UNC Fifth Among Public Schools in New U.S. News Rankings

For the sixth consecutive year, Carolina ranks as the nation’s fifth-best public university, according to U.S. News and World Report. The magazine’s annual rankings also placed UNC as a leader among public universities in promoting in student accessibility.

UNC ranks first among public campuses for the second consecutive year in the magazine’s “Great Schools, Great Prices” list, based on academic quality and the net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average level of need-based financial aid. UNC placed ninth in that category among all public and private universities, up from 10th last year.

Carolina also held steady – dropping from 39th to 40th – among public and private universities in faculty resources, a category of particular interest to UNC, which had advanced a whopping 32 places the prior two years. The new rank was still UNC’s second best showing in the past seven years; the lowest was 71st twice during that period.

These rankings are part of the annual U.S. News “America’s Best Colleges” issue and come when UNC is enrolling its third class of Carolina Covenant Scholars. The program, a first among major public universities, guarantees a debt-free education to qualified low-income students. Several public and private universities and at least one state – Wisconsin – have followed Carolina’s lead in creating similar programs.

“We continue to benchmark our progress against the critical University priorities that will determine Carolina’s future success and best benefit the people of North Carolina,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “Student accessibility and faculty resources are two examples of areas in which the U.S. News analysis is helpful in gauging our overall position and the strength of our positive momentum.”

Moeser said Carolina was committed to maintaining its leadership position among public campuses in providing access to qualified students and continuing aggressive efforts to improve faculty compensation and retention.

“With generous appropriations in the last budget from the N.C. General Assembly and the strong support of UNC President Erskine Bowles [’67], we are making great strides forward with strengthening efforts to recruit and retain top faculty,” he said. “A great faculty is the key to sustaining the kind of learning environment that provides the best possible education to our undergraduates.”

Among public universities, Carolina’s fifth-place ranking followed the University of California at Berkeley in first, the universities of Michigan and Virginia in a tie for second and the University of California at Los Angeles at fourth. These five campuses have alternated holding the top five spots for several years.

Overall, Carolina tied for 27th – the same as last year – among public and private campuses with Tufts University and the University of Southern California. Other top publics ranked between 21st (Berkeley) and 26th (UCLA).

The new rankings appear in the 2007 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook. The Aug. 28 edition and the guidebook will be on newsstands Monday, Aug. 21.

The rankings formula considers responses to opinion surveys about academic excellence from peer campus presidents, provosts or admissions officials. Objective data covers student retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rates and alumni giving.

In faculty resources, U.S. News examined snapshots of class size (fewer than 20 students and 50 students or more); average faculty compensation in 2004-05 and 2005-06; proportion of full-time faculty and with the highest degree in their field; and student-faculty ratio. That the U.S. News analysis included faculty pay from 2004-05 is significant because that data reflected a freeze on campus-based tuition set by the UNC System during the prior academic year because of the state’s economic conditions. Campus-based tuition helps support faculty salaries. In 2003-04, with no campus-based tuition revenue available, UNC faculty received an average 2.48 percent raise. In the prior three years and two since, the combination of tuition revenue and state appropriations funded increases ranging from 2.5 percent to 5.6 percent.

UNC’s own measures of excellence, developed in 2002 in consultation with trustees, emphasize indicators that the University provides an outstanding, intellectually challenging liberal arts education for undergraduates. The University has invested its resources based on these key priorities such as class size.

In 2005, 50 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. That was third among the major publics, behind Berkeley (59 percent) and UCLA (51 percent). U.S. News considered an additional measure: Only 11 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled 50 or more students in 2005, holding steady from the previous year and leading all top public campuses.

Another category – least debt among students – listed UNC 18th among publics and 22nd overall, with 34 percent of all graduating seniors posting an average debt of $13,801 in 2005. In past years, less than a quarter of UNC’s graduating students accumulated debt. Among undergraduates, 32 percent received need-based financial aid in 2005-06. UNC met full need for undergraduates, with two-thirds of that need coming from scholarships and grants and the remaining third from loans and work-study jobs.

Since 1999, when UNC enacted a campus-based tuition increase, 35 percent of that revenue has been dedicated to providing grants for students with need. Every needy student received a grant that covered the cost of a campus tuition increase.

In other U.S. News rankings, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School tied for fifth with New York University and the University of Texas at Austin among undergraduate business degree programs. Kenan-Flagler was third among publics. In specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler was fourth for management and tied for fifth for marketing.

U.S. News also included UNC in a category called “programs to look for,” highlighting outstanding academic programs that lead to student success. UNC was among 39 overall for first-year experiences programs, which include first-year seminars and other programs bringing small groups of students with faculty and staff on a regular basis. UNC was among 22 public campuses selected for this list.

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