An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

The Washington Monthly: A New College Ranking System

college rankings system

The college rankng system of the U.S. News and World Report has been the industry standard for many years. Conventional wisdom says that if you want to know what the best colleges in the U.S. are, you should look no further than the top of their list.

However, with many students disgruntled at the methodology behind the U.S. News and World Report ranking system, a new ranking system has emerged to challenge this paradigm.

Enter The Washington Monthly College Guide and Rankings. Their mission as stated in their methodology:

Unlike U.S. News and World Report and similar guides, this one asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. Are they educating low-income students, or just catering to the affluent? Are they improving the quality of their teaching, or ducking accountability for it? Are they trying to become more productive—and if so, why is average tuition rising faster than health care costs? Every year we lavish billions of tax dollars and other public benefits on institutions of higher learning. This guide asks: Are we getting the most for our money?

So rather than selfishly asking what a college can do for you, this guide looks at what a college does to positive impact the nation it supports.

Antithesis of US News and World Report

The US News and World Report college ranking system has become the industry standard. In recent years however, their methodology has come under fire as being to much of a “good ‘ol boy” system. For example, within the methodology of determining their ranking system, they give a full 25% to peer rankings. So for example, if you me and 3 other of our buddies were all college presidents, we could all get together and be sure to vote each other’s colleges very high. This rating would then be used as 25% of the overall score for the college. Does that seem fair to you?

Methodology aside, the US News and World Report does not address the ability of a college to get their students employed. It does not measure the effectiveness of teaching. Like Bill Gates previously said: “The control metric shouldn’t be that kids aren’t so qualified. It should be whether colleges are doing their job to teach them. I bet there are community colleges and other colleges that do a good job in that area, but US News & World Report rankings pushes you away from that.”

What is Your Criteria?

If you are currently evaluating college admissions letters what are your top criteria for choosing which college to go to?

Be sure to think about how good of a job your college does at giving back to the community.

How well will they prepare you for the work force (that is after all, the main purpose of getting a college education right?)

Do they excel at teaching?

What is the average student loan debt of graduates?

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