Texas Universities Score Well on Unconventional Ranking

Texas A&M University, the University of Texas and Rice University
Texas A&M University, the University of Texas and Rice University

According to Washington Monthly's new college rankings, Texas A&M University is the second-best institution in the country. The next highest ranked school from Texas? The University of Texas at El Paso, coming in 12th place.

What is obvious from the list is that the magazine uses a dramatically different methodology from the more familiar U.S. News & World Report list, which ranks Harvard University first. In Washington Monthly, Harvard is ranked 11th and the University of California, San Diego is first. UTEP, meanwhile, doesn't make the U.S. News list and A&M is 58th.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp called Washington Monthly's rankings "a tremendous reinforcement of both our success to date in developing leaders of character and our vision for the future."

The left-leaning Washington Monthly determines its rankings based on three equally weighted criteria: recruitment and enrollment of low-income students, production of top-quality research and scholarship and encouraging students to give back by joining ROTC or the Peace Corps. Or, as the magazine puts it: social mobility, research and service.

"While U.S. News & World Report relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige for its rankings, the Washington Monthly rates schools based on what they are doing for their students and the country," wrote Monthly writer Daniel Luzer.

The unconventional rankings tend to skew to favor toward large public institutions rather than the smaller, more elite private schools. At 17th in the country according to U.S. News, Rice University, a private institution in Houston, is Texas' highest-ranked school, followed by the University of Texas at Austin at 45th. Meanwhile, Texas A&M,  has maintained a fairly regular presence near the top of the Monthly's list since the rankings began in 2005. It even topped the chart in 2007.

"As some readers have pointed out in previous years, our research score rewards large schools for their size," the magazine's editors noted in a column accompanying the release of their 2012 rankings. "This is intentional. It is the huge numbers of scientists, engineers, and PhDs that larger universities produce, combined with their enormous amounts of research spending, that will help keep America competitive in an increasingly global economy."

The other Texas institutions making the top 100 list this year according to Washington Monthly are UT-Austin at 23rd, Rice at 38th and Texas A&M University-Kingsville at 56th.

Catie McCorry-Andalis, associate vice president for student life and dean of students at UTEP, issued a statement celebrating the recognition. "We provide access to a well-rounded education that embraces academics, research and community service to many who may not get that opportunity otherwise,” she said.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.