Steve Benen highlights some of the findings:
* Only one of the U.S. News top ten universities — Stanford — makes the Washington Monthly‘s top ten, while high profile institutions such as Princeton, Duke and Penn fail to even crack Washington Monthly‘s Top 25.
* Some of top universities on the Washington Monthly list, like South Carolina State (#6) and Jackson State (#22), are non-elite “red state” schools buried in the lowest tiers of the U.S. News list.
* While all the top twenty U.S. News universities are private, thirteen of the top twenty Washington Monthly universities are public.
* The University of California system grabs the top three slots-including number-one-ranked Berkley — even as the state of California is slashing higher education funding.
* Women’s liberal arts colleges score well in the Washington Monthly rankings, with Mount Holyoke, Smith, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley all in the Top 10. Historically black institutions, such as Spelman and Morehouse, also make strong showings.
Steve says that “We want people to use this information to change the way they think about colleges and universities, the first step toward changing the institutions themselves.” As such, they “rank schools based on what they are doing for the country — by improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.”
As a graduate of non-elite “red state” schools, Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama, I’m all in favor of a ranking system that puts an emphasis on bang for the buck rather than institutional prestige. But, as I’ve noted before, I’m not sure substituting one set of biases for another is that big a step forward.
While the U.S. News guide managed to transform the way we thought of college education a generation ago, I continue to be skeptical that Washington Monthly‘s answer will do the same. As many of my readers noted two years ago, when the rankings had Texas A&M as the best college in the country (it’s since dropped to 5th) how many of the magazine’s board and senior contributors are going to send their kids to College Station for school if Cambridge and New Haven are options? For that matter, are their new hires going to be coming from South Carolina State instead of Harvard?