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...Or, You Could Choose Your College This Way

Last week, I pointed out that my alma mater Princeton had again topped the USN&WR college rankings.  But those college rankings were for those who wanted to invest their tuition money and four years of their life at the school that would, you know, educate them the best. 

If, however, you would rather choose a college based on how well it serves everyone else's interests rather than your own, you can use this ranking from Washington Monthly, presumably chosen with help from special correspondent Ellsworth Toohey.  Universities are chosen for social contribution and research and number of Peace Corps volunteers and the like.  No indicators of educational quality or student satisfaction are used.  Really, they don't seem to be joking:

U.S. News & World Report publishes its university rankings every year, and every year people complain about them. So starting in 2005 we decided to do more than just complain, and instead came out with our own rankings — based not on reputation or endowment size, but rather on how much of a contribution each university actually makes to the country.

Top universities on the list presumably teach important skills like:

  • How to find a job that helps lots of people but doesn't pay very much and provides no job satisfaction
  • How to find a boyfriend who beats you a lot and never can hold a job, but needs your financial support really badly
  • How to invest in companies with no prospects but who need the money very much (taught presumably by Eugene Lawson)

In this list, a Peace Corps volunteer is ranked to have made a larger contribution to America than say:  Jimmy Stewart, Meg Whitman, Jeff Bezos,  James Madison,  etc.  (Oh, and Pete Conrad, probably my personal favorite Princeton Grad, and first man on the moon after Neil Armstrong's dress rehearsal on a Hollywood soundstage with Buzz Aldrin and OJ Simpson.)

This is maybe a great list if you have a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket and want to find a university to endow, but of what utility is this for prospective students?

Postscript: You do, though, have to give Washington Monthly props for putting Texas A&M at the top of their list, a university whose student body is probably least likely of almost any major state school to purchase very many copies of their magazine  [a comment on their political orientation, not their ability to read].

Update: OK, this is how people REALLY pick schools, from this list.

Posted on August 20, 2007 at 11:32 PM | Permalink


One wonders how they missed the service academies, 100% of whose graduates go on to spend at least five years in active military service, making low pay, doing hazardous work, and receiving nothing but disrespect from all the nice people with the printing presses and video cameras.

Wait... actually I don't wonder at all.

Posted by: Dan | Aug 21, 2007 12:44:36 AM

And I thought I was your favorite Princeton grad.

Posted by: Coyote Little Sis | Aug 21, 2007 2:49:48 AM

Oddly enough, I went to A&M (for undergrad and grad school) and penned a so-so piece about college rankings that uses the "investigative" eyes of ol' Washington Monthly. Turns out they've been griping for awhile: http://www.mises.org/story/2013

Too bad their list sucks even more.

This whole thing reminds me of Richard Vedder's quote: "[w]hen Consumer Reports rates cars, they drive them; US News & World Reports does the equivalent of measuring the amount of steel used in cars, rather than their performance."

And no, I've never read the mag...

Posted by: Tim Swanson | Aug 21, 2007 2:54:48 AM

My alma mater - Rose-Hulman, #1 of schools without a PhD 9 years running - is entirely an engineering school. We have a few Econ and Math majors that slip in but everyone else is an engineer. Each time a presidential election comes around, they have a class that gets together and stages a mock debate that everyone else analyses.

In 2004, their only two candidates were for the Republicans and the Libertarians. They couldn't find one for the Democrats.

I donated extra that year. ;)

Posted by: Keith Casey | Aug 21, 2007 4:56:17 AM

Gig 'em, Aggies! WHOOP!

Posted by: Craig | Aug 21, 2007 8:00:23 AM

Go Navy. Beat Army.

Posted by: TCO | Aug 21, 2007 6:53:21 PM

My Alma Mater is Oregon State University...known only for historically crappy football with a minor upswing when I was there.

Posted by: la petite chou chou | Aug 21, 2007 7:33:17 PM

Hmm. Didn't realize you were a fellow Tiger. Of course, now I went and checked your bio, and you say it right there. But who reads those?

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