Equally Useless College Rankings Stir Debate


Washington Monthly has published its third annual college rankings. Unlike the U.S. News & World Report rankings–which the editors at WM mock and deride as useless and misguided–the listings from this left-liberal pub promise to tell you "not just to what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country." The brief version of their methodology:

We use three criteria that we believe best measure the impact schools have on the country. The first is social mobility: does the school do a good job recruiting and graduating poorer students? The second is research: is the school supporting the scientific and humanistic study that is key to our national strength, by producing PhDs and winning research grants? And the third is service: how effectively does the school foster an ethic of giving back to the country, either through military or civilian service?

The rankings and more are here. The top pick will be a surprise to most, especially those attending that particular institution.

I'm all for more and more college rankings, along more and more dimensions. I'm also all for social mobility, though the exact connection between that and what college you go to is far from clear. I'm dubious about the way WM gauges research and service–does the number of students who go on to the Peace Corps really say anything about anything (other than how many students from a school go on to the Peace Corps)? But have at it.

Update: Two rankings really worth debating: 1) The Princeton Review's list of "Top Party Schools." 2) AP Preseason College Football Poll.