If you are a senior right now, you are getting back into the groove of school, and you and your parents are thinking about what colleges to apply to for next year. You are already trying to complete a college list for your guidance counselor, and you’ve probably looked at the US News and World Report college ranking to help you out.
You should know US News and World Report is no longer the only game in town. You might also want to check out the newest publication to rank colleges, the Washington Monthly.
The Washington Monthly looks at schools and ranks them a little differently than US News and World Report. US News ranks basically on the caliber of students a college or university accepts. Washington Monthly ranks on how well a school delivers an education. It determines how well a school is educating students by comparing its actual graduation rate to the predicted graduation rate of the students it admits. In other words, it is ranking schools on how well they help students they do admit get their education. When schools only accept the top graduating high school seniors, the quality of the education they offer may not always be as stellar as its graduation rates. Therefore, Washington Monthly is offering a more authentic and also broader view of how colleges do stacked against one another.
Washington Monthly ranks colleges once a year. It ranks universities, liberal arts colleges, Master-degree colleges, Baccalaureate-degree colleges, and community colleges. It also lists the 50 colleges that are not performing well, otherwise known as the Drop-Out Factories.
For 2010, Morehouse was ranked best in liberal arts colleges, The University of California, San Diego, was ranked best in the university category—graduating 85% if its students who were predicted to graduate at a rate of only 73%–, and Saint Paul College as the best community college. The worst college was Southern University at New Orleans, graduating only 5% of its entering students. Keep in mind that the worst high school drop-out factories graduate on average about 50% of their students, but the worst schools on this list graduate less than 26% of their students.
It is not true that selectivity is what determines the quality of a college or university. When you start with good fodder, it’s a lot easier to produce a good product. Unfortunately, most of the worst drop-out colleges are the colleges that accept the students who are not at the top of the class. These students are the strivers and yet they are going to the schools where they will most likely fail, mainly because of open admission, low costs, and geography. You might say they are the students then who can least perform in a challenging college environment, but studies prove when poorly prepared students are challenged and supported in good teaching their rate of graduation improves 50% to 60%.
What are the traits of schools doing a good job graduating their students even when their students are not the best in the country? They are schools that value teaching over research. In fact, students at community colleges that do no research can outperform their counterparts at elite four-year research universities. At successful schools students are more involved in the classroom because they are presenting, discussing, and doing group projects. These schools also have higher workloads, where 63% or better do more than 11 papers per year and 85% read more than 5 textbooks per year.