's new College Guide
is a breath of fresh air. Especially in light of the U.S. News and World Report
's annual ode to reputational measures of institutional quality.
Here's what Washington Monthly
itself says about how it measures undergraduate college/university education: "We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility
(recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research
(producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service
(encouraging students to give something back to their country)."
Needless to say, I found myself nodding heartily
in agreement while reading the methodology
and the rationale
and hoping that measures such as these are the ones to catch on. Prestige alone is undeniably powerful, but it is also socially corrosive.
Here are the top ten liberal arts colleges for 2009:
1) Amherst College (MA)
2) Mount Holyoke College (MA)
3) Williams College (MA)
4) Harvey Mudd College (CA)
5) Haverford College (PA)
6) Smith College (MA)
7) Bryn Mawr College (PA)
8) Swarthmore College (PA)
9) Carleton College (MN)
10) Wellesley College (MA)
Anyway, it's fascinating to see what changes when you cut away the glamour of prestige. We all knew that women's colleges kick ass, right? Well, the proof's in the pudding!
It's also nice to see validation of my teenaged self's choice of Mount Holyoke (when I probably could have had--and this is not, sadly, a boast--my pick of famous institutions). At the time, I had three reasons, remarkably similar to the criteria Washington Monthly
uses, for choosing MHC: 1) None of the cutthroat, self-obsessed student behavior that accompanies the most prestigious institutions, 2) High-quality education that would help launch an academic/research career in both humanities and natural sciences, and 3) Social commitment and international orientation.