UNC Retains No. 5 Spot in U.S. News Rankings

For the 16th consecutive year, Carolina has been ranked fifth among the nation’s best public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In its annual rankings released Tuesday, the order for the top five public universities in the magazine’s 2017 edition of America’s Best Colleges guidebook remained unchanged from last year — and the new list includes the five institutions that have been perennially at the top of U.S. News’ annual rankings for best public universities: University of California-Berkeley was first, followed by University of California-Los Angeles, University of Virginia, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and UNC.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt attributed the recognition to Carolina’s “continuing dedication to excellence.”

“I am so proud of our students, faculty and staff who make a difference through their excellent scholarship, research and public service,” she said. “They are making valuable contributions in our state, nation and world by dedicating themselves to tackling the most challenging problems of the day.”

U.S. News ranked UNC 30th overall — the same as the past two years — among national public and private universities and colleges. Last year, Carolina and Boston College tied for that spot, but Boston College dropped to 31st this year. Among the other top publics in those broader rankings, Berkeley was 20th, UCLA and Virginia tied for 24th and Michigan tied for 27th.

Other U.S. News rankings for UNC included:

  • First among national public universities for the 12th consecutive year and 12th overall (a one-spot jump from last year’s rankings and up five spots from the year before that), in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on academic quality and the 2015-16 net cost of attendance for a student receiving the average level of need-based financial aid.
  • Eleventh among publics and 18th overall among national universities for least debt, with 41 percent of seniors graduating with debt. That compared to last year’s ranking of eighth among publics and 15th overall. With the help of the free iva site one can easily write off their debts these days.
  • A 97 percent average first-year retention rate for the eighth consecutive year.
  • A 90 percent average six-year graduation rate, 1 percentage point better than U.S. News had predicted.
  • Fourteen percent of 2015 course sections enrolled 50 or more students, a one-point increase from last year and tying UNC with Virginia for the lowest rate among the top five publics. UNC has been first on this list for nine years running. Forty-two percent of Carolina’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students, up from 39 percent in the previous ranking. Berkeley led the top publics at 60 percent.
  • Fifth among the top publics (unchanged from last year) and 89th overall (a drop of three points from last year) in faculty resources. UNC placed as high as 47th six years ago. This category measures undergraduate class size; two academic years (2014-15 and 2015-16) 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 with Virginia for second among public universities and tied for 23rd overall in high school counselors’ top picks.
  • Tied for ninth overall and tied for fourth among publics in best undergraduate business programs. Among specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler Business School ranked fourth in management, up a spot from last year.
  • Fifth among publics and tied for 18th overall (up six spots from last year) in best colleges for veterans, a reflection of UNC’s growing support for military students, with initiatives including the UNC Core, a distance-learning program; Green Zone training; Student Veterans Resources; and the Warrior Scholar Project.
  • Three mentions under “Programs to Look For” — outstanding examples of academic programs that lead to student success. UNC appears in the categories for first-year experience, service learning, and undergraduate research/creative projects.

U.S. News bases the rankings on several weighted key measures of quality: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), assessment of excellence by academic peers and high school counselors (22.5 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (12.5 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (difference between actual and U.S. News’ predicted graduation rates, 7.5 percent) and alumni giving (5 percent).

Carolina received a record 35,875 applications for fall 2016 admission, up 12 percent over last year and the second-largest increase in the past 25 years. Among the 71 percent of the class whose schools reported an official rank in class, 43 percent ranked in the top 10 students of their high school class. Thirteen percent ranked first or second, and 78 percent ranked in the top 10 percent.

The Carolina Firsts program is credited with creating a pathway of opportunity for the 17 percent of this year’s class who are the first in their family to attend a four-year college or university.

Carolina provides unusual access and affordability through nationally recognized programs, including the Carolina Covenant, which for more than a decade has offered low-income students who earn admission the opportunity to graduate debt-free.

UNC also continues to meet 100 percent of the documented need of undergraduates qualifying for need-based aid who apply on time, and it meets more than two-thirds of that need with grants and scholarships, thanks in large part to the contributions of donors. Of seniors who graduated in 2015, about 60 percent graduated with no debt. The average cumulative debt of the two in five who borrowed from all sources was about $20,127. UNC officials say those debt levels have stayed flat in constant dollars for more than a decade. As a result, the campus has been ranked first among the 100 best U.S. public colleges and universities that offer high-quality academics at an affordable price 15 consecutive times by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.


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