It's encouraging to see so many California universities judged by Washington Monthly to be good both for students and society at large. UC San Diego is in the top spot, followed by UCLA, Berkeley, Stanford, and UC Riverside. The magazine explains how it assembled its list:
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). Higher education, after all, isn't just important for undergraduates. We all benefit when colleges produce groundbreaking research that drives economic growth, when they offer students from low-income families the path to a better life, and when they shape the character of future leaders. And we all pay for it, through hundreds of billions of dollars in public subsidies. Everyone has a stake in how that money is spent. That's why one-third of each college's score on our rankings is based on social mobility: How committed are they to enrolling low-income students and helping them earn degrees? Our second category looks at research production and success at sending undergraduates on to PhDs. Finally, we give great weight to service. It's not enough to help students look out for themselves. The best colleges encourage students to give something back.
Nice. But there's rumbling in the distance. It's the sound of drastic budget cuts at all the UC schools, cuts that are bound to impact the quality of education.
Six of the eight campuses in the UC system land among our best-ranked universities, a testament to California's historic commitment to institutions that combine world-class research and access for low-income students. While the UC system's continued dominance shows that it takes a while to grind a great university system down, we fear that the Golden State's ongoing disinvestment in higher education (the UC budget has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars since 2007) will eventually diminish the best public universities in the world.
Here's a list of the top 25. USC ranked 50.
1 University of California--San Diego 100
2 University of California--Los Angeles 99
3 University of California--Berkeley 98
4 Stanford University 93
5 University of California--Riverside 85
6 Harvard University 83
7 Case Western Reserve University 83
8 University of California--Davis 81
9 Jackson State University (MS) 78
10 University of Michigan--Ann Arbor 77
11 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 76
12 University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill 76
13 University of California--Santa Barbara 76
14 Syracuse University 74
15 Texas A&M University--College Station 74
16 University of Notre Dame 74
17 Cornell University 74
18 South Carolina State University 68
19 University of Texas--Austin 68
20 Johns Hopkins University 67
21 University of Pennsylvania 66
22 Rice University (TX) 66
23 University of Washington 66
24 College of William and Mary (VA)* 65
25 University of Chicago 65
James Fallows likes the Washington Monthly rankings as an alternative to the overly-influential US News list:
The only reasonable way to blunt the effect of one set of rankings is by adding many more. A wide range of rankings would more fully reflect the very wide range of criteria by which a certain school might be the "best" for a certain student. Is Julliard "better" than West Point, and is either "better" than Reed -- or Berkeley or Embry-Riddle or the University of Chicago or Smith or CCNY? They all are different, and the more that outside assessments could reflect that range, the better.