Washington Monthly places Iowa State in top 25 ranking

Ross Boettcher

In their third annual college rankings, Washington Monthly has ranked Iowa State University 21st overall out of all national universities.

Unlike other publications that focus solely on grade point averages and SAT scores, Washington Monthly used the approach of “What can colleges do for the country?” to come up with numbers that were surprising to some. With an emphasis on how colleges and universities are influencing the country as a whole, ISU may now consider itself one of the top tier schools in the entire country.

When asked how such prestigious accolades may affect the university as a whole, Phillip Caffrey, associate director for admissions, was quick to point out that while it’s hard to gauge the effect of such numbers, being called one of the top 25 schools in the country can’t hurt.

“Accolades such as these can only help our recruitment effort,” Caffrey said. “College rankings by different publications have been a controversial topic over the years because there are so many different ranking systems and publications. Some of them are based on criteria that give a good idea of a school’s strengths while others aren’t good indicators at all.”

Earlier this year, Iowa State was ranked 85th nationally in a poll conducted by U.S. News and World Report, but in Caffrey’s eyes, 21st is a much more realistic number.

“I would like to think that Washington Monthly’s rankings give a better idea of where we really stand as an institution,” Caffrey said. “But, U.S. News and World Report has better notoriety and has a greater visibility to the public.”

One of the biggest areas Caffrey said Iowa State thrives in is helping graduate students from modest backgrounds who may or may not have had the opportunity to succeed at other schools that have been deemed the “cream of the crop,” such as Harvard or Yale.

“We’re not just helping students, but we’re benefiting society in general,” Caffrey said. “By graduating students that don’t come from affluent backgrounds, you really are helping society.”

Scoring for Washington Monthly’s ratings was based off nine different aspects split into three distinct categories. The first group, social mobility, included scores for the percentage of students given Federal Pell Grants, predicted graduation rates based on issued Pell Grants and incoming SAT scores, and the difference between the predicted and actual graduation rates.

Out of schools ranking in the top 25, Iowa State was tied for 11th in the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants with 25 percent, and boasted a 59 percent predicted graduation rate which lower than the actual graduation rate, which currently stands at 68 percent.

The second grouping, research, included fields such as research grant dollars, ratio of Ph.D.s to bachelor’s degrees, and the number of Ph.D.s awarded. In these fields, Iowa State collected decent numbers, with a sum of $86 million in research grant spending while placing 50th and 39th respectively in the latter categories.

The final category was that of service. The three criteria scores were doled out for were for Peace Corps rank, ROTC rank and percentage of federal work-study funds applied to service such as the Peace Corps or ROTC.

While the first two fields didn’t provide stunning numbers, ranking 102nd and 70th overall, the final criterion boasted a 47 percent dedication of work-study funds to service areas, a total that was good enough to snag a No. 5 ranking for Iowa State.

It’s hard to put a finger on which score helped boost Iowa State to the top 25, but judging by other top schools, it was a well-rounded performance that got the university the nod at No. 21.

When asked if the society-based scoring system by the Washington Monthly helped boost Iowa State, Caffrey was clear on the way he felt.

“I think this ranking looked into each category and saw that Iowa State ranked pretty darn high,” he said. “Really, we are helping society and it’s hard to articulate that to prospective students, and how much it will help is impossible to say, but this ranking certainly won’t hurt us any.”

To current Cyclones, the 21st spot is definitely a number to be proud of. Nicholas R. Harris, freshman in interdisciplinary studies and current member of the Marines ROTC program, certainly feels as if the service-based rankings by the Washington Monthly give a good estimation as to where Iowa State really stands.

“Coming into college, I had to decide on either University of Northern Iowa or Iowa State, and I almost came to Iowa State on an Army ROTC scholarship, but decided to join the Marines ROTC instead,” Harris said. “I want to be in the FBI at some point, so this is definitely a good opportunity for me. I think 21 is a good ranking, but we should get it higher, as close to number one as possible.”