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Wall Street Journal ranks Carolina third among publics in graduate success, student learning

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was among only four public universities to crack the list’s top 40.

Old Well at sunset.
Fall scene of the Old Well on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 2017. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked third among U.S. public universities and 33rd overall in a list based on graduate success and student learning published by The Wall Street Journal and the London-based Times Higher Education.

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2018, posted on the newspaper’s website, drew from 15 performance metrics the publications say were designed to answer questions that prospective students ask when choosing a university.

Carolina – a leading public research university with an uncommon commitment to accessibility and affordability — was among only four public universities to crack the list’s top 40. The University of California at Los Angeles ranked 25th, followed by the University of Michigan at 27th and UNC-Chapel Hill at 33rd.

Harvard University took the top-ranking spot, followed by Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

The metrics used in the ranking were weighted from categories including resources (finance per student, faculty-student ratio and number of academic papers published by faculty between 2011 and 2015), 30 percent; engagement (using results from a related survey covering student engagement, student recommendations, interaction with faculty and students, and number of accredited programs), 20 percent; outcomes (six-year graduation rates, value added to graduate salary and loan repayment rate, and academic reputation for teaching excellence), 40 percent; and environment (international student presence, student diversity and inclusion, and faculty and staff diversity), 10 percent.

Data analyzed for the rankings come from a variety of sources including the Times Higher Education survey of 200,000 current U.S. students and an annual academic reputation survey of 10,000 scholars in 133 countries. Other sources included information U.S. universities report to the federal government along with public data on topics including graduation rates, graduate employment and loan repayment.

At Carolina, the focus is on providing outstanding access and affordability through a need-blind admissions process. Students receive unique opportunities through nationally recognized programs like the Carolina Covenant, which for more than a decade has offered low-income students who earn admission the opportunity to graduate debt free.

UNC-Chapel Hill meets 100 percent of the documented need of undergraduates qualifying for need-based aid who apply on time, and meets more than two-thirds of that need with grants and scholarships thanks in large part to the contributions of generous donors.

This summer, Carolina became the first public university to receive the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence. The annual $1 million award recognizes success in enrolling low-income students and supporting them through graduation.

That level of commitment to making a Carolina education available to deserving students is a key reason 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 17 consecutive times by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. UNC-Chapel Hill also has ranked fifth among national public universities for 16 years in a row in U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” rankings.

UNC-Chapel Hill leaders appreciate the role that rankings may play in providing prospective students with helpful perspectives. However, the University also encourages students and their parents to also look closely at the fine print of those rankings methodologies and to rely on the facts, information and impressions they draw from sources including their own research and campus visits, along with the advice they receive from school counselors during the college application and selection process.