University News

Carolina ranks fifth among nation’s best public universities

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been ranked No. 5 for 14 straight years.

Old Well with fall leaves in the background

Once again, the nation’s oldest public university is also ranked one of the best.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill rates fifth among the nation’s best public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook, published at www.usnews.com.

Carolina – a top public research university strongly committed to access and affordability – now has been ranked No. 5 for 14 straight years.

“Being ranked among the top five national public universities by U.S. News and World Report for the 14th consecutive year is a great honor and represents a commitment to excellence throughout our campus,’’ said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Our high rankings across the leading national surveys reflect the outstanding work by our students, faculty and staff that continue to make Carolina one of the most excellent and desired public universities in America.”

The order for the top five public universities also remained unchanged: University of California-Berkeley ranked first, followed by University of California-Los Angeles and University of Virginia (tied for second), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (fourth) and UNC-Chapel Hill (fifth).

U.S. News rankings are based on several key measures of quality, weighted as follows: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), assessment of excellence 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).

Yet Carolina, which boasted a record 31,331 applications for 2014 admission, offers even more. It has been ranked first among the 100 best U.S. public colleges and universities that offer student high-quality academics at an affordable price 13 straight times by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. It features 325 study abroad programs in 70 countries. It rates seventh nationally in university research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

And the Carolina Covenant, in its 10th year, is UNC-Chapel Hill’s promise to youth from low-income families who earn admission that they can graduate debt-free. Grants, scholarships, and work-study jobs allow Covenant Scholars the opportunity to graduate from Carolina without student loans. More than 4,000 high-achieving, low-income students have been supported, earning an average 3.0 grade point average.

Among both national public and private universities, UNC ranked 30th overall according to US News & World Report, the same as last year. Other publics were 20th (Berkeley), tied for 23rd (UCLA and Virginia) and 29th (Michigan). Among the top five publics, overall composite scores remained the same at Berkeley (79) , UCLA and Virginia (76), and went down two points at Michigan (72) and one point at UNC (71).

Other U.S. News rankings results for UNC-Chapel Hill included the following:

  • First among national public universities for the 10th consecutive year and 17th overall 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 2013-2014. 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 and 10th overall 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-Chapel Hill’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 last two years. That remains the lowest rate among the other top publics for the seventh year in a row. Thirty-nine percent of UNC-Chapel Hill’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students, up from 37 percent. 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-Chapel Hill 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 (2012-2013 and 2013-2014) 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, eighth in finance, and tied for ninth in entrepreneurship.
  • 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 and service learning.