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UNC Fifth in U.S. News Rankings; Faculty Resources, Student Accessibility Cited

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

UNC posted an 11-point gain – following last year’s 21-point rise – in faculty resources. That 39th overall ranking was up from 50th in 2004 and was UNC’s best showing in the past six years. U.S. News examined snapshots of class size (fewer than 20 students and 50 students or more), average faculty compensation in 2003-04 and 2004-05, proportion of faculty who are full time and with the highest degree in their field, and student-faculty ratio.

In 2004, 54 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. That was second (topped only by the University of California at Berkeley at 58 percent) among UNC’s top public peers and up from 51 percent in 2003. U.S. News considered an additional measure: Only 11 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled 50 or more students in 2004, down from 12 percent the previous year.

In student accessibility measurements, UNC ranked first among national public campuses and 10th overall in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on a formula determining which schools offer best value by relating academic quality to the net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average level of financial aid.

Another category – least debt among students – listed UNC fifth among public campuses and eighth overall, with 24 percent of graduates posting an average debt of $11,751 in 2004. In 2003, that number was $11,519, down from $13,700 in 2000. Less than a quarter of Carolina’s graduating students accumulate debt. By contrast, the nation’s average student debt loan doubled to $18,900 in about a decade.

“Carolina is making excellent progress toward University priorities we have set ourselves,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “Overall, our focus is on promoting excellence in all that we do in order to benefit the people of North Carolina and beyond. Our top priority is strengthening faculty recruitment, retention and development, and these U.S. News results show how last year’s state appropriations and campus-based tuition revenue helped keep us competitive in faculty compensation with our national peers.”

Among public campuses, Berkeley ranked first, followed by the University of Virginia. The universities of California at Los Angeles and Michigan at Ann Arbor tied for third, followed by UNC at fifth. These five campuses have held the top five spots for a number of years.

Harvard and Princeton universities again tied for the overall top ranking, as they did a year earlier. Yale was third, the University of Pennsylvania was fourth, and Duke and Stanford tied for fifth.

Overall, Carolina tied for 27th – up two spots from last year – with Tufts and Wake Forest universities among both public and private campuses. Other top public campuses ranked between 20th (Berkeley) and 25th (UCLA and Michigan).

The new rankings appear in the magazine’s 2006 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook, due on newsstands Aug. 22.

The U.S. News rankings formula weighs data including opinion survey responses about academic excellence from peer presidents, provosts or admissions officials; student retention rates; faculty resources; student selectivity; financial resources; graduation rates; and alumni giving.

In other U.S. News rankings:

  • Kenan-Flagler Business School tied for fifth with Carnegie Mellon and New York universities, as well as the University of Texas at Austin, among undergraduate business degree programs. Kenan-Flagler tied for second among public campuses. In specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler tied for fourth with Berkeley for marketing and ranked fifth in management.
  • Carolina was included in a category called “programs to look for,” highlighting outstanding examples of academic programs that lead to student success. Education experts, including staff of the Association of American Colleges of Universities, helped identify these programs.
  • Carolina was among 43 public and private campuses cited for their first-year experiences programs, which include first-year seminars and other programs bringing small groups of students together with faculty and staff on a regular basis. UNC was one of 22 public campuses selected for this list.
  • In another category of “programs to look for” involving undergraduate research/creative projects, Carolina was listed among a dozen public campuses and 36 universities overall. This category reflects opportunities for students to engage in independent or small-team work under the direction of a faculty mentor. Students conduct intensive and self-directed research or creative work that results in an original scholarly paper or other product that they can formally present on or off campus.

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