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Introduction: a different kind of college ranking.

This summer, a group of sixty-one liberal arts college Liberal arts colleges are primarily colleges with an emphasis upon undergraduate study in the liberal arts. The Encyclopædia Britannica Concise offers the following definition of the liberal arts as a, "college or university curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge  presidents announced that they would no longer participate in the annual U.S. News & World Report U.S. News & World Report

Weekly newsmagazine published in Washington, D.C. U.S. News was founded in 1933 by David Lawrence (1888–1973) to cover important domestic events; he founded World Report in 1945 to treat world news. The two magazines were merged in 1948.
 college rankings. We were of two minds about this news.

On the one hand, we've long argued that the U.S. News ratings are silly, because they don't measure what its editors say they measure: academic excellence. What U.S. News does to arrive at its results involves gauging things like average faculty salaries, for instance, or the level of praise for one college from the presidents of other colleges. Maybe that's not totally useless, but it's also a bit like assessing the quality of restaurants based on the effectiveness of their advertising and how much they spend on linen. Given the tremendous influence the U.S. News guide nevertheless has on university administrators and prospective students, our first instinct was to cheer the college presidents' Spartacus-like rebellion.

On the other hand, we couldn't help but suspect that what motivated the colleges wasn't just anger at the inadequacies of the U.S. News methodology, but a desire to avoid rankings altogether. Though the protesting schools vowed to create their own, better measures of academic excellence, we weren't too surprised to see the group's chair, Gettysburg College Coordinates:

Gettysburg College is a private national four-year liberal arts college founded in 1832, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, adjacent to the famous battlefield.
 President Katherine Haley Will Katherine Haley Will, Ph.D. is currently serving as the 13th President (and first woman in the position) of Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She is also the current chair of the Annapolis Group. Background
Will received her B.A. from Tufts University and Ph.
, claim in the Washington Post that an "educational experience can't be reduced to one number, a school's so-called rank." Instead, she argued, "we must encourage students to look inside their hearts and trust their instincts when it comes to choosing a college."

How beautiful. Trusting in the oracular o·rac·u·lar  
1. Of, relating to, or being an oracle.

2. Resembling or characteristic of an oracle:
a. Solemnly prophetic.

b. Enigmatic; obscure.
 powers of the heart may have been the right advice for Obi-wan Kenobi This article or section needs sources or references that appear in reliable, third-party publications. Alone, primary sources and sources affiliated with the subject of this article are not sufficient for an accurate encyclopedia article.  to offer Luke Skywalker as the young Jedi-to-be swung a light saber while blindfolded blind·fold  
tr.v. blind·fold·ed, blind·fold·ing, blind·folds
1. To cover the eyes of with or as if with a bandage.

2. To prevent from seeing and especially from comprehending.

. But it's understandable that students and parents who are about to plunk down Verb 1. plunk down - set (something or oneself) down with or as if with a noise; "He planked the money on the table"; "He planked himself into the sofa"
plonk, flump, plank, plump, plump down, plunk, plop
 tens of thousands of dollars in tuition for a life-determining college education might be looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 more solid information. Some colleges and universities simply do a better job of educating students than others, and rankings are the most broadly understandable way to convey that truth. U.S. News's numbers may be deeply flawed, but its aim is perfectly worthy--indeed, it's essential.

But even if U.S. News were able to discern the academically "best" schools, that would be only one kind of ranking. There are other, equally important ways to judge colleges. We believe that what colleges do matters not just to prospective applicants, but also to the rest of us. After all, America depends on its institutions of higher education higher education

Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art.
 for a variety of crucial public tasks: conducting the cutting-edge research that drives the economy; offering students from low-income families a path to a better life; and positively shaping the characters of the young people who will go on to lead the country. Government provides colleges and universities with billions of dollars in research grants, tax benefits, and student financial aid to achieve these goals. If parents and teachers deserve to know how well colleges are spending their tuition dollars, shouldn't average citizens also have a way of finding out how well schools are spending their tax dollars?

