UConn is marking its 10th straight year among the nation’s Top 25 public universities, safeguarding and building on its strengths over the last decade as a pacesetter in student success and academic excellence.
U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings place UConn as No. 23 among the nation’s public institutions, the same ranking it held last year and a spot that it shares this year with two peer institutions. The rankings were released Monday.
This year’s assessment shows UConn continues to retain and graduate its students at strong rates, to have a strong academic reputation in the U.S. higher education landscape, ensure that low-income students have access and tools for success, and help keep graduates’ indebtedness below state and national averages.
“Consistency is a particularly important part of excellence. UConn’s placement among the nation’s top 25 universities over the past decade underscores its deep and abiding commitment to excellence in academics and student success,” says Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, UConn Interim President and CEO of UConn Health.
“Maintaining our strong position against the challenging backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic is particularly gratifying,” he says. “It is a testament to the resilience and dedication of UConn’s students, faculty and staff, as well as our state’s leaders, and the many others who support and sustain the institution’s continual drive for quality.”
UConn’s most impactful improvement this year is in the measure of faculty resources, including having a significant number of faculty who hold the highest degree in their field, having class sizes conducive to strong learning and instruction, and offering appropriate faculty compensation as adjusted for regional differences.
UConn’s ranking for the academic reputation for its undergraduate programs among other institutions has also been steadily increasing over the last several years. It is calculated as a two-year weighted average of survey responses from presidents, provosts, and admissions leaders, and accounts for 20% of the weighting in the overall ranking.
U.S. News officials say that ranking is important to help capture advances that aren’t otherwise easy to quantify, such as institutional innovation and a range of other areas. UConn is active in many such initiatives in its academic and research realms, along with its work in faculty recruitment and retention.
“It’s validating to see advancements in areas we are intentionally targeting through University priorities. On the faculty side, we are engaged in a number of initiatives to attract and support a diverse array of excellent scholars with tangible efforts to retain them here at UConn,” says Carl Lejuez, UConn’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.
“On the student side, our Life-Transformative Education initiative is deeply involved in ensuring every student has access and opportunity to engage in co-curricular and mentoring experiences that will maximize their success at UConn and beyond,” he says.
UConn first moved into the U.S. News top 25 rankings in 2011 and has remained there ever since. Before that, it had already been in the top 30 since 2004.
That comes despite demographic changes that have shrunk the nation’s high school graduate pools; changes in state aid and other financial indicators; expansions and improvements at some peer institutions; and other factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic. UConn is tied this year for its No. 23 spot with Penn State and Rutgers, the same as last year.
Many of the components that have driven UConn’s strong rankings align with the University’s academic mission and form the basis of its strategic plan, for which the Office of the Provost is leading a comprehensive update process.
According to the U.S. News rankings, UConn continues to show consistently strong performance on many metrics:
• A jump of six spots in the rankings for faculty resources, an indicator that accounts for 20% of the overall ranking and captures class size indexes, faculty education and compensation, student-faculty ratio, and related factors.
• High average freshman retention rates and six-year graduation rates, at 94% and 84% respectively; and consistently strong graduation rates for lower-income students receiving Pell Grants as measured on a two-year average. Those measures and others that assess academic outcomes count for 30% of the overall ranking.
• The remaining 30 percent comprises metrics on student excellence, financial resources, alumni giving and graduate indebtedness. In fact, UConn graduate indebtedness decreased by more than $1,600 between last year’s and this year’s ranking and remains below the state and national averages.
Although the average SAT score of incoming students decreased slightly, UConn does not see that as cause for concern. That is both because it uses a holistic admissions process that considers all elements of a student’s application which are connected to student success, and because it’s piloting a test-optional admissions policy to determine if that increases accessibility to talented students who might otherwise face barriers associated with the tests, without diminishing student outcomes.
“While it is still very early, we are encouraged by the strong response to the test-optional pilot on the part of prospective students,” says Nathan Fuerst, UConn’s Vice President for Enrollment Planning & Management, adding that UConn’s fall 2021 entering class drew record applications, resulting in the most diverse class in the University’s history.
“At the onset of the pandemic, the University was well positioned to announce the test-optional pilot, as our enrollment team has been engaged in self-study on the topic for some time,” he says. “What we observed in response with this first class of test-optional applicants was very encouraging.”
Another measure of the U.S. News ranking, the percentage of living alumni who donate to their institutions, counts for 3% of the total. In UConn’s case, a two-year average of about 7% of living alumni with bachelor’s degrees donated to the university in the timeframe considered, a decline from recent years.
However, that does not indicate a decline in support for the University. Although the numbers of individual alumni who donated might be down, the UConn Foundation reported its second straight record-setting year with more than $93.3 million in new gifts and commitments in FY2021 – up from the previous record of $89.5 million the year before, despite significant economic challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects.
The University was one of 210 national public institutions that were part of this year’s U.S. News & World Report survey. Overall, the rankings included 391 public and private institutions, in which UConn shared the No. 63 ranking with four other institutions.
In addition to the overall institutional ranking, UConn was named the No. 33 best institution for veterans, the No. 49 best for undergraduate business programs, and No. 58 for best undergraduate nursing programs. The undergraduate computer science and engineering programs also were recognized at numbers 71 and 72 in their academic fields, respectively.