University Park, Pa. -- Penn State always does well in the rankings that are designed to help parents and students sift through the thousands of colleges and universities in this country to decide which will help them spend their money wisely.
Once again this year, Penn State also has been recognized for the job it does in preparing its students to benefit the nation. Up three spots from last year, Penn State now is ranked No. 3 in the nation behind only Massachusetts Institute of Technology (first) and University of California, Berkeley (second) by Washington Monthly, a political, inside-the-beltway publication. The magazine ranks institutions as engines of social mobility; as producers of academic minds and scientific research that advance knowledge and drive economic growth; and as forces to inculcate and encourage an ethic of service.
The rankings reflect excellence across the full breadth of their measures, rather than rewarding an institution for an exceptionally high focus on just one area. The rankings also use very different criteria than traditional rankings such as U.S. News and World Report.
"By devising a set of criteria different from those of other college guides, we arrived at sharply different results," wrote the editors of the Washington Monthly guide. "Top schools sank, and medium schools rose. For instance, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 48th on the U.S News list, takes third place on our list, while Princeton, first on the U.S. News list, takes 43rd on ours. In short, Pennsylvania State, measured on our terms -- by the yardstick of fostering research, national service and social mobility -- does a lot more for the country than Princeton."
"Imagine if colleges -- the many thousands of them -- tried to boost their scores on The Washington Monthly College Rankings," the authors continued. "They'd enroll more low-income students and try to make sure they graduated. They'd encourage their students to join the military or the Peace Corps. And they'd produce more scientists and engineers. In short, our country would grow more democratic, equitable and prosperous. We don't think it will happen overnight, but we'd like to think our colleges will eventually sit up and pay attention."
The rest of the Big Ten also fared well in Washington Monthly's rankings. Following Penn State, which ranked third, are: University of Wisconsin, 11; University of Illinois, 16; University of Michigan, 18; Ohio State University, 27; Northwestern University, 42; Michigan State University, 50; Indiana University, 58; University of Iowa, 59; University of Minnesota, 67; and Purdue University, 75.
Nine other Pennsylvania schools also made the list, although only four made the top 100: University of Pennsylvania, 30; Widener University, 52; Carnegie Mellon University, 54; University of Pittsburgh, 66; Lehigh University, 116; Temple University, 130; Indiana University, 148; Duquesne University, 177; and Drexel University, 214.
To view the complete rankings and details in the guide creators' thinking, go to http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0609.national.html online.