U.S. News Top Five Unchanged; UNC Fifth

Carolina ranks as the fifth best public university for the ninth consecutive year in U.S. News & World Report magazine’s latest “America’s Best Colleges” list.

UNC is 28th when considered with private schools – regaining the two positions by which it slipped in last year’s report. It again was determined to be the best value among public universities.

The same five public schools have ranked at the top for several years. The University of California-Berkeley is first, followed by UCLA and the universities of Virginia and Michigan.

The rankings – dominated by private universities – are based in part on a formula using opinion survey responses about academic quality from peer campus presidents, provosts or admissions officials. Objective data cover 15 indicators of academic quality in areas such as student graduation and retention rates, faculty resources and credentials, class size, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. Other U.S. News rankings assess affordability, commitment to undergraduate teaching (a new category this year), undergraduate business school programs and innovative undergraduate programs.

UNC’s results included the following:

  • First among public universities for the fifth consecutive year and 14th overall based on academic quality, best value and the net cost of attendance for a student receiving average need-based financial aid in 2008-09.
  • Sixteenth among publics for “least debt” and 24th – the same as last year – overall. Average student debt was $14,936 for UNC’s class of 2008; 32 percent of graduating seniors borrowed money to go to school.
  • Tied with Michigan for sixth among publics and tied for 11th overall for “a strong commitment to teaching” based on peer assessments of which campuses have faculty with an unusual commitment to undergraduate teaching.
  • Thirty-fifth for faculty resources – UNC’s best showing in this category over the past decade. That is up from 50th the past two years and 40th in 2006. This category, which counts for 20 percent of the overall ranking, measures undergraduate class size; two years (2007-08 and 2008-09 academic 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. The other four top publics ranged from 35th (Virginia) to 74th (Michigan) in this category.
  • A 97 percent average first-year retention rate – up 1 percent from last year and comparable to results since 1999.
  • An 88 percent average six-year graduation rate – up 5 percentage points from last year. UNC’s four-year rate is about 77 percent (U.S. News reports six-year rates).
  • The best mark among the top five publics in percent of course sections that enrolled fewer than 20 students – 44. Eleven percent of course sections enrolled 50 or more students.

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