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A new number one

The student center at the University of California, San Diego. Photo: Flickr/V.A.P. Photography

The student center at the University of California, San Diego. Photo: Flickr/V.A.P. Photography

This week on our Karr on Culture podcast: What does it take to be the best university in the country — advantages or merit?

Last month, Washington Monthly magazine published its annual ranking of the top colleges and universities in the U.S. The list looked almost nothing like the more commonly-cited one published annually by U.S. News and World Report: Washington Monthly named the University of California San Diego the best in the country; it ranks 35th on the U.S. News list. Six of the schools in the top 10 are public institutions; the top state school on the U.S. News list (UC Berkeley) landed in 35th place. And Harvard ranks ninth; it’s traditionally at the top of the U.S. News rankings. Washington Monthly editor Paul Glastris discusses the methods that led to these conclusions — and explains how the conventional wisdom reflects our misplaced priorities with regard to higher ed. UCSD sociologist John Skrentny talks about the differences between the students he teaches now, those he knew as a Harvard grad student, and his classmates as an undergraduate at Indiana University (128th in Washington Monthly’s rankings; 75th in U.S. News) — and considers what it tells us about meritocracy in America.

(Full disclosure: Rick Karr attended Purdue University as an undergrad — 83rd in Washington Monthly, 56th in U.S. News. His graduate college, The London School of Economics and Political Science — was not ranked by either magazine.)



  • NEone

    This is a very important conversation; thank you for posting it. Those interested in our country’s future (which happens to lie in our children) would do themselves a favor to think about the issues raised. I have often said that there are certain Golden Keys–attending certain colleges, earning certain degrees, having connection to powerful people–that, once in our hands, open more doors than we could ever imagine. However, getting one of those Golden Keys is certainly not just a matter of merit. Those foolish enough to think that anyone could have a Golden Key if s/he tried hard enough have probably never been on the receiving side of injustice.

    My condolences for the loss of your mother.