The best colleges of 2017, according to Washington Monthly

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

As the number of rankings accumulate, more and more publications break down college value to include return on investment, diversity, and non-traditional student success, writes Candice Ferrette for Newsday. Many publications are differentiating their rankings by forgoing traditional metrics for newer criteria that helps surface lesser-known regional colleges, she notes.

Similarly, Washington Monthly’s editors say they seek to provide an "alternative to U.S. News & World Report" by focusing less on "money and prestige" and more on how institutions contribute to the public good.

The publication created four lists of top colleges, 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.

How scores were calculated

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

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.

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

*Note to readers: EAB congratulates member institutions that were named on the lists. Member institutions listed here are marked with an asterisk.

National Universities

1. Stanford University
2. Harvard University*
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology*
4. Texas A&M University, College Station*
5. Georgetown University*

See last year’s rankings here

National universities – liberal arts

1. Berea College*
2. Harvey Mudd College
3. Amherst College
4. Bryn Mawr College
5. Washington and Lee University*

National universities – bachelor's

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

National universities – master's

1. State University of New York at Geneseo*
2. California State University, Stanislaus*
3. Evergreen State College
4. Truman State University
5. Providence College*

(Ferrette, Newsday, 8/28; Washington Monthly rankings, accessed 8/28; Washington Monthly methodology, accessed 8/28).


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