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ISO a D.C. college on the Forbes list

Washington has been called our nation's fourth-best college town.

But the region is also known for lacking a single truly, jaw-droppingly great college. The Ivy League doesn't stretch quite this far south. There's no Harvard, no Yale, not even a Penn or Haverford or Duke. Local admissions counselors sometimes find themselves urging Ivy-obsessed suburban high school seniors to consider applying to a few more colleges in the D.C. region.

There are, to be sure, several first-rank colleges and universities in the tri-state area, including Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Georgetown in the District and the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary and Washington and Lee in Virginia.

It won't help matters that none of those schools appears in the top 25 of the latest, and third, edition of the annual Forbes list of America's Best Colleges.

(The link above takes you, conveniently, to the second page of the rankings.)

Forbes takes a somewhat different approach from U.S. News & World Report, whose rankings are the industry standard. U.S. News looks at reputation, graduation rates, selectivity and test scores. Forbes considers student satisfaction, postgraduate success, student debt, graduation rate and student-won competitive awards.

Forbes publishes one Best Colleges list. U.S. News has two, one each for national universities and liberal arts colleges. (And, as much as liberal arts presidents eschew the U.S. News rankings, they have collectively benefited from the standalone ranking in U.S. News.)

The Forbes calculus yields a list that is both similar to and different from U.S. News. My colleague Jenna Johnson discusses Williams College's ascent to the top of the Forbes list in a separate post. (Harvard and Yale barely crack the Top 10!)

The closest college to Washington to crack the same Top 10 is Swarthmore College, at No. 7, roughly 125 miles away.

The top-ranked college in our region is the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, at 29. Washington and Lee comes in at 37, the University of Virginia at 44, William and Mary at 46, Georgetown at 52, the Virginia Military Institute at 60, the University of Richmond at 84, Sweet Briar College in Virginia at 87.

Johns Hopkins is at 88. And I have it on good authority that the university was mislabeled John Hopkins in the initial release. (If that is so, it has been corrected.)

St. Mary's College of Maryland sits at 89. . . and that is it, for the Forbes Top 100.

It doesn't look like the region has ever done particularly well in the three-year-old Forbes ranking. In 2008, the best-placed school was the Naval Academy, in the 36 spot.

Does this mean fewer copies of Forbes will sell at the Safeway in Kensington? That the ranking will fail the reality test among college-bound Virginians? That admission deans across the region will dismiss it, along with those ranking rubrics that give Harvard an D?

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By Daniel de Vise  |  August 13, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Admissions , Marketing , Pedagogy , Rankings  | Tags: Forbes rankings, US News rankings, america's best colleges, best maryland colleges, best virginia colleges, college rankings, college rankings forbes, top colleges  
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Comments

How about looking at it another way. Virginia is home to the top two state-supported universities on the Forbes list -- William & Mary and UVA.

http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2010/forbes-names-william--mary-among-the-best-colleges-123.php

Posted by: riggo82 | August 13, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

UVA, W&M, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and others in our region certainly qualify as great colleges. In fact, many high school students in Virginia choose UVA and W&M over private schools. And since when does Haveford qualify as a "jaw-droppingly" great college? Your definition of great schools is flawed.

Posted by: pmk180 | August 14, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

The Forbes methodology makes the US News methodology look like rocket science. The single largest component in the Forbes ranking is RateMyProfessors.com, which has been conclusively shown to be easily game-able. The second largest component, salaries from Payscale.com, uses a helpful but not really an authoritative source on salaries, especially since individuals have to choose to enter the data and it's possible that, say, Annapolis alumni may not be clued in.

The most useful part of Forbes is the ability to build a DIY formula using other variables, though it would be better if they included more variables -- say, something that dealt with class sizes or student/faculty ratios or anything else that touched the classroom experience.

Posted by: drrico | August 16, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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