That's what the Washington Monthly College Rankings are meant to provide: a guide not just to what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. For the third year in a row, we've sifted through reams of publicly available data to come up with what we think is a fair assessment of which colleges are living up to their public interest mission, and which aren't. (The full rankings begin on page 4a.)

We use three criteria that we believe best measure the impact schools have on the country. The first is social mobility: does the school do a good job recruiting and graduating poorer students? The second is research: is the school supporting the scientific and humanistic study that is key to our national strength, by producing PhDs and winning research grants? And the third is service: how effectively does the school foster an ethic of giving back to the country, either through military or civilian service Civilian service is service to a government made as a civilian, particularly such service as an option for anti-militarists and pacifists who object to military service. Examples of countries with thriving civilian service programmes are Switzerland (Swiss Civilian Service), ? (For further details, see "A Note on Methodology," page 53.)

The results, summarized in the charts on pages 42 and 48, may surprise you. First and foremost, you'll notice that the elite schools don't perform nearly as well on the Washington Monthly's rankings as they customarily do on U.S. News's.

Indeed, among last year's U.S. News top ten, only Stanford cracks our top ten. There are also some unexpected stars.

Here are a few of this year's other noteworthy findings:


Harvard, Yale, and Princeton may make up the top three finishers on this year's U.S. News list, but by our measures they don't perform nearly as well. The alma maters of John F. Kennedy "John Kennedy" and "JFK" redirect here. For other uses, see John Kennedy (disambiguation) and JFK (disambiguation).
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917–November 22, 1963), was the thirty-fifth President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in
, George W. Bush, and Brooke C. Shields come in at, respectively, twenty-seventh, thirty-eighth, and (yikes yikes  
Used to express mild fear or surprise.

[Origin unknown.]
!) seventy-eighth place. Our top Ivy? Humble Cornell, which places seventh, thanks to the large numbers of its graduates who earn PhDs or join the Peace Corps.

One reason the Ivies as a group fare poorly in our rankings is their abysmal a·bys·mal  
1. Resembling an abyss in depth; unfathomable.

2. Very profound; limitless: abysmal misery.

3. Very bad: an abysmal performance.
 record of taking on and graduating poorer students. Harvard and Yale particularly struggle here, while Cornell's eightieth-place finish in that measure is good enough to lead the Ancient Eight. But there's another factor at work for some: all of the Ivies except Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania (body, education) University of Pennsylvania - The home of ENIAC and Machiavelli.

Address: Philadelphia, PA, USA.
 refuse to allow ROTC facilities on campus, which cuts into their service scores. They say excluding ROTC is a matter of principle. We have different principles.


In the weird calculations of U.S. News, no public universities rank in the nation's top twenty. This would be highly suspicious under any fair measure of academic quality, but when gauging a school's contribution to the country, as we do, it makes no sense at all. And indeed, state schools perform very well on our list, especially the University of California The University of California has a combined student body of more than 191,000 students, over 1,340,000 living alumni, and a combined systemwide and campus endowment of just over $7.3 billion (8th largest in the United States).  system, which takes four of our top ten spots. Meanwhile, some state schools that were also-rans on the U.S. News list are leaders on ours. South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures

Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15.
 State, which falls into their unranked fourth tier (encompassing the bottom 25 percent), finishes tenth here, thanks to the large numbers of low-income students it accepts and graduates as well as the school's record of supporting ROTC.

A FAIR AND BALANCED "Fair and Balanced" is a trademarked slogan used by American news broadcaster Fox News Channel. The slogan was originally used in conjunction with the phrase "Real Journalism.  COLLEGE GUIDE

Speaking of state schools, the surprise number one this year--up from fifth in 2006--is Texas A&M. It earns the top spot thanks to an impressive level of ROTC enrollment and a generous amount of federal work-study funds devoted to community service.

