Florida universities, which have been in the center of national polarization for months, have seen a mixed bag in U.S. News & World Report college rankings, with both positive and negative views and some changes in the methodology.
In a separate category in the rankings for public universities only, some Florida universities stumbled. For example, Florida State University moved to a figure of 23 in the 2024 rankings compared to 19 last year, and the University of Florida went from a ranking of 6 in 2024 to 5 the year before — both negative changes.
But colleges and universities, both public and private, often did better in the category of top-notch national universities, with undergraduate programs as well as master’s and doctoral programs.
In the 2024 rankings, the University of Florida posted a figure of 28 in the national universities category, compared to 29 last year. For FSU, the figure was 53, compared to 55 last year. Each of those meant a positive ranking.
Meanwhile, the private University of Miami fell 12 spots to rank 67th nationally in 2024 — tied with Syracuse University, George Washington University, the University of Massachusetts — Amherst, the University of Pittsburg and Villanova University. Miami ranks below UF and FSU, despite having tuition about nine times greater than the two public schools.
Eric Gertler, CEO of U.S. News, said this year’s rankings reflect a shift to an “outcomes-focused methodology.”
“The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them.”
And 2024’s rankings placed a greater emphasis on social mobility and post-graduation outcomes for students, with 1,500 schools evaluated along 19 factors of quality, according to a press release.
In addition, 20% of the rating comes from a peer assessment score, which U.S. News says is to capture academic reputation.
“Each year, top academics – presidents, provosts and deans of admissions – rate the academic quality of peer institutions with which they are familiar on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished),” U.S. News said on its website. “We take a two-year weighted average of the ratings. Those who don’t know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly are asked to mark ‘don’t know.’”
Florida has been bombarded by the anti-woke rhetoric and action of Gov. Ron DeSantis and conservative politicians who are pushing higher education reforms and policies such as post-tenure reviews that have been blasted by faculty unions.
Meanwhile, the peer assessment related to the rankings is ultimately outweighed by more quantitative factors.
“Outcomes,” which comprise 52% of an institution’s rating, account for variables such as the average 6-year graduation rate and social mobility rank. 11% comes from “Faculty Resources,” with factors such as student-faculty ratio and faculty compensation rank. Smaller measurements factor in a school’s financial resources, faculty research, and SAT/ACT scores of admitted students.
The U.S. News’ 2024 national rankings are for schools that “offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs,” as well as have research focuses. These rankings include both public, state-funded universities – such as the University of Florida – and private schools with much larger legacies and endowments – such as Harvard University.
U.S. News recognized Florida Atlantic University and Florida Gulf Coast University as schools that saw significant increases in their rank. FAU jumped 54 spots to 209th in the national rankings – tied with six other schools, including Chatham University and Illinois State University.
“The Florida Atlantic community has worked incredibly hard to reach new levels of excellence,” FAU President Stacy Volnick said in a statement. “It’s an honor to see our efforts reflected in this year’s rankings as we continue to innovate and expand while ensuring success for all.”
FGCU moved up 80 spots in the national rankings, fourth-most of the 20 schools recognized by U.S. News. The school is tied at 304th with fifteen other schools – including Louisiana Tech University and Montana State University.
Florida A&M University now ranks among the top three historically Black colleges and universities, only behind Spelman College and Howard University. It also moved up 32 spots to 170th nationally – tied with seven other institutions such as Kansas State University and The University of Alabama.
Florida International University climbed 27 spots to get to 124th. It ties eight other universities, including James Madison University, the University of Missouri and the University of Central Florida – which climbed 13 spots to get there.
The University of North Florida also climbed 27 spots to reach 236th nationally – tied with 12 other schools, including the University of New Mexico and the University of North Dakota.
The University of South Florida moved up 8 spots to 89th – tied with Fordham University and Temple University.
UF moved up one spot to 28th this year – tied with the University of Southern California and the University of California-San Diego. FSU moved up two spots nationally to 53rd – tied with Case Western Reserve University and Northeastern University.
The public university rankings reflect institutions that may offer the same range of academic features in terms of majors, graduate schools, and research opportunities but are typically under the supervision of a state government and funded in some part by tax revenue.
Florida’s most well-known schools performed poorer. UF, the flagship of the state’s university system, dropped out of the Top 5 public university rankings – a club it had been a member of for two years prior.
The school is now tied for 6th with the University of California – Davis and the University of California – San Diego. It ends UF’s multi-year meteoric rise in the public rankings.
(UF’s consolation is its status as the best public university in the Wall Street Journal’s 2024 rankings. The school wasted no time hanging up banners for its new rank, many of which were stolen by students within weeks.)
FSU fell out of the top 20 public universities, dropping from 19th to 23rd – tied with the University of Minnesota and Wiliam & Mary.
USF also faltered in the public university rankings, moving down three spots to 45th. UCF stayed at 64th – maintained its status at 64th in the public rankings – tied with Florida International University, James Madison University, and the University of Missouri.
FAU rose 20 spots to 112th in the public university rankings – tied with Illinois State University and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Other categories include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Florida A & M University, in Tallahassee, is now ranked the best public HBCU in the country. (The first two HBCU’s on the list are private schools: Spelman College in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington, D.C.)
After its much-publicized rebranding by conservative interests, New College of Florida fell 24 spots in the rankings for national liberal arts colleges to 100th – tied with six other schools, including Sarah Lawrence College and Morehouse College.
Another category, regional colleges in the South, includes Florida Polytechnic, a public school ranked 2nd in the Regional Colleges South. It is followed by two Florida private institutions, Flagler College and Beacon College, which are respectively tied for 3rd.
In addition, the University of West Florida, another public school, is ranked 27th in the Regional Universities South category. The list is littered with Florida private schools: Rollins College ranked 1st, Stetson University at 3rd, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at 6th and Florida Southern College tied for 11th.
The Florida Board of Governors declared the rankings a victory. In a Monday statement, University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, credited Florida’s “performance-based funding model” and legislative investment for improvements in the national rankings.
“The U.S. News and World Report rankings are another endorsement that Florida is leading the nation in higher education,” Rodrigues said.
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