Ranking colleges on affordability

The Washington Monthly‘s college rankings create a ‘reputation and reward’ system for colleges that are “recruiting and graduating kids of modest means” says editor Paul Glastris.

The best bang-for-the-buck colleges

The University of California at San Diego tops Washington Monthly‘s list of the top colleges for social mobility (enrolling and graduating low-income students at an affordable price), research and service. Next in line are Texas A&M, Stanford, University of North Carolina and Berkeley.

Only one of U.S. News‘ top ten schools, Stanford, makes the Washington Monthy’s top ten. Yale fails even to crack the top 40. New York University, which has floated to national prominence on a sea of student debt, is 77th. NYU does particularly poorly on the new “bang for the buck” measure.
Thirteen of the top 20 Washington Monthly universities are public, while all the top-ranked U.S. News colleges are “private institutions that spend more, charge more, and cater almost exclusively to the rich and upper-upper middle class.”
Also in the Washington Monthly, Stephen Burd calls for Getting Rid of the College Loan Repo Man who fails to distinguish between deadbeats and people who just can’t pay.

Best colleges — and dropout factories

In addition to listing top national universities, liberal arts colleges and the like, Washington Monthly’s College Guide identifies College Dropout Factories, the public and nonprofit colleges with rock-bottom graduation rates. Southern University of New Orleans is the worst, with 5 percent graduation rate.

Chicago State graduates 13 percent of its students, while North Carolina Central University, with similar demographics, graduates 50 percent.

Students entering NCCU are told from the start that they are expected to have a goal of graduating in four years. The University College keeps students together in groups and assigns them advisers who must approve all major academic decisions and meet with students frequently. NCCU students even sign a contract upon arriving, a document that lays out the goals of what they are going to accomplish. If they start to struggle, they sign an additional contract that commits them to even closer monitoring. Above all, what drives places like NCCU is a culture of experimentation and data collection. The administrators track students, and they track results. If something works, they keep doing it. If it doesn’t, they try something else.

Produced in collaboration with Education Sector, the guide also lists America’s best community colleges, which include top-rated St. Paul College, a hands-on, brains-on school. Read more at Community College Spotlight.