Conservatives might see the ascent of the Aggies--better known for football, crew cuts, and the proposed George W. Bush Presidential Library--as a triumph of red-state values. But that's a hard case to make considering the bastions of liberalism that are hot on Texas A&M's heels. UCLA UCLA University of California at Los Angeles
UCLA University Center for Learning Assistance (Illinois State University)
UCLA University of Carrollton, TX and Lower Addison, TX
 comes in at number two, followed closely by UC Berkeley. UCLA does a great job of accepting and graduating students of modest means, while Berkeley excels at service, and both schools boast a profusion of science and engineering degrees. Educators and members of Congress like to say that there's no Republican or Democratic way to teach a student. We say the same goes for creating universities that serve the country.


In 2006, women's colleges Women's colleges in higher education are undergraduate, bachelor's degree-granting institutions, often liberal arts colleges, whose student populations are comprised exclusively or almost exclusively of women.  took the top two spots on our liberal arts college list. This year, the fairer sex again posts an impressive showing, capturing two of the top ten and four of the top twenty-five places. They're led by second-place Smith College and the historically black Spelman College Spelman College: see Atlanta Univ. Center.
Spelman College

Private, historically black, women's liberal arts college in Atlanta, Ga. Its history is traced to 1881, when two Boston women began teaching 11 black women, mostly ex-slaves, in an Atlanta
 at ten (sixty-four spots above its U.S. News ranking). Hillary Clinton's alma mater, Wellesley College Wellesley College, at Wellesley, Mass.; for women; chartered 1870, opened 1875. Long a leader in women's education, it was the first woman's college to have scientific laboratories. , places twenty-first, with Mount Holyoke Mount Holyoke (elevation 940'/286m) is the western-most peak of the Mount Holyoke Range located in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts and is the namesake of nearby Mount Holyoke College. Origin of name
The mountain was named after Elizur Holyoke.
 a spot behind. For all-male colleges, only Morehouse puts in a respectable showing, at twentieth place; two others, by contrast, Wabash College Coordinates:  Wabash College is a small private liberal arts college for men, located in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Along with Hampden-Sydney College, Deep Springs College, and Morehouse College, Wabash is one of the only four remaining mainstream  and Hampden-Sydney College Overview
Hampden-Sydney enrolls over 1,100 students from thirty states and several foreign countries. The College enrolls young men of character and ability who will benefit from a rigorous and traditional liberal arts curriculum.
, place at 171st and 184th respectively. Draw your own conclusions.

tr.v. mis·placed, mis·plac·ing, mis·plac·es
a. To put into a wrong place: misplace punctuation in a sentence.


... the California Institute of Technology California Institute of Technology, at Pasadena, Calif.; originally for men, became coeducational in 1970; founded 1891 as Throop Polytechnic Institute; called Throop College of Technology, 1913–20. , which weighs in at 141st on our list, 137 spots off their U.S. News rankings. We don't doubt that Caltech students can trip-wire a trapdoor A secret way of gaining access to a program or online service. Trapdoors are built into the software by the original programmer as a way of gaining special access to particular functions.  so that a pumpkin frozen in liquid nitrogen Noun 1. liquid nitrogen - nitrogen in a liquid state
atomic number 7, N, nitrogen - a common nonmetallic element that is normally a colorless odorless tasteless inert diatomic gas; constitutes 78 percent of the atmosphere by volume; a constituent of all living
 will float suspended in midair before disintegrating in front of our very eyes. But the school's record of accepting and graduating low-income students and its ROTC rank are both so low that even its high research score can't save it.

Dishonorable dis·hon·or·a·ble  
1. Characterized by or causing dishonor or discredit.

2. Lacking integrity; unprincipled.

 mention goes to Rice University. The best little university in Texas has steadily climbed up the U.S. News rankings, all the way to seventeenth, by spending its resources on pursuing students with high SAT scores. But it comes in at 103rd on our rankings, thanks to its extremely low social mobility and service scores. Rice, it appears, is in it for Rice.

