The WM methodology 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?”
When the Washington Monthly Rankings are calculated, commitment to the good of society shoves SAT scores to the back seat. According to WM, “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).”
Pros: Three University of California campuses beat out Golden State brethren Stanford to lead the Best National Universities chart. Less-known private colleges Historically Black Morehouse, single-sex Bryn Mawr, and low-income-oriented Berea vie with several Usual Suspects (Amherst, Swarthmore, Williams) for the top liberal arts spots. As noted above, such shake-ups seem to spur students and parents to reinitialize their variables and look at college options through a new lens.
Cons: However noble in intention, the WM monthly methodology is too heavily skewed toward social justice and doesn’t take into account important factors such as class size, faculty availability, selectivity, and geographic diversity, or preparation for careers beyond academic and service.