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Washington Monthly Adds 'Bang-for-Buck' List to College Rankings

Washington Monthly has released its annual College Rankings , which evaluates schools on whether they're improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.

The University of California, San Diego, and UC, Riverside, led the national university rankings, followed by Texas A&M in College Station.

This year, the magazine added a list of Best-Bang-for-the-Buck colleges, focusing on value—a big factor for students today.

Of the 1,572 colleges and universities in the broader rankings, 349 made the cut. Leading the list were Amherst College in Massachussetts, CUNY Queens College in New York, CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College in New York, California State University in Fullerton, and the University of Florida.

(For a full list, click here.)

As President Obama proposes a rating system for colleges based on value, it's interesting to look at how Washington Monthly arrived at its list.

Colleges had to meet four criteria to be considered a good deal for students:

1. Serve low-income students, measured by having at least 20 percent of their students receiving Pell Grants.

2. Have a graduation rate of at least 50 percent.

3. Meet or exceed the graduation rate that would be statistically predicted for that school given the number of lower-income students admitted.

4. Graduate students who make enough money to cover their student loans, reflected in a student-loan default rate of 10 percent or less.

Once the list was compiled, the editors applied the financial measure by ranking the schools based on their net price of attendance.

The magazine discovered few for-profit schools make the best-value cut. Most that met the criteria were public institutions, but not all. For instance, the University of Virginia, Penn State, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison were not considered good values, in part because those schools don't let in enough Pell-eligible students, Washington Monthly reports.

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