USU beat out Brigham Young University, University of Utah and Princeton in this year’s Washington Monthly College Rankings, coming in at No. 27.The editor in chief of Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris, said its rankings began as an alternative to the listings published by the U.S. News and World Report. Often, Glastris said, non-academic factors like reputation sway the results of the U.S. News rankings, and the editors at Washington Monthly wanted to stick with more reliable data.”They measure prestige and money, which are not the same as academic excellence,” Glastris said.Schools in Washington Monthly’s annual rankings are rated based on their contribution to the public good, Glastris said, and are awarded points based on social mobility, research and service. Within these catagories, factors such as direct financial aid assistance, graduation rates, research expenditures and work-study funds contribute to a school’s overall score.”Rather than trying to determine whether a specific college is the best, we ask whether the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” Glastris said.USU excelled particularly in the area of financial aid. According to the ranking data found at Washington Monthly’s Web site, USU is third in the nation for federal work-study funds spent on service and 52 percent of students receive Pell grants.”Where we shine is the service category,” said Steve Sharp, USU’s financial aid director.Sharp said USU has one of the most expansive America Reads tutoring programs in the country and roughly half of work-study funds are spent on tutoring and other community service programs. He also mentioned that in Utah, compared with other states, a greater percentage of undergraduates are married, increasing the availability of Pell grants. Even so, USU was ranked higher than other Utah schools – BYU and the University of Utah ranked 136 and 154, respectively.”The people who get Pell grants at our institution do better than expected,” Sharp said.Sharp agreed the rankings published by U.S. News and World Report can be somewhat unreliable when comparing institutions of higher education.”It’s about as accurate as high school popularity,” Sharp said.
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