(photo by Donn Young)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, once again ranks among the very best universities and colleges in the nation.

A leading public research university committed to making its high-quality education accessible and affordable, UNC-Chapel Hill placed fifth among national public universities for the 17th straight year, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” rankings, published Sept. 12 on www.usnews.com. For the 13th consecutive year, Carolina also places first among national public universities and ninth overall in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on academic quality and the 2016-2017 net cost of attendance for a student receiving the average level of need-based financial aid.

“Carolina’s placement among the top five public universities for the 17th consecutive year is testament to an enduring commitment to excellence and creative solutions by our students, faculty and staff to tackle the world’s most complex problems,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “The Carolina community continues to make a difference in people’s lives – in our state and well beyond North Carolina’s borders – through a continuing dedication to distinguished scholarship, groundbreaking research and life-changing public service.”

UNC-Chapel Hill maintains its top-five standing alongside the same public universities perennially at the top of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. This year, the University of California at Berkeley placed first, followed by the University of California at Los Angeles, second; the University of Virginia, third; and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, fourth.

U.S. News & World Report bases the rankings on several weighted key measures of quality: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), assessment of excellence by academic peers and high school counselors (22.5 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (12.5 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (difference between actual and U.S. News’ predicted graduation rates, 7.5 percent) and alumni giving (5 percent).

For the 12th consecutive year, Carolina set a record for total number of applicants – receiving 40,926 applications for fall 2017 admission — up 14 percent over last year. Forty-four percent of this year’s incoming class ranked among the top 10 students of their high school class, and 78 percent ranked in the top 10 percent.

The University has a unique commitment to making a Carolina education accessible to deserving students. The University practices need-blind admissions and proudly 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. This dedication to providing support and opportunities to low-income students through programs such as Carolina Firsts and the Carolina Covenant was recognized by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation when in June of 2017 Carolina became the first public university to receive the Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence. In addition to being recognized by U.S. News for this commitment, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has ranked Carolina first 16 times among U.S. public colleges and universities offering stellar academics at a reasonable price.

In the U.S. News & World Report rankings, UNC-Chapel Hill was again ranked 30th overall among both public and private universities and colleges. The other top publics were tied for 21st (UC-Berkeley and UCLA), 25th (Virginia) and 28th (Michigan).

UNC-Chapel Hill’s other U.S. News rankings included the following:

  • First among national public universities for the 13th consecutive year and ninth overall in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” based on academic quality and the 2016-17 net cost of attendance for a student receiving the average level of need-based financial aid.
  • 12th among publics and 21st overall among national universities for least debt, with 42 percent of seniors graduating with debt and an average amount of $20,852 according to U.S. News.
  • A 97 percent average first-year retention rate for the ninth consecutive year and a 91 percent average six-year graduation rate, two percentage points better than U.S. News predicted.
  • Only 14 percent of 2016 course sections enrolled 50 or more students, second to UC-Berkeley (13 percent) with the lowest rate among the top five publics. Thirty-nine percent of Carolina’s course sections enrolled fewer than 20 students. UC-Berkeley continues to lead the top five publics at 61 percent.
  • Fifth among the top publics and 94th overall in faculty resources. UNC-Chapel Hill was 89th last year after placing as high as 47th seven years ago. This category measures undergraduate size, two academic years (2015-16 and 2016-17) 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 third among public universities with Michigan and tied for 22nd overall in high school counselors’ top picks.
  • Tied for seventh overall and tied for fourth among publics in best undergraduate business programs. Among specialty areas, Kenan-Flagler Business School ranked fourth in management.
  • Tied for 10th overall and fourth among publics in best colleges for veterans, a reflection of the strong support UNC-Chapel Hill increasingly provides to military students through initiatives including the UNC Core, a distance-learning program; Green Zone training; Student Veteran Resources and the Warrior Scholar Project.
  • Three mentions under “Programs to Look For” — outstanding examples of academic programs that led to student success. UNC-Chapel Hill appears in the categories for first-year experience, service learning and undergraduate research/creative projects.
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