UConn Holds Steady at No. 26 Rank Among Public Universities

In the overall rankings that comprise all public and private institutions nationwide, UConn jumped nine spots from last year

Wilbur Cross with fall foliage. Oct. 12, 2021.

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

UConn has retained its impressive No. 26 position among public universities in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings, also jumping nine spots overall in the list that includes all public and private institutions.

The annual rankings, released Monday, mark the second consecutive year in which UConn has held the No. 26 spot, with particular strength in critical areas such as timely graduation rates, reputation among peer institutions, and retention of first-year students.

In the overall rankings that comprise all public and private institutions nationwide, UConn jumped nine spots from No. 67 last year to No. 58, affirming its national reputation as a leader in student success and academic excellence.

Students also continue to return to UConn after their first year in numbers much higher than the national average, and the percentage of alumni who leave UConn with federal student loan debt has continued to drop, along with the amounts they owe.

And with students graduating in an average of 4.1 years – tied with four other institutions for the quickest time-to-degree among public universities – UConn continues to provide students with a solid foundation upon which to build careers, and to produce a highly educated workforce for employers throughout Connecticut and the nation.

The U.S. News ranking comes in the same month that UConn was recognized in a separate Wall Street Journal ranking as the No. 46 institution in the U.S., and No. 9 specifically among public colleges and universities.

“While we know that rankings cannot capture all aspects of UConn’s many strengths, we are pleased that the University continues to be recognized so positively and consistently for its indicators of student success,” President Radenka Maric says.

“We want our students to embark on their careers with an education that prepares them to build fulfilling and happy lives through creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, emotional intelligence, and critical life skills such as financial literacy,” she adds.

“The latest ranking from U.S. News underscores the important work taking place on our campuses every day to help students take full advantage of UConn’s offerings while they’re here, and then to extend their skills after graduation into our communities,” she says.

UConn’s No. 26 ranking among public universities this year comes despite significant financial pressures facing the university, and in the face of fierce competition nationwide for top students as the number of high schoolers continues to shrink regionally and throughout the U.S.

Despite those challenges, UConn drew a record-high pool of more than 48,800 applicants for the Class of 2027, which joined the University this semester. The class also is the largest and most diverse in UConn’s history, with the highest-ever percentage of students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education.

Almost one-third of the Class of 2027 are the first students in their families to attend college – a metric that isn’t tracked by U.S. News, but which helps to provide a holistic view beyond rankings of the ways in which UConn provides access and opportunity to students.

UConn’s U.S. News ranking has been steadily improving since 2000, when it was No. 38 among public institutions, and it spent 10 years in the top 25 before moving to No. 26 last year. It holds the same spot this year, tied with University of California at Merced and Stony Brook University-SUNY.

As was the case last year, UConn’s scores remained consistently high in most areas, particularly in key indicators of student success, and its position just short of the top 25 was not due to a performance dip or other notable declines.

Rather, several other universities have invested in specific areas and made gains over the last few years. That resulted in various moves throughout the rankings that bumped some institutions, like UConn, out of the top 25 despite a strong and consistent track record of success.

For instance, UConn remains 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 play into attempts to limit graduate indebtedness, a metric in which UConn also performs strongly in the U.S. News analysis.

The average federal indebtedness of UConn graduates dropped by more than $2,000 between fall 2019 and fall 2022, and the percentage of alumni with loans to repay fell during that same period from 55% to 51%.

The U.S. News ranking and other external assessments are among many tools that UConn considers as it engages in new strategic planning to bring the University to the next level.

According to the rankings, UConn continues to show consistently strong performance in several areas:

• The four-year average for retention of first-year students is 93%, remaining among the highest in the nation and far above the national average of 80% at four-year public universities.

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

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 439 public and private institutions.

In addition to its positions as the No. 26 public university and No. 58 overall, UConn was recognized for several academic and student services programs that ranked among the top 50 in their realms:

• Institutions with best learning communities (No. 25)
• Best undergraduate nursing programs (No. 31)
• Best colleges for veterans among national public institutions (No. 33)
• Best undergraduate psychology programs (No. 39)
• Best undergraduate business programs (No. 47).

U.S. News has changed its methodology and no longer factors in the percentage of living alumni who donate to their institutions. However, the UConn Foundation recently reported its fourth straight record-setting year; more than 22,500 donors gave $157.9 million in new gifts and commitments in FY22, up from the previous record of $115 million the year before.