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Washington Monthly Applies New Values to College-Ranking Criteria

It's a list of top colleges with a different twist.

Washington Monthly comes up with its college rankings based on three out-of-the-box factors: social mobility (enrolling low-income students and helping them earn degrees), research production (recognizing undergrads who go on to get Ph.D.s), and a commitment to service (valuing students who give back with their time through volunteering).

With a nod to the economy and strapped family budgets, this year's list takes into consideration value in its social-mobility measure for the first time. The 2012 College Guide released Monday rewards institutions that had high graduation rates with affordable prices.

This year's annual guide was edited by Kevin Carey, director of the New American Foundation's education policy program, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-policy institute with offices in New York and Washington.

Here are the Washington Monthly's top 15 national universities, with the ranking by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges of the same institution in parentheses on the right:
For a complete list, click here.)

1. University of California, San Diego (U.S. News:37)
2. Texas A&M University (58)
3. Stanford University (5)
4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (29)
5. University of California, Berkeley (21)
6. University of California, Los Angeles (25)
7. Case Western Reserve University,
Cleveland (38)
8. University of Washington, in Seattle (42)
9. University of California, Riverside (97)
10. Georgia Institute of Technology (36)
11. Harvard University (1)
12. University of Texas at El Paso (U.S. News rank not published)
13. University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor (28)
14. University of California, Santa Barbara (42)
15. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5)

Washington Monthly also ranked the top liberal arts colleges: (Full list here.)
1. Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania (U.S. News: 25)
2. Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (3)
3. Berea College, Berea, Ky. (71)
4. Carleton College, Northfield, Minn. (6)
5. Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, Calif. (18)
6. New College of Florida, Sarasota (94)
7. Williams College, Williamstown, Mass. (1)
8. Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn. (25)
9. Wellesley College, Massachusetts (6)
10. Amherst College, Massachusetts (2)
11. Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.(71)
12. Oberlin College, Ohio (24)
13. Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn. (12)
14. Reed College, Portland, Ore. (57)
15. Smith College, Northampton, Mass. (19)

When a school is evaluated by its contributions to society and those of its students,the list looks different from rankings that are compiled with traditional measures. For instance, while Yale University was third in the U.S. News rankings, it's considered 41st by Washington Monthly. New York University dropped 33 places, to 77th, in the annual guide because the new cost-adjustment measure penalizes it for being among the most expensive universities in the country, according to the new report.

The University of California, San Diego's commitment to educating an economically diverse student body while supporting research puts it at the top of the national list for the third year.

While all the top 20 U.S. News universities are private, 13 of the top 20 Washington Monthly universities are public.

Washington Monthly also has master's university rankings and baccalaureate college rankings.

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