A different kind of college rankings: The top 10 that give back

We give colleges billions in public subsidies--but what are they doing for us?

That's what editors at Washington Monthly aimed to find out with their unusual college rankings, released today. The Monthly's roster of schools rates them not on the basis of how exclusive they are, but on how much they help their communities and the nation in general.

The Monthly's list aims to be a corrective to the annual ranking of colleges published by U.S. News World & Report--the industry-standard roster that typically leads with well-endowed Ivy League schools that turn away the vast majority of applicants.

Instead, the Monthly ranks schools using three main categories: how many low-income students the college enrolls, how much community and national service a given college's students engage in, and the volume of groundbreaking research the university produces (in part measured by how many undergraduates go on to get PhDs). To paraphrase the long-ago dictum of President John F. Kennedy, the Monthly is seeking, in essence, to ask not so much what colleges can to for themselves as what they can be doing for their country.

By that measure, only one Ivy cracked the top 10--Harvard. The University of California system dominated, with six of California state schools among the top 30 national universities. Texas A&M, which is ranked 63rd by U.S. News, shot into the top 20 in part because of how many of its students participate in ROTC. Meanwhile, Washington University in St. Louis plunged in these rankings to 112 from U.S. News' 13, because only 6 percent of its student body qualifies for federal Pell grants, an indication that Washington's students come almost entirely from upper- and middle-class backgrounds.

The U.S. News & World Report "relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings," Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris wrote. The U.S. News' rankings take into account freshmen retention rate, admissions' selectivity, high school counselors' opinions of the school, faculty salary, per-pupil spending and the rate of alumni giving, among other things.

You can check out the top 10 national and liberal arts colleges in the list below, and click here for the full rankings.

Top 10 National Universities

1. University of California, San Diego

2. University of California, Los Angeles

3. University of California, Berkeley

4. Stanford University

5. University of California, Riverside

6. Harvard University

7. Case Western Reserve University

8. University of California, Davis

9. Jackson State University (MS)

10. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Berea College (KY)

2. Morehouse College (GA)

3. Bryn Mawr College (PA)

4. Spelman College (GA)

5. Swarthmore College (PA)

6. Macalester College (MN)

7. Amherst College (MA)

8. Pomona College (CA)

9. Harvey Mudd College (CA)

10. Carleton College (MN)

Correction: This article originally incorrectly identified Stanford as an Ivy League school.