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Carolina Stays in Top Five in U.S. News Rankings

Carolina is the fifth-best public university in the country for the 17th consecutive year, according to U.S. News & World Report.

For the 13th straight time, UNC also placed first among national public universities and ninth overall in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on academic quality and the 2016-17 net cost of attendance for a student receiving the average level of need-based financial aid.

The same schools have dominated the top five for several years. This time, the University of California at Berkeley placed first, followed by UCLA, Virginia and Michigan.

U.S. News bases its rankings on several weighted key measures of quality: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent); assessment of excellence by academic peers and high school counselors (22.5 percent); faculty resources (20 percent); student selectivity (12.5 percent); financial resources (10 percent); graduation rate performance (difference between actual and U.S. News’ predicted graduation rates, 7.5 percent); and alumni giving (5 percent).

For the 12th consecutive year, Carolina set a record for total number of applicants with 40,926 applications for fall 2017 admission, up 14 percent over the previous year. Forty-four percent of this year’s incoming class ranked among the top 10 students of their high school class, and 78 percent ranked in the top 10 percent.

UNC makes need-blind admissions and meets 100 percent of the documented need of undergraduates qualifying for need-based aid who apply on time. UNC meets more than two-thirds of that need with grants and scholarships. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has ranked Carolina first 16 times among U.S. public colleges and universities offering stellar academics at a reasonable price.

In the U.S. News list, UNC was again ranked 30th overall among both public and private universities and colleges. The other top publics were 21st (a tie between Berkeley and UCLA), 25th (Virginia) and 28th (Michigan).

Among Carolina’s other U.S. News rankings:

  • It is 12th among publics and 21st overall among national universities for least debt, with 42 percent of seniors graduating with debt, the average amount $20,852.
  • It has a 97 percent average first-year retention rate for the ninth consecutive year and a 91 percent average for its six-year graduation rate, 2 percentage points better than U.S. News predicted.
  • Only 14 percent of 2016 course sections enrolled 50 or more students, second to Berkeley (13 percent) with the lowest rate among the top five publics. Thirty-nine percent of Carolina’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. Berkeley continues to lead the top five publics at 61 percent.
  • It is fifth among the top publics and 94th overall in faculty resources. UNC was 89th last year after placing as high as 47th seven years ago. This category measures undergraduate class size, two academic years of average total faculty compensation (salary and benefits) based on indexes weighted for regional differences, student-faculty ratio and percentage of faculty who are full time and earned their field’s highest degree.
  • It is tied for third among public universities with Michigan and tied for 22nd overall in high school counselors’ top picks.
  • It is tied for seventh overall and tied for fourth among publics in best undergraduate business programs. Among specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler Business School ranked fourth in management.
  • It is tied for 10th overall and fourth among publics in best colleges for veterans, a reflection of the support UNC provides to students from the military through several initiatives.
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