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The College Ranking in Which a Black School Beat Out Yale and Princeton

How does a historically black college beat out almost the entire Ivy League? By working toward the greater good.


We wrote last month about the ways America's most elite schools rank students are warped in favor of the wealthy. Nonprofit magazine Washington Monthly says the way in which colleges themselves are ranked suffers from a similar affliction.

For five years now, Washington Monthly has released its own college rankings to compete with those of US News & World Report, purveyor of the nation's most famous college ranking list. While US News' ranking focuses primarily on things like "student selectivity" and "financial resources," Washington Monthly looks at metrics related to social impact. "We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories," says the magazine, "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)."

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Which Rankings Can Actually Help You Pick a College?

The way we rank colleges is troubling: It's devoid of measures that are meaningful to students choosing a school. Anya Kamenetz ranks the rankers.

Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans' French Quarter was founded in 1840. It is the oldest restaurant in the United States that has been continuously run by the same family.

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Everyone seems to be doing their own college rankings these days. Forbes and Washington Monthly recently joined the likes of U.S. News and World Report in offering their assessments of the best universities in the U.S. Two ratings systems, developed by Times Higher Education and Shanghai Jiaotong University, assemble lists of the top institutions in the world.

If you've ever wanted a handy way to determine which of these systems would work best for a prospective college student—the actual answer is probably "none of them"—The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent interactive graphic that lets you know that, among other things, Forbes factors in whether or not a school has "professionally successful alumni," a nebulous sort of measure that it gets from determining the number of people from a particular university that appear in Who's Who in America 2008.

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