College Rankings Nobody Takes Seriously

Washington Monthly ranks colleges "based on what they are doing for the country -- on whether they're improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service" rather than "wealth, exclusivity, and prestige." Too bad they don't hire that way.

Once again, Washington Monthly has released its annual answer to the US News college rankings.  Instead of “crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige,” they rate schools based on what they are doing for the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.”

Steve Benen titles his posting touting his employer’s list as “COLLEGE RANKINGS THAT AREN’T RIDICULOUS.”

Their top national universities:

1. California, San Diego

2. California, Berkeley

3. California, Los Angeles

4. Stanford

5. Texas – Austin

6. California, Davis

7. Michigan

8. Syracuse

9. Harvard

10. William and Mary

Now, these are all fine schools — most of which also rank quite highly in the USN&WR system.   Still, as I observe in Steve’s comments, my retort is the same I offer every year: When Washington Monthly‘s top brass start sending their kids to South Carolina State (which WM editor’s claim “leave several members of the Ivy League in the dust”) and hiring their writers from UCSD  to the exclusion of the exclusion of Princeton and Yale (which don’t crack WM’s top 20), I’ll take the rankings more seriously.

In the past, I’ve done that as snark, assuming that they hired the same way as other elite journals of opinion.   But let’s look at the masthead (skipping over the business and operations staff):

Publisher: Diane Straus Tucker (Yale)

Editor-in-Chief: Paul Glastris (Northwestern)

Founding Editor: Charles Peters (Columbia and Virginia Law)

Managing Editor: Amy M. Stackhouse (Unknown)

Editor: Mariah Blake (Columbia x2)

Books Editor: Kukula Kapoor Glastris (unknown, married to editor-in-chief)

Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow:Phillip Longman (Oberlin, Columbia)

Contributing Writer: Steve Benen (unknown undergrad, GWU)

Consulting Editor: T. A. Frank (Columbia)

College Guide Blogger: Daniel Luzer

I don’t have time to click through each of the two dozen Contributing Editors and continue this but a quick perusal reveals lots of people who I know for a fact went to schools ranked higher by US News than Washington Monthly.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.