Washington Monthly has published its 16th annual College Guide and Rankings, “the socially conscious alternative to U.S. News & World Report,” and Southwestern continues to holds its spot as the #1 Liberal-Arts College in Texas. The university ranks #96 among the 218 liberal-arts colleges and universities in the nation. It also ranks #35 among all Texas universities in the Best Bang for the Buck category.

The editors of the popular guide contrast their rankings against those published by their primary competitor, the U.S. News and World Report, which evaluates institutions according to wealth, exclusivity, and prestige. Washington Monthly, by contrast, lists colleges and universities according to “how well they serve the country as a whole—by recruiting and graduating nonwealthy students, encouraging student activism, and producing research and technologies that create high-paying jobs and address threats like climate change.”

Top-ranked universities such as SU were required to show excellence across three categories: social mobility, research, and public service. The social mobility category includes considerations such as affordability, graduation rate, median earnings reported by alumni, and loan repayment rates. The research score is based on institutional spending on research, the number of alumni who go on to earn a Ph.D. in any subject, and the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards. The public service rating assesses the number of students serving in the military and the Peace Corps, the amount of money the institution spent on volunteer projects, and the amount of programming devoted to motivating students to vote in government elections. By enrolling and graduating “students of modest means,” offering an exemplary return on investment, encouraging students to participate in civic engagement, and supporting innovative research and scholarship by both students and faculty, Southwestern earns its top ranking among the state’s liberal-arts colleges while having a wider impact on the nation.

The editors of the 2020 college guide considered 1,469 four-year schools—including public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutions—within the 50 states. It categorizes the included institutions as national universities, liberal-arts colleges, master’s universities, and bachelor’s universities. It also features specialty lists such as Best Colleges for Student Voting and, new in 2020, the Colleges Where Majors Popular with Black Students Pay Best.