08/28/2012 12:13 pm ET

Wayne State University Rankings: WSU Places 95th In Washington Monthly College Guide

Wayne State University is moving up in the world, at least according to Washington Monthly's 2012 list of top 100 U.S. universities. The Detroit-based school placed 95th in this year's rankings, a significant jump from 123rd place in 2011. The University of California-San Diego is ranked first overall for colleges in 2012.

Washington Monthly bases its rankings on three broad categories: Social Mobility, the recruiting and graduating of low-income students; Research, which judges how well an institutions does in terms of producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs; and Service, which involves encouraging students to give something back to their country. Wayne State also ranked well in a number of subcategories: 37th for predicted/actual graduation rates in the social mobility category, 69th for research expenditures and 82nd for science and engineering PhD's awarded.

Wayne State fared very differently on the U.S. News and World Reports Best American Colleges list, the institution was classified as a Tier 2 school and not assigned a numerical ranking. The U.S. News standings serve as a popular resource for prospective college students, but its list has been hotly contested and the publication even faced a boycott from universities and colleges in the 1990s.

One factor that may have influenced Wayne State's leap in Washington Monthly's ratings is a new, tougher policy for undergraduate admissions that was approved earlier this year by the school's Board of Governors. In addition to looking at applicants' grades and test scores, the university now also reviews students' personal and academic histories. Wayne State also now offers an eight-week preparedness course to help lower-scoring applicants meet the academic challenges of college life. Critics have said the new policy jeopardizes the university's urban mission by restricting the access of working-class students and people of color to the university.