UNC ranks 5th among publics: U.S. News & World Report

August 19, 2005
CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked as the nation’s fifth best public university and stands out as a national leader in promoting student accessibility, according to U.S. News & World Report magazine.In addition, 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. It was the university’s best showing in the past six years; the lowest had been 71st twice during that period. Two other rankings – best value and least debt load – affirmed Carolina’s leadership role in measures of student accessibility.

In faculty resources, 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.

“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.”

Another university priority is creating the richest possible learning environment for students, Moeser said. “The U.S. News rankings examine important aspects of the exceptional education we provide to undergraduates,” he said.

Among public campuses, the University of California at 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 for the fifth consecutive year. For years, these five campuses have held the top five spots.

Overall, Carolina tied for 27th – up two spots from last year – among both public and private campuses with Tufts and Wake Forest universities. 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 and will be posted at www.usnews.com Friday (Aug. 19) at 12:01 a.m. EDT. The magazine’s Aug. 29 edition and the guidebook are scheduled to be on newsstands Monday (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.

UNC ranked first among national public campuses and 10th overall – up nine places from last year – 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.

Moeser said campus practices protect access and affordability. Among undergraduates, 33 percent received need-based financial aid in 2004-05. UNC met two-thirds of undergraduates’ need with scholarships and grants and the remaining third with loans and work-study jobs. Traditionally, aid packages on most campuses are closer to two-thirds loans and one-third grants.

In recent years, when UNC-Chapel Hill enacted a campus-based tuition increase for undergraduates, 35 percent of the revenue went to grants for needy students. Every needy student received a grant to cover a campus-based tuition increase.

UNC has launched the Carolina Covenant, a first among U.S. public universities, that makes a Chapel Hill education possible debt-free for qualified low-income students. Eligible freshmen can graduate without borrowing by doing a work-study job. Carolina meets the rest of their needs through federal, state and private grants and scholarships. This fall, the second class of Covenant scholars is enrolling. An estimated 340 to 350 new first-year students will participate under expanded eligibility requirements announced by Moeser last year.

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 2004, 54 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. That was second (topped only by UC-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 other U.S. News rankings, UNC’s 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.

U.S. News included Carolina 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.

UNC 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.

Another category of “programs to look for” was undergraduate research/creative projects, in which UNC 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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UNC contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, mike_mcfarland@unc.edu U.S. News contact: Beth Seibold, (212) 210-6314, bseibold@usnews.com

For further information please contact Ramona DuBose by email at ramona_dubose@unc.edu