UConn Continues Strong Showings in Annual U.S. News Rankings

The rankings include excellent showings in UConn’s priorities in student success, including its exceptional rate of retention and its impressive six-year graduation rate

Aerial View of the UConn campus

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

UConn holds a strong No. 26 spot among public institutions in this year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings, demonstrating its consistent excellence even as the higher education landscape nationwide has reached fiercely competitive levels.

The rankings released Monday include excellent showings in UConn’s high-priority imperatives assessing student success, including its exceptional rate of retaining students after the first year and its consistently solid six-year graduation rates.

In another key area, UConn graduate indebtedness continues to decrease, both in amounts owed and the percentage of students leaving with loans to repay. That underscores UConn’s commitment to providing strong financial aid to qualifying students and striving for economic inclusivity.

“No ranking fully captures an institution, but this is one measure that prospective students and families do look at as they consider their options. Our position this year is very respectable and UConn remains among the best public universities in the nation,” UConn Interim President Radenka Maric says.

“That said, we are not satisfied and strongly believe that we must continually make the investments and strategic choices necessary to ensure we rise in the rankings in the years ahead,” she says.

UConn’s strong showing in this year’s U.S. News rankings comes despite demographic changes that have shrunk the nation’s high school graduate pools, heightening competition among institutions; changes in state aid and other financial indicators; and other factors, including lingering effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite those challenges, UConn drew an unprecedented pool of more than 43,000 applicants for the Class of 2026. It welcomed a record number of 4,075 first-year students starting the academic year at Storrs last month – more than 27% of whom are the first generation in their families to attend college — and another 1,750 enrolled in the regional campuses.

And although U.S. News does not measure enrollment trends among first-generation college students, UConn’s successes in that area and others show that a holistic view is needed to fully measure UConn or any institution beyond any single ranking system.

“A truly excellent university offers its students the opportunity to discover and pursue their purpose, and to support that exploration with life-transformative education,” Maric says. “Rankings can help us assess the quality and breadth of our offerings, but the true measure of success is that our students are entering the world prepared to live the life they envision for themselves.”

UConn’s ranking has been steadily improving since 2000, when it was No. 38 among public institutions, and it spent the past 10 years in the top 25. It is tied for this year’s No. 26 ranking with Texas A&M University and UMass-Amherst.

Although UConn’s ranking fell just short of the top 25 this year, it was not due to a dip in performance or any notable declines. In fact, UConn’s scores remained consistently high in most areas, particularly key indicators of student success.

Rather, several other universities have stepped up their game over the last few years and performed better than expected in some areas. Those advances, combined with changes in some metrics in the rankings, resulted in some institutions bumping others out of the top 25 and some, like UConn, being bumped.

Although schools jockey for position that way each year, those that perform better on graduation rates than U.S. News predicted received the benefit of being viewed as “punching above their weight,” and can achieve notable gains across just a few years.

In fact, UConn benefited from that perception as it moved from the 30s into the 20s over the years and settled into its current status in the pantheon of high achievers.

However, as those up-and-coming schools become UConn’s direct competitors, the University will need innovation, flexibility, and investment to help move from its excellent but stable status back into being a dynamic climber, University officials say.

“UConn continues to provide an excellent academic experience that serves our residents and our state well, delivering the best outcomes with the resources that we have available,” says Lloyd Blanchard, UConn’s interim executive vice president for administration and chief financial officer.

“We operate in a highly competitive national market, however, and any notable gains that our competitors make will have an effect on UConn’s ranking if we sit still,” he says, noting that while U.S. News and other rankings are not the primary measure of any institution, they do play a role in families’ perceptions of schools their children might consider attending.

The U.S. News ranking is one of many tools that UConn uses to consider areas to improve, all of which will help UConn’s next permanent president and its leadership as they engage in new strategic planning to bring the University to the next level.

That decision-making will also be informed by data from several other internal and independent external research sources, including some recent studies in which the University stood out for its economic inclusivity and students’ return on investment in a UConn education.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which analyzed more than 4,500 institutions throughout the U.S., recently found that a UConn education provides more than $1.52 million in return on investment over a 40-year working career.

At the same time, a recent study by the Third Way research organization puts UConn in the top tier of schools offering strong economic mobility for students with fiscal constraints.

That tier encompasses the top 20% of institutions that enroll relatively large percentages of low- and moderate-income students, as measured by qualifying for federal Pell grant aid; and whether they provide an education that prepares those students to move up the economic ladder.

UConn also is number one in the country when it comes to the time in which students earn their degrees: an average of 4.1 years, a place shared with four other public research universities in the country, according to the UConn Retention & Graduation Task Force’s most recent analysis.

Those factors all play into attempts to limit graduate indebtedness, a metric in which UConn also performs strongly in the U.S. News analysis: The average indebtedness fell by more than $1,800 over the last two years, and dropped from 56% of alumni with loans to repay down to 52%.

According to the newest U.S. News rankings, UConn also continues to show consistently strong performance in several areas:

• The retention of first-year students is 93%, one of the highest in the nation. It has moved between 93% and 94% over the past several years, remaining far above the national average of 82% at four-year public universities.

• A consistent 84% of UConn students earn their undergraduate degrees in six years or less, markedly higher than the national average of 63% among public institutions.

• UConn’s peer institutions also continue to hold a positive and steady opinion of its academic reputation as reported in survey responses from presidents, provosts, and admissions leaders. U.S. News officials say that reputation is important to help capture advances that aren’t otherwise easy to quantify, such as institutional innovation and a range of other areas.

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, the same as last year.

Many peer institutions experience modest numbers in that category, reflecting generational changes in how alumni choose to support and engage with their universities.

However, the UConn Foundation recently reported its third straight record-setting year; more than 21,000 donors gave $115 million in new gifts and commitments in FY21, up from the previous record of $93.3 million the year before.

UConn was one of 227 national public institutions that were part of this year’s U.S. News & World Report survey. Overall, the rankings included 440 public and private institutions, in which UConn shared the No. 67 ranking with four other institutions.