In a recent ranking of national universities by the Washington Monthly that aimed to give “credit where it’s due to colleges that are truly fulfilling their public obligations,” UCSB came in at 21. For some people, this may come as a surprise following UCSB’s ninth place ranking in The Princeton Review‘s top party schools, but for recent UCSB graduate Amy Dozier these rankings reflect the allure of the school.
Said Dozier, “I think UCSB is one of the rarer schools where many students have been driven to find a balance between work and play - a balance that seems more of a testament to our adaptability and energy instead of our irresponsibility.”
The methodology behind the Washington Monthly list aims to measure the contribution each university is making to the public, which - taking into account “the huge numbers of scientists, engineers, and PhDs that larger universities produce, combined with their enormous amounts of research spending, that will help keep America competitive in an increasingly global economy” - consequentially awards larger universities for their high levels of productivity.
However, in order to “recognize smaller institutions that are doing a good job of producing quality research,” Washington Monthly added considerations of faculty awards and the number of faculty who are National Academy members to the ranking process.
One notable consideration in the ranking is the comparison of each school’s predicted graduation rate with their actual graduation rate, which for UCSB was 65 percent and 80 percent, respectively. For Dozier, this suggests a lack of confidence; “It seems surprising that our predicted graduation rate is so much lower than our actual graduation rank. I hope that [The Princeton Review‘s] party school ranking isn’t affecting the funding we receive, the expectations of our professors, or the quality of our classes.”
The Washington Monthly noted that its ranking aimed to dethrone schools often rewarded by U.S. News and World Report for exclusivity and an endless pursuit of top rankings. In addition to giving credit where credit is due, the Washington Monthly editors claimed they “want to give college presidents a reason to think twice before selling their soul for a few spots on the U.S. News list.”
As a glaring side note, the editors mentioned the dire situation of the UC system as the campuses - six of which placed in the top 25 - face a system-wide and statewide budget crisis. This reflects the tragedy of the list: As it rewards the campuses that are performing most efficiently and beneficially for the public, it ignores the financial privilege that places many Ivy Leaguers and private universities at the top of the U.S. News ranking.
Ultimately, it is a list of the best universities, some of which may not be around for long.