Welcome to the Washington Monthly’s annual College Guide and Rankings, where we rate schools based on what they do for the country. It’s our answer to U.S. News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige.

We rank four-year schools (national universities, liberal arts colleges, baccalaureate colleges, and master’s universities) based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and providing opportunities for public service. We also rank America’s Affordable Elite Colleges, the Best Colleges for Adult Learners, and the Best Bang for the Buck colleges, which help non-wealthy students obtain marketable degrees at affordable prices. Click here to read our 2019 College Guide magazine issue.

Four-Year Colleges

National Universities

Institutions that award a significant number of doctoral degrees.

Liberal Arts Colleges

Baccalaureate colleges that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs.

Master’s Universities

Institutions that award a significant number of master’s degrees but few or no doctoral degrees.

Bachelor’s Colleges

Institutions that award almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees.

America’s Affordable Elite Colleges

The most selective institutions in the country, ranked by how well they promote upward social mobility. 

Affordable Elites

Best Bang for the Buck Colleges

The schools where students of modest means get the most for their money. 






Best Colleges for Adult Learners

A third of undergrads are 25 and older. These are the schools that cater to them.

Four-Year Colleges

Institutions that award mostly bachelor’s degrees.

Two-Year Colleges

Institutions that award mostly associate’s degrees or certificates.

For even more information, be sure to check out our books, The Other College Guide and Never Too Late: The Adult Student’s Guide to College.

We are deeply grateful to the Lumina Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Foundation for Civic Leadership for their support.