UC San Diego and UC Riverside landed the one and two spots on the Washington Monthly's list of top universities - a review that bills itself as the antithesis to the U.S. News and World Report rankings.
This is the eighth year that the Washington, D.C.-based magazine produced a list of top colleges, rating them by how well they serve the public interest. It looks at tuition affordability and a school's ability to bring in research dollars, among other factors.
"Campuses in the UC system represent six of our top twenty-five institutions, reflecting University of California's historical commitment to pairing public access with world-class research," the magazine's editors wrote.
The editors also pointed out, however, that California has cut university budgets and raised tuition more than many other states in the U.S.
"Tuition in some of the nation's biggest public university systems jumped 50 percent or more in the span of four years," the magazine reported.
This is the fourth-consecutive year in the No. 1 spot for UC San Diego. Washington Monthly lauded the school's 85 percent graduation rate - and the fact that nearly half of its students receive Pell grants.
The list is very different from U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings, which rates quality through freshman retention rates and the strength of the faculty, among other measures.
As a result, Harvard and Princeton tied for first on U.S. News' rankings - not UC San Diego. Yale came in third place on U.S. News' list; it was 54th on Washington Monthly's list.