So while we are making our usual incremental changes to the College Guide this year to improve its usefulness, it’s important to note the context has really changed. Here’s how Robert Kelchen puts it in the introduction to the 2015 “Best Bangs for the Buck” rankings:

Two years ago, President Barack Obama was vowing to rate the nation’s colleges and universities based on metrics very similar to our Best Bang for the Buck rankings. Earlier this summer, however, the administration raised the white flag after bitter protests from the college lobbying community and threats from Congress to defund the endeavor. It now says it will merely provide more and better data and let private outfits do the grading. This means that if you want to know which colleges in America provide the best value for ordinary, non-wealthy students, the Washington Monthly is the only game in town!

If you want more information from the deliberately non-elitist perspective WaMo tries to offer, check out the spinoff book, The Other College Guide, which helps students and families approach the entire college decision armed with the best and most objective data available. It’s really not easy to come by anywhere else.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.