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Top marks for top values

Washington Monthly ranking says Berkeley does best at giving back

| 03 September 2009

UC Berkeley has been recognized as the top university in the country for its contributions to society as measured by Washington Monthly's annual college guide and rankings released yesterday (Sept. 2).

Washington Monthly cover
'A proud day for UC'
UC President Mark Yudof hails Washington Monthly rankings
"Unlike U.S. News and World Report and similar guides, this one asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country," say the magazine's editors. "Every year we lavish billions of tax dollars and other public benefits on institutions of higher learning. This guide asks: Are we getting the most for our money?"

When it comes to UC Berkeley, and the University of California in general, the answer appears to be a resounding "Yes." Berkeley was ranked first among 258 national universities. UC San Diego ranked second and UCLA third, followed by Stanford (4), the only private institution in the top 10. UC Davis was ranked tenth, followed by Harvard (11) and MIT (12). UC Riverside (16) and UC Santa Barbara (21) put six UC schools in the top 25.

Washington Monthly says its rankings are based on a school's "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)."

Those criteria play to Berkeley's strengths, said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. "In my special report last fall titled, 'Access and Excellence,' I said that the core of our mission of research, education, and public service is the fulfillment of the public trust. In listing their criteria for their rankings, it is as if the Washington Monthly editors were quoting directly from our mission," Birgeneau said.

In determining its social mobility ranking, the magazine relies on the percentage of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants, which it says indicates commitment to lower-income students, and on predicted and actual graduation rates.

The community service score is determined by measuring each school's performance in three areas: the size of its Army and Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps programs relative to the size of the school; the number of alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps relative to the size of the school; and the percentage of its federal work-study grant money spent on community service projects.

The research score for national universities is based on five measurements: the total amount of an institution's research spending, the number of science and engineering PhDs awarded by the university, the number of undergraduate alumni who have gone on to receive a PhD in any subject relative to the size of the school, the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards relative to the number of full-time faculty, and the number of faculty in the National Academies relative to the number of full-time faculty.

The complete rankings and an explanation of the methodology are available at the Washington Monthly website.

Washington Monthly describes itself as "an independent voice, listened to by insiders and willing to take on sacred cows liberal and conservative." It has been publishing its rankings since 2005.