New College List Stresses Service

By Vaishali Honawar — August 30, 2005 1 min read

According to a new college ranking, what a college does for its students is less important than what it does for the country.

In its September issue, Washington Monthly magazine, a critic of U.S. News & World Report’s closely watched system of ranking colleges, presents its own list of the country’s best—based on factors such as commitment to national service and access for poorer students.

“It is important for taxpayers to know that their money is being put to good use,” the editors write, adding that colleges shape, “in profound and subtle ways, students’ ideas about American society and their place in it.”

The result is a list top-heavy with public institutions and bearing little resemblance to the perennially Ivy League-dominated Top 10 in U.S. News’ list, the latest of which appeared in the Aug. 29 issue.

According to Washington Monthly, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ranked No. 7 by U.S. News, tops the list, followed by the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Harvard and Yale universities, ranked by U.S. News at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, come in at 15th and 16th on Washington Monthly’s list. Princeton University, which shared the top spot on the U.S. News list, is not among the top 30 in Washington Monthly.

Cass Cliatt, a spokeswoman for Princeton, disputed the Monthly’s claim that the university had a poor record of national service and social mobility, saying the school’s alumni and students are deeply involved in community service and that the school offers financial aid to nearly half its students.

“The schools that topped our list didn’t necessarily do so for the reasons you might expect,” Washington Monthly said. For instance, MIT earned the top spot not because of its groundbreaking research, but on the basis of its commitment to national service. UCLA excelled in research and had an “astoundingly high graduation rate given its large numbers of lower-income students,” the magazine said.

Harvard, on the other hand, ranked lower because it has one of the lowest percentages of Pell Grant recipients in its student body of any school in the country.