Washington Monthly lauds WMU as one of nation's best values

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Photo of WMU sign.

WMU was recognized by Washington Monthly for the second year.

KALAMAZOO—Western Michigan University students are returning to campus this week just in time to hear the news that their school is one of the top-50 values among national universities and already meets many of the performance measures called for in recent weeks by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Washington Monthly, labeled by the Washington Post as an independent magazine for policy wonks, released a series of rankings Aug. 26 that placed WMU on a list of national universities that offer "the best bang for the buck." Among America's national universities, WMU came in at No. 46. The magazine said its analysis was based on the economic value students receive per dollar.

A best value

Meanwhile, a public policy blog has ranked WMU as one of the top 12 schools in the nation "where students get the best bang for the buck" and that would most benefit from a new federal funding structure proposed by the president. In a posting Aug. 26, PolicyMic listed WMU at No. 5 among schools "already meeting many of the standards Obama has laid out."

This is the second year that WMU has garnered praise in Washington Monthly's annual rankings of schools that "are acting on behalf of the true public interest."  For eight years, the magazine has run a list of top colleges that "promote upward social mobility, research and public service." After first making the list last year, WMU is once again on the magazine's overall list of top national universities, coming in at No. 123. Among other Michigan schools rated highly on the overall list are the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University.

The Best Bang for the Buck rating is a separate new ranking added this year by the magazine. Additional schools on that list include MSU and MTU. The magazine also promises a list in coming weeks of schools that excel in public service.

A change in how schools are evaluated

Washington Monthly editors designed their overall rating system eight years ago, arguing that conventional measures of college prestige are less important than what colleges do for the country and the value they offer students. Editors professed delight at last week's call by the president for a change in how federal funds are awarded and how schools are evaluated.

"It doesn't happen every day that an administration does exactly what you want," Editor-in-Chief Paul Glastris told the Washington Post as he introduced the rankings.

The ranking by PolicyMic used data on average debt load, starting salaries, tuition, room and board rates, six-year graduation rates and percentage of students who qualified for Pell Grants to pick its list of 12 schools that perform better than average on such indicators.