The Washington Monthly magazine today is releasing its annual College Guide and Rankings, an increasingly influential alternative to U.S. News & World Report’s much-criticized college rankings. The Guide also features a first-ever “Best Colleges for Adult Learners” ranking plus profiles of the “Sixteen Most Innovative People in Higher Education.”

Whereas U.S. News relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of money and prestige for its rankings, the Washington Monthly measures schools based on what they are doing for the country—by improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service.

The Washington Monthly’s unique methodology—strengthened by new federal data on the average earnings and loan repayment rates of students from specific colleges—yields striking results:

• While 19 out of U.S. News’ top 20 national university rankings are private schools, the majority of Washington Monthly’s top 20 are public institutions, including University of California-San Diego, Texas A&M, and Utah State University, schools that rate nowhere near the top at U.S. News.
• While a few elite schools, such as Stanford and Harvard top the Washington Monthly list, others underperform. Columbia, Northwestern, and Washington University in St. Louis, which rank 4th, 12th, and 15th respectively, on the U.S. News list, come in 24th, 40th, and 99th in the Washington Monthly rankings.
• Berea College, ranked 67th on U.S. News’ list of liberal arts colleges, comes in 1st in the Washington Monthly.

While nearly half of all college students today are adults, no national publication has ever ranked colleges based on which serve adult students best—until now. To put together its exclusive ranking of the best four-year and two-year colleges for adult learners, the Washington Monthly compiled reams of data on which schools best meet these students’ unique needs, such as plenty of weekend, evening, and online classes to fit busy work schedules.

The top five four-year colleges for adults are:
• Golden Gate University—San Francisco (CA)
• University of Utah (UT)
• Park University (MO)
• Concordia University—St. Paul (MN)
• University of Colorado-Denver (CO)

Absent from the top 100 best-for-adults list are any of the private elite institutions that crowd the top of U.S. News’s rankings, largely because such schools enroll too few adults. For the most part, these elite schools simply aren’t in the business of educating adults.

The 2016 Washington Monthly College Guide also includes an updated “Best Bang for the Buck” ranking of colleges that are doing the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. While a few well-known elite schools score well, including Amherst and Georgetown, many of the highest-ranking “Best Bang” schools are ones other publications seldom celebrate, such as the University of Mount Olive (NC), Cal State-Bakersfield, and College of the Ozarks (MO).

In addition, the new issue features mini-profiles of the “Sixteen Most Innovative People in Higher Education.” These administrators, researchers, nonprofit leaders and startup entrepreneurs are finding better ways of providing quality degrees to more students at lower cost. They include Charles Isbell of Georgia Tech, Candice Thille of Stanford, Nichole Hurd of College Advising Corps, and Kai Drekmeier of Inside Track.

The issue also includes in-depth feature stories on:
The False Promise of “Free” College
How the Internet Wrecked College Admissions
Michael Sorrell, the Man Reinventing the Urban College

Enjoy the issue!

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.