A Better Way to Rank America's Colleges

by Lars Peterson on 27 August 2013 2 comments

Update: A Better Way to Rank America's Colleges

Following up on its ranking of "America's Best Bang for the Buck Colleges" (see below), Washington Monthly has released its much broader "National University Rankings." In addition to the cost and affordability factors of the previous list, this list adds such criteria as "Research" and "Service," with the goal of identifying institutions that best serve the public interest.

We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

University of California, San Diego tops the list, for the fourth year running.

Visit Washington Monthly for the complete, sortable list and more details on ranking criteria.

How much good does your school do?

Previously: A New Way to Rank Higher Ed: America's Best Value Colleges

While many students will be launching their college careers in the coming days (and struggling to pay for those educations), their younger siblings are just now making decisions about the colleges and universities they'll attend next fall. (See also: 6 Ways to Save on College Tuition)

There are a number of rankings and lists to help sort through all the choices, based on a variety of criteria (US News' ranking comes to mind). Now political journal Washington Monthly steps in with a ranking that's relevant to most of us: America’s Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Colleges.

To make the list, schools had to meet four criteria:

  1. To ensure that the university does not serve only the wealthy, 20% of the college's students must be recipients of Pell Grants, which go to students from families earning less than $50k per year.
     
  2. Colleges must have a graduation rate of at least 50%, which is an indicator of institutional effectiveness.
     
  3. Graduation rates must exceed the statistically predicted graduatuion rate based on the number of admitted lower-income students. 
     
  4. Student loan default rates must be below 10%, a measure of the ability of students to find employment post-college. 

Once colleges cleared those hurdles, Washington Monthly "applied the 'buck' part of the measure" by sorting the schools based on the average cost of tuition a family making less than $75k would pay, net of need-based support. In other words, what it costs out of pocket to attend.

The Top Ten Best Bang for the Buck Colleges

The complete list, which can be sorted several ways, is available at the Washington Monthly.

(How about a shout out for your correspondent's alma mater, climbing all the way to Number 6!)

Is Bang for the Buck a good measure of a school's value? Is it something you might use in deciding on a college for you or your children?

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Guest's picture

Cool way to screen the colleges. It would be great if someone could make a college screener that would let you apply all these filters real-time to find the best college for you by state and the amount of loans you're willing to take on...

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A note about #48 on the list College of the Ozarks. Although the net tuition is 10,480, every full time student has to work on campus to defer that amount.

The actual net amount of tuition paid by a student is zero.

The only cost is room, board and incidentals.