Credit: Jason Jones PhotographyWashington Monthly has published its 2021 College Guide and Rankings, which rates colleges and universities “based on what they do for the country,” and Southwestern maintains its spot as the #1 Liberal Arts College in Texas. The university ranks #114 among the 215 four-year institutions in the U.S. that award almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees and that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs. SU also moves up to #29 Best Bang for the Buck College in Texas, moving up from last year’s #35 position in the 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 “the degree to which they recruit and graduate students of modest means (with Pell Grants as the main data point), produce the scholarship and scholars that drive economic growth and human flourishing (with federal research dollars a central measure), and encourage students to be active citizens (with national and community service participation a key variable).”

SU earned top rankings by demonstrating excellence across three categories: social mobility, research, and public service. The social mobility category includes considerations such as affordability, eight-year graduation rate, and loan repayment rates. The research score for liberal arts institutions is based on the number of alumni who go on to earn a Ph.D. in any subject. The community and national service rating assesses the number of students serving in the military and the Peace Corps as well as voter engagement.

The editors of the 2021 college guide considered 1,466 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 Colleges.