If you're looking, then, for information on which schools are the most selective, or which have the nicest swimming pools, the Washington Monthly College Rankings aren't for you. But we hope they will be of some use--to students of modest means looking for colleges that will help them succeed; to alumni wanting to get a sense of their alma maters' commitment to the public interest; or to elected officials trying to think of ways to get more bang for the public bucks they're charged with spending on higher education.

We also hope our rankings prove useful to the men and women who teach in and run America's colleges and universities. Many of these folks got into academia for idealistic reasons, and deeply resent the degree to which their institutions have sold their souls in order to move up the U.S. News rankings--as Rice has done by ignoring poorer students in favor of those with high SAT scores.

We share their frustration. But rather than dismiss the whole idea of rankings, we invite academics to embrace our rankings. Seriously. If the Washington Monthly College Rankings were to become as influential as those of U.S. News (hey, it could happen), the whole screwy screw·y  
adj. screw·i·er, screw·i·est Slang
1. Eccentric; crazy.

2. Ludicrously odd, unlikely, or inappropriate.

 incentive structure of higher education would change. Schools would no longer have to obsess ob·sess  
v. ob·sessed, ob·sess·ing, ob·sess·es
To preoccupy the mind of excessively.

 over SAT scores or jack up the number of applications they ding 1. ding - Synonym for feep. Usage: rare among hackers, but commoner in the Real World.
2. ding - "dinged": What happens when someone in authority gives you a minor bitching about something, especially something trivial. "I was dinged for having a messy desk."
 in order to be recognized as great. Instead, to boost their scores on our list, they would have to recruit and graduate more low-income kids, train more scientists and engineers, and encourage more of their students to serve their country. The end result would be healthier, happier, prouder college campuses, and a more democratic, equitable, and prosperous America. Those are goals we can all rank highly.

By the Editors
TOP 30

                                              RANK IN U.S.
                                               NEWS (2007)

1.  TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY                                60
2.  University of California, Los Angeles               26
3.  University of California, Berkeley                  21
4.  University of California, San Diego                 38
5.  Penn. State University, University Park             47
6.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor                   24
7.  Cornell University                                  12
8.  University of California, Davis                     47
9.  Stanford University                                  4
10. South Carolina State University                      *
11. Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign                 41
12. Ohio State University, Columbus                     57
13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology                4
14. University of Washington                            42
15. University of California, Riverside                 88
16. University of Virginia                              24
17. University of Pennsylvania                           7
18. University of Wisconsin, Madison                    34
19. University of Texas, Austin                         47
20. Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill                27
21. Iowa State University                               81
22. University of Notre Dame                            20
23. College of William and Mary                         31
24. University of Southern California                   27
25. University of Arizona                               98
26. University of Florida                               47
27. Harvard University                                   2
28. Georgetown University                               23
29. Duke University                                      8
30. Johns Hopkins University                            16

TOP 30
                                        RANK IN U.S.
                                         NEWS (2007)

1.  PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE                           *
2.  Smith College                                 19
3.  Wheaton College                               61
4.  Wesleyan University                           10
5.  Virginia Military Institute                   86
6.  Claremont McKenna College                     12
7.  Bucknell University                           29
8.  Williams College                               1
9.  Amherst College                                2
10. Spelman College                               74
11. Vassar College                                12
12. St. Olaf College                              55
13. Oberlin College                               22
14. Furman University                             41
15. Westminster College                            *
16. Siena College                                  *
17 Seton Hill University                           *
18. St. John's University                         69
19. Colgate University                            16
20. Morehouse College                              *
21. Wellesley College                              4
22. Mount Holyoke College                         24
23. Whitman College                               36
24. Washington and Lee University                 17
25. Bates College                                 23
26. Haverford College                              9
27. College of the Holy Cross                     32
28. Hobart and William Smith Colleges             67
29. Swarthmore College                             3
30. Bryn Mawr College                             20
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Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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