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Aug. 17, 2007
UNC again leads in student accessibility, ranks 5th among publics in U.S. News & World Report list
CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill leads the nation’s public universities in making higher education accessible for students, according to U.S. News and World Report magazine.
UNC ranked first among public campuses for the third 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. Overall, UNC ranked ninth among public and private campuses on this list for the second year in a row.
This fall, UNC enrolls its fourth class of Carolina Covenant Scholars through the Carolina Covenant, which guarantees a debt-free education to qualified low-income students. Next spring, the first class of Covenant Scholars will graduate. The program has been the model for more than 40 similar initiatives across the country. Other publications, including Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, have ranked Carolina the best value in American public higher education in part because of the Carolina Covenant.
“Making a Carolina education available to qualified students regardless of their financial means is a major priority for us,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “This U.S. News analysis tracks with the positive results we have seen from the Carolina Covenant and an excellent overall financial aid program. We are proud to have helped set the bar high for accessibility at the national level and to support deserving students from North Carolina.”
Moeser said the university measured success by progress with key priorities graduation and retention rates and bringing an international perspective to help North Carolina compete in a global economy.
“We want this university to be the best that it can be to help make North Carolina as successful as possible,” he said.
Among public universities, U.S. News ranked UNC fifth for the seventh consecutive year. The University of California at Berkeley was first, followed by the universities of Virginia (second) and California at Los Angeles and Michigan (tied for third). These five campuses long have topped the U.S. News list of publics.
Overall, Carolina tied for 28th among public and private campuses with Tufts University. Other leading publics ranked between 21st (Berkeley) and 25th (UCLA and Michigan). UNC also tied with Tufts at 27th last year along with the University of Southern California, which is ranked alone in that spot this year.
The new rankings appear in the 2008 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook and will be posted at www.usnews.com Friday (Aug. 17) at 12:01 a.m.
EDT. The Aug. 27 edition and the guidebook hit newsstands Monday (Aug. 20).
The rankings formula factors in responses to opinion surveys about academic quality from peer campus presidents, provosts or admissions officials. Objective data covers areas such as student graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
UNC’s own measures of excellence, developed in 2002 in consultation with the Board of 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 including student accessibility.
Besides leading the U.S. News list of “Great Schools, Great Prices,” UNC ranked 14th among publics for “least debt” and 22nd overall. The magazine listed average student debt at UNC at $14,487 in 2006, with only 34 percent of graduating seniors borrowing. Carolina also
meets the full need of middle-income students who apply on time, with financial aid packages made up of two-thirds grants and scholarships and one-third loans and work-study. (Aid packages at many public universities are closer to one-half loans and one-half grants.)
Since 1999, when UNC-Chapel Hill enacted a campus-based tuition increase, 35 percent of that revenue has been dedicated to providing grants for every needy student that covered the cost of a campus tuition hike.
Class size is another key UNC benchmark that figures into the U.S. News rankings in the faculty resources category. In 2006, 47 percent of UNC’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. That was fourth among the five major publics. Only 11 percent of UNC course sections enrolled 50 or more students, the same as last year and first among the five leading publics.
Carolina’s faculty resources ranking of 50th, down 10 spots from last year, does not fully take into account the last two years of significant progress with faculty compensation, the university’s number one priority, Moeser said.
The N.C. General Assembly has approved major appropriations to help support faculty salaries, he said. Combined with revenue generated by campus-based tuition increases, the university will award significant raises to faculty this fall for the second year in a row. Last year, more than 3,100 faculty received salary increases averaging about 7.1 percent.
“We have seen the impact from these positive trends in the latest results of our efforts to track faculty retention and recruitment,” Moeser said. “The improving salary picture is among the reasons that we are in a much stronger position in keeping and attracting excellent faculty who are approached by other campuses.”
Moeser also said he expected such progress with faculty resources fueled by legislative support to be more fully reflected in future rankings snapshots developed by U.S. News or other publications.
Faculty compensation, including salary and benefits, accounts for 35 percent of the total faculty resources score in the U.S. News analysis using 2005-06 and 2006-07 data compiled by a consultant and adjusted for regional differences. In this category, the magazine also examined class size (fewer than 20 students and 50 students or more); proportion of full-time faculty and with the highest degree in their field; and student-faculty ratio. In the past three years, UNC’s total faculty resources score has ranged between 39th and 50th. The low came in 2003 at 71st.
In other U.S. News rankings, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School tied for fifth with New York University among undergraduate business degree programs. Kenan-Flagler was third overall among publics. In specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler was fourth for both management and marketing.
U.S. News also included Carolina in a category called “programs to look for,” highlighting outstanding academic programs that lead to student success. UNC was among 40 schools listed .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. The university also was among a group of public and private campuses that U.S. News praised for offering innovative opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in research and creative projects.
UNC contact: Mike McFarland, (919) 962-8593, email@example.com
U.S. News contact: firstname.lastname@example.org