Today the Washington Monthly magazine is releasing its annual College Guide and Rankings, which The New York Times has called “more interesting than virtually any other ranking out there.” While U.S. News & World Report relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings, the Washington Monthly rates schools based on what they are doing for their students and the country — on whether they’re improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.

This year we also included a new value factor that’s ignored or poorly measured by other college rankings: real cost. By looking at which institutions combine higher than expected graduation rates with affordable prices, we are able to offer a measure of where the biggest “bang for the buck” is to be found in higher education.

The Washington Monthly‘s unique methodology yields interesting results. The top 10 schools this year, for national universities, are the University of California-San Diego, Texas A&M, Stanford, Univ. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, Case Western Reserve, University of Washington, University of California-Riverside, and Georgia Tech.

An interesting feature article in this issue addresses another aspect of American higher education: student loans. Stephen Burd’s “Getting Rid of the College Loan Repo Man,” shows that while predatory debt- collection agencies are ruining the lives of more and more Americans, we are ignoring an easy solution.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer