US News publishes a list of America´s best universities every year. As any list of this kind it is at best an approximation of where each institutions stand;,ranking something as complex as a college education is not an easy task. The US News list often ends up full of extremely selective, dreadfully expensive higher education institutions that probably do a good job teaching their students but often remain inaccessible for the population at large.
For the past few years, the Washington Monthly has been publishing a different kind of college rankings. Instead of looking at excellence, they look at value: what universities give their students (and society at large) the best bang for the buck?
Why is this relevant? Their explanation:
Congressional hearings and calls for massive debt forgiveness marked a growing realization that higher education’s three-decade binge of tuition hikes—during which college prices tripled after inflation—has degraded the bargain society strikes with its young people. In the not-so-distant past, most undergraduates could rely on a combination of work and parental support to get a bachelor’s degree debt free. No longer. Today nearly two-thirds of undergraduates leave college with debt averaging more than $25,000. In more extreme cases, twenty-one-year-olds are burdened with six-figure obligations, in the worst job market in decades.
The Washington Monthly rankings are based on three factors. The first is social mobility, which gives colleges credit for enrolling many low-income students and helping them earn degrees. The second recognizes research production, particularly at schools whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. Third, we value a commitment to service. The more expensive college becomes, the more students are encouraged to see higher education as a mere return on investment. The students in our best colleges are taught by example and design to look beyond themselves and give back.
As the debate on how students pay for higher education, access to grants and equal opportunity heat up, this ranking provides a very good starting point.
The University of Connecticut, crown jewel of the state´s public education system, falls in a mediocre 66th place, behind Yale (41st). Wesleyan is 13th in the Liberal Arts list, way ahead of Connecticut College (77th) and Trinity (185th).