University and college rankings are always disputed regardless of the methodology they employ. The U.S.News and World Report rankings is the most used and oft-cited list although it has been repeatedly rubbished by academicians and professionals. These rankings are often based on reputation which is a self-feeding circle and endowment size which also like reputation doesn’t change ranks often. Thus to offer an alternative perspective, The Washington Monthly published their own rankings based on “how much of a contribution does each university make to the country”.
The methodology explained here is based on social mobility, research, and service i.e. “is the school recruiting and graduating low-income students? Is it producing PhDs and cutting-edge research? And is it encouraging in its students an ethic of service?” The ranking are displayed below and surprisingly puts my current graduate school, Texas A&M right at the top.
While I’m pleased as punch at the top billing given to my university, I must remain skeptical of such rankings. When the magazine lists its criteria as ‘contribution to the country’, are they neglecting the role of universities in the increasingly globalized world? Considering that international students contribute heavily at least to the research conducted in any top university, shouldn’t that factor in the rankings also? Are the universities necessarily established to keep America competitive in this global economy where human capital is increasingly mobile. You may argue that U.S. universities are clearly oriented toward bettering America’s standing since most of the research dollars come from federal agencies. However, is this also indicative of the immigration policies of the same government that doesn’t necessarily encourage immigration? I hope not.
Well, all rankings are subjective to criticism but I will attest to the top quality of research and education at Texas A&M. It is definitely one of the best. Also, I found it strangely funny that a liberal magazine chose a conservative university as its top choice.