U.S. News: Carolina Fifth Again Among Public Universities

If you watch Carolina’s ups and downs in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, you may have noticed by now that there aren’t any.

For the eighth straight year, UNC ranks fifth among the nation’s best public universities, according to the magazine.

California-Berkeley remains the top-ranked school, and for the eighth year in a row the rest of the top five are Virginia, UCLA and Michigan.

Carolina ranked 30th when included with private universities, down from 28th last year. The same 25 private and five public schools have appeared in the magazine’s top 30 spots for the past five years. Duke ranks eighth, and Wake Forest 28th on that list.

“We find value in assessing the various measures that determine such rankings,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86. “In the case of U.S. News, we are most interested in results from areas including faculty resources and student success. Our focus is on retaining and attracting excellent faculty.”

The new rankings appear in the 2009 edition of the magazine’s America’s Best Colleges guidebook and can be found in detail online. The Sept. 1 edition of the magazine and the guidebook will hit newsstands early the week of Aug. 25.

The rankings are based on a formula factoring in responses to opinion surveys about academic quality from peer campus presidents, provosts or admissions officials. Objective data covers areas such as student graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

Other U.S. News rankings this year assessed academic quality and affordability, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, undergraduate business school programs and innovative undergraduate education programs. UNC ranked:

  • First among public universities for the fourth consecutive year and ninth overall for the third straight year in “great schools, great prices,” based on academic quality and the net cost of attendance for a student receiving average need-based financial aid.
  • 18th among publics for “least debt” and 24th overall. Average student debt was $14,912 for UNC’s class of 2007; 34 percent of graduating seniors borrowed.
  • 50th for faculty resources. That’s the same as last year but down from 40th in 2006. This category, which counts 20 percent of the overall ranking, measures undergraduate class size; two years of average total faculty compensation (salary and benefits) based on indexes compiled by a consultant and weighted for regional differences; student-faculty ratio; and percentage of faculty who are full time and have earned their field’s highest degree.
  • Fourth in percentage of course sections with fewer than 20 students, behind Berkeley (62 percent), UCLA (53 percent) and Virginia (49 percent). Forty-four percent of UNC’s classes fit the category.
  • Tied for sixth among the best undergraduate business programs with Carnegie Mellon, Texas at Austin and Virginia. Specialties ranked include marketing, fourth, and management, fifth.

The magazine also noted about Carolina:

  • A 96 percent first-year retention rate – the same as last year and comparable to results since 1999. The other four top publics remained between 96 percent and 97 percent.
  • An 83 percent average six-year graduation rate – consistent with results from the prior four years. UNC’s four-year rate is about 72 percent; U.S. News reports six-year rates.
  • That only 12 percent of UNC course sections enrolled 50 or more students, the best mark among the four other leading public peers.

U.S. News listed UNC among the “programs to look for,” highlighting outstanding academic programs that lead to student success. UNC’s undergraduate research/creative projects and service learning program appeared on the list of exemplary examples.

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