Should We Rank Community Colleges?
THERE’S AN OBVIOUS WAY TO MAKE COMMUNITY COLLEGES BETTER: LET’S RANK THEM
Ever since U.S. News & World Report began ranking colleges and universities in 1983, academic institutions, prospective students, and parents alike have been obsessed with tracking the movement of schools up and down the list. The rankings have been controversial from the start, with many critics questioning whether they emphasize the wrong features or provide an accurate guide for students and families. In 2005, Washington Monthly began its own alternative college rankings, focusing not on the SAT scores of incoming students but on metrics such as graduation rates, spending on academic research, and the involvement of students in ROTC, community service, or the Peace Corps. Earlier this year, the White House developed a college scorecard using many of the same measures. Washington Monthly has recently added community colleges to its annual college guide, making it the only national publication to attempt an assessment of the two-year institutions that educate millions of Americans. We spoke with Paul Glastris, a veteran journalist and editor of Washington Monthly, who first developed the magazine’s innovative college-ranking system nearly a decade ago. Edited interview excerpts are in The Atlantic Cities.