Alternative Rankings

The Washington Monthly publishes a “social” ranking of universities on the basis of affordability, access by lower-income students, “service” to the society, as well as research.  UC comes in very well in that ranking with UC-San Diego on top and Riverside is second.  Berkeley is fifth and UCLA is tenth.  The introductory article to the ranking concludes with the following statement: 

…State lawmakers, meanwhile, must be told that the free ride of college budget cutting is over. The U.S. Department of Education should establish new standards of state support for higher learning, and set deadlines for states that don’t meet them. The prospect of losing federal student aid and research money would galvanize state business leaders and college officials to fight budget cuts that are currently being passed along to families who can ill afford them. It would be easy to let the great American higher education compact gradually crumble under the weight of expediency and institutional ambition. We know this because the process is already under way. But that kind of shortsighted thinking isn’t what built America’s best colleges, and it won’t give us all the system of higher learning we badly need. 

Full article at: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september_october_2013/features/introduction_a_different_kind046446.php?page=all

Now with all that said, I am generally skeptical of such rankings and, although a methodological statement is included, I am not sure exactly what gets rewarded how.  The purpose of such rankings is mainly to attract readers to the magazines that publish them (You didn’t know that?) more than to achieve any other goals.  Absent an actual database, it is hard to know what is going on.   And the weighting schemes tend to be subjective (arbitrary?). But the methodological statement is at: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september_october_2013/features/a_note_on_methodology_4year_co_2046455.php.

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