UNC Fifth Again; Faculty Resources Take Another Hit

Carolina ranks fifth among the nation’s best public universities for the 12th consecutive year, according to U.S. News & World Report.

California-Berkeley ranked first among national public universities, followed by UCLA and Virginia (tied for second) and Michigan (fourth). Those results were identical to last year’s.

Among both national public and private universities, Carolina ranked 30th overall, compared with 29th last year and 30th in 2010. Other public universities were between tied for 21st (Berkeley; the same as last year) and 29th (Michigan, down one slot). Overall composite scores of all five top publics moved up or down one point with the exception of Berkeley, which remained at 79. UCLA and Virginia were at 77, followed by Michigan at 74 and UNC at 73.

U.S. News rankings, dominated by private campuses, are based on a formula using opinion survey responses about undergraduate academic reputation and quality from peer campus presidents, provosts or admissions directors. That counts for 22.5 percent of national universities’ ranking. Objective data cover up to 16 indicators of academic quality, including graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance (difference between actual and predicted graduation rates) and alumni giving.

UNC results included the following:

  • First among national public universities for the eighth consecutive year and 17th overall (down from 12th last year) in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on academic quality and net cost of attendance for a student receiving the average level of need-based financial aid in 2011-12. Forty-one percent of UNC students received need-based aid in 2011, according to U.S. News. Carolina meets 100 percent of the documented need of students qualifying for need-based aid who apply on time.
  • A 97 percent average first-year retention rate for the third consecutive year.
  • A 90 percent average six-year graduation rate — 5 percentage points better than U.S. News predicted for the second consecutive year. (UNC’s current four-year rate is nearly 81 percent.)
  • Thirteen percent of course sections enrolled 50 or more students, holding at the same number as last year. That remains the lowest rate among the other top publics for the fifth year in a row. Thirty-three percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students, down from 37 percent. Berkeley led the top publics at 64 percent.
  • Dropped 11 spots in faculty resources, after having dropped 12 spots last year, now ranking 70th overall and fifth among the top publics (UNC tied with Michigan last year at fourth among the publics). UNC was 59th last year, 47th two years ago, 35th three years ago and 50th four years ago. UNC has ranked 70th or lower four times in the past 14 years. This category measures undergraduate class size; two academic years (2010-11 and 2011-12) 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.
  • Tied for seventh among the best undergraduate business programs. Kenan-Flagler Business School tied with Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon University; marketing tied for fifth among specialty areas.
  • Tied for 13th with Wake Forest University for a “strong commitment to teaching.”
  • Listed among outstanding undergraduate programs with“A Focus on Student Success.” Carolina was cited for exemplaryfirst-year experience (seminars and other programs bringing small groups of students together regularly with faculty and staff),undergraduate research/creative projects, study abroad and service learning.

The rankings appear in the 2013 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook and at starting on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

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