The Washington Monthly magazine has just released its crucially important (and fascinating) college rankings. They argue that while U.S. News and other rankings emphasize factors connected to status or financial success, the Monthly ratings focus on what good the schools do for the nation.
Specifically, they look at whether a school helps with social mobility — i.e. taking a large number of low income students and helping them graduate and achieve dream — the quantity of research performed, and the extent to which students engage in public service such as ROTC, the Peace Corps or community service. Using those criteria, the .rankings produce a very different list than U.S. News.

While all of the top 20 schools in the US News rankings are private schools, 13 of the top 20 Washington Monthly schools are public.
This ranking scheme has a secondary effect of shining greater light on some of the nation’s best religious schools. The top religiously-influenced school is Berea College in Kentucky, the first interracial and coeducational school in the south, ranked number 12. It charges no tuition, draws many from Appalachia, and follows the motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth.” It draws in many low income students and produces a high percentage of well-educated graduates. It didn’t even get a ranking in the US News list, relegated to the “also ran” class of “third tier” schools
Wheaton College in Illinois, a leading evangelical school, ranked #15 compared #56 in the US News ranking and Presbyterian College was 26 compared to #115 on the US News list.
Religious schools didn’t fare quite as well in the rankings of universities. Though several did well on social mobility and service scores, their lack of research funding hurt their overall scores.
Full disclosure: I was an editor at the Monthly in the 1980s so I’m biased but I think the Monthly rankings are a great public service.
Check out the Monthly rankings here.
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