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

For the 14th consecutive year, Carolina has been ranked fifth among the nation’s best public universities, 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 are identical to those of the past three years.

Among both national public and private universities, Carolina ranked 30th overall, the same as in 2013, 2012 and 2011. Other public universities were 20th (Berkeley, which also was 20th last year), tied for 23rd (UCLA and Virginia) and 29th (Michigan). Overall composite scores of all five top publics remained the same at Berkeley (79) and UCLA and Virginia (76); they went down two points at Michigan (to 72 from 74 last year) and one point at UNC (to 71 from 72 last year and 73 the year before).

U.S. News rankings, dominated by private campuses, are based on a formula that is weighted as follows: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), assessment by peers and counselors (22.5 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (12.5 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (difference between actual and predicted graduation rates, 7.5 percent) and alumni giving (5 percent).

UNC’s results included:

  • First among national public universities for the 10th consecutive year and 17th overall (the same as last year and in 2012, vs. 12th in 2011) 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 2013-14. Forty-two percent of UNC undergraduates received need-based aid in 2013; Carolina meets 100 percent of the documented need of undergraduates qualifying for need-based aid who apply on time.
  • Third among publics (vs. second last year) and 10th overall (vs. seventh last year) for least debt, with 39 percent of students graduating with debt and an average amount of $17,602.
  • A 97 percent average first-year retention rate for the sixth consecutive year.
  • A 90 percent average six-year graduation rate, 3 percentage points better than U.S. News predicted. (UNC’s four-year rate graduation is nearly 82 percent.)
  • Thirteen percent of course sections enrolled 50 or more students, holding at the same number as the past three years. That remains the lowest rate among the other top publics for the seventh year in a row. Thirty-nine percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. Berkeley led the top publics at 63 percent.
  • Ranked 68th overall for the second year in a row and fourth among the top publics in faculty resources. UNC was 70th two years ago, 59th three years ago, 47th four years ago and 35th five years ago. This category measures undergraduate class size; two academic years (2012-13 and 2013-14) 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 second among publics and 22nd overall in high school counselors’ picks.
  • Tied for sixth overall and third among the top publics in best undergraduate business programs. Among specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler Business School ranked fifth in management.
  • As it was in 2013 and 2012, UNC was listed among outstanding undergraduate programs with “A Focus on Student Success.” Carolina was cited for exemplary first-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 2015 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook and at

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