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Washington Monthly's College Rankings: California Love!

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While the Great UCLA Versus USC Debate may never reach a resolution (those damn Trojans are too hard-headed and engorged with pride to recognize true superiority when they see it), all Californians can hold their heads up with pride thanks to our excellent universities. I don't know if you noticed the recent Washington Monthly ratings of the nation's top schools, but they're giving the U.S. News and World Report a run for their money.

The Washington Monthly ranks no less than five California schools in their top ten list: UCLA comes in at #2, while UC Berkeley and UC San Diego grab #3 and 4; UC Davis and Stanford round out the field at #8 and 9, respectively. And take heart, Riversiders: UCR is ranked #15. It's a proud, proud moment for the University of California family. Weep! And don't worry Trojans, you are representing SoCal at a respectable #24, which is a fair sight better than the U.S. News report's rank of #27. (Okay, okay, Massachusetts also represents itself nicely on both reports, as Bostonist pointed out today.)

Their methodologies are fairly different and result in lists that really seem to be comparing apples with oranges; the Monthly skews towards public universities rather than the Ivy League institutions and private schools that the U.S. News so slavishly praises each year. The U.S. News report has undergone a fair amount of criticism recently from organizations like The Annapolis Group, a group of leading liberal arts colleges who are boycotting the U.S. News's rankings and publishing their own evaluation next year.

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The Washington Monthly methodology (which you can read about here) is explained in a much more straightforward manner: essentially, a college's success is based on the community service, research, and social mobility of their students. The US News (read more about their methodology here), on the other hand, measures a college's rank by class size and student selectivity, faculty resources, retention and graduation rates, and amount of spending per students.

Essentially, the Ivy Leagues top the US News report because they are selective in their admissions, have a lot of money to spend on faculty and research, and graduate a high percentage of their students. Conversely, large public schools like UCLA and Texas A&M top the Monthly's list because a high percentage of their financial aid students end up graduating (the "social mobility" factor), they spend money on research and grant a high number of PhD's ("research"), and a measurable percentage of their students serve in the Peace Corps and ROTC ("service").