Top colleges in several categories named by Washington Monthly

Magazine aims to measure institutions by contributions to the nation

Amid a flurry of rankings released each fall, Washington Monthly aims to stand out from the pack with a methodology focused on how much institutions contribute to the public good. 

The publication seeks to provide an "alternative to U.S. News & World Report" by focusing less on what it calls "easily manipulated measures of money and prestige" and more on how institutions contribute to the public good.

Washington Monthly created four lists of top colleges and universities, with three of the lists focusing on specific types of institutions: liberal arts, bachelor's, and master's. To create these rankings, researchers gave each institution a score according to the degree to which it promotes:

  • Social mobility;
  • Research; and
  • Public service.

Researchers gave equal weight to each category and ranked institutions according to their combined scores.

To calculate each institution's score in the social mobility category, researchers considered eight factors, such as graduation rate, percent of first-generation students, and net price. Researchers also considered new data from the College Scorecard, including alumni salaries, and made an effort to control for colleges' mission and locations.

Each institution's research score takes into account its level of research spending, number of science and engineering graduates, and number of graduates who eventually earn PhDs, among other factors.

The public service score takes into consideration the size of each college's ROTC programs, the number of alumni serving in the Peace Corps, and data that colleges submit when applying for the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

The publication also included separate lists of "best bang for the buck" colleges for each U.S. region as well as two lists of the best colleges for adults: one for two-year institutions and one for four-year institutions.

See a selection of the lists below, or check out Washington Monthly's full set of rankings here.

National Universities

  1. Stanford University
  2. Harvard University
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. University of California, San Diego
  5. University of Pennsylvania

National universities – liberal arts

  1. Berea College
  2. Harvey Mudd College
  3. Amherst College
  4. Williams College
  5. Haverford College

National universities – bachelor's

  1. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
  2. College of the Ozarks
  3. Goshen College
  4. Cedar Crest College
  5. Calvin College

National universities – master's

  1. Truman State University
  2. Trinity University
  3. The State University of New York at Geneseo
  4. Valparaiso University
  5. California State University, Stanislaus

(Glastris, Washington Monthly, 8/29; Washington Monthly rankings, accessed 8/29; Washington Monthly methodology, accessed 8/29). 


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