Students walk in between classes at UC Riverside. The bell tower is seen in the distance
September 1, 2021

Washington Monthly ranks UCR No. 28 public university

The magazine's rankings list also moved UCR to No. 29 for social mobility among 380 ranked universities

Author: J.D. Warren
September 1, 2021

In its 2021 ranking of top national universities, Washington Monthly magazine has named UC Riverside No. 28 among public universities in the U.S. 

In the subcategory of social mobility, UCR was No. 29 among the 380 four-year universities ranked in Washington Monthly’s 2021 list. UCR’s social mobility ranking was No. 34 in 2020. In the category of research, UCR also climbed, from No. 65 in the nation in 2020, to No. 57 in 2021.

Social mobility considers the graduation rates and future earnings of low-income students. In its 2019 and 2020 lists, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCR No. 1 in the U.S. for social mobility. The U.S. News & World Report 2021 college rankings list is set to be released Sept. 13.

“UC Riverside’s success in college rankings builds with each passing year,” said UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox. “It’s particularly heartening to see both our research and social mobility spotlighted. We’re glad to see UCR increased its social mobility ranking in Washington Monthly, even as we await with some excitement the announcement of the U.S. News rankings.” 

Washington Monthly’s ranking system was devised in 2005 as an answer to traditional college-ranking systems that favor factors including low acceptance rates and alumni giving.

In this year’s methodology statement, Washington Monthly’s editors alluded to a formula change that now affords equal weight for rankings in social mobility, research, and community service. The message also referred to having dropped an accounting of first-generation student data because the federal College Scorecard had not been updated. Fifty-five percent of UCR undergraduates are first generation students, compared to 34% nationally.

UCR Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research Scott Heil said UCR was affected most in the overall rankings from a formula shift in the community service category that added a weight for degrees in health, education, and social work. "UCR is quite small in the latter category," Heil said. 

"There does in fact appear to be a significant methods change in the Washington Monthly 2021 ranking," Heil said. "Given that change in methods, I think it might be appropriate to say the rankings are not fully comparable from year to year because they are clearly valuing a different set of community/national service attributes in the new version."

Washington Monthly’s top five overall for 2021 includes, in order, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Harvard University.

UCR’s overall ranking among 380 universities is No. 53, sandwiched on this year’s list by George Institute of Technology at No. 52, and California State University, Fresno, at No. 54. In 2019, UCR was No. 27 in the overall Washington Monthly rankings. In 2018, UCR was No. 28.

Separately, this week The Princeton Review released its unranked list of the nation’s best 387 colleges, with UC Riverside included. The publication is not associated with Princeton University. 

The full 2020 Washington Monthly rankings report is available online.

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