities.

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