March 8, 2018 2:39 pm

A Florida university has broken into the top 10 public universities for the first time.

The University of Florida (UF) has been ranked equal ninth in the U.S. News list of top public universities in the United States. Last year, the Gainesville institution was 14th in the ranking and 50th overall.

Significant milestone

UF President, Kent Fuchs, says, “This is a significant milestone that we can all be proud of, and it happened as the result of many years of focused work and a keen sense of purpose.

“Our faculty – the core of our academic reputation – and staff deserve tremendous credit for lifting us up to get us here, as do previous leaders, particularly Bernie Machen, and UF’s Board of Trustees. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott and the Board of Governors for their continued support to ensure that the nation’s third most-populous state has the world-class university it deserves.”

The U.S. News rankings are based on up to 15 key measures. These fall into seven broad areas: undergraduate academic reputation; graduation and retention rates; faculty resources; student selectivity; financial resources; alumni giving; and graduation rate performance.

Undergraduate academic reputation

Factors that helped UF’s ranking improve this year include:

  • Undergraduate academic reputation – Created from an annual survey of college and university presidents, provosts and admissions officers plus high school guidance counselors. Each individual rates peer schools’ undergraduate academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). It counts for 22.5% of each school’s overall score. UF’s score in that category this year was 3.7, up from 3.6 last year.
  • Selectivity – A function of how many student applicants a school admits each year and students’ SAT and ACT scores and high school class standings. It accounts for 12.5% of the total; UF’s score was up seven points from 54 last year to 47 this year.
  • Graduation rate performance – A comparison between the actual six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2009 and the predicted graduation rate. UF’s score rose four points this year over last year, in part because U.S. News this year began factoring in the percentage of STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) graduates into its calculation.

UF’s quest to become a top-10 public research institution officially began in 2013. This is when the Legislature passed, and Governor Scott signed, a bill designating it a preeminent university and providing special funding to help it reach top status. Florida State University also received the preeminent designation.

UF has since used pre-eminence funding to hire more than 100 senior leading faculties from all over the world. Earlier this year, the university announced a plan to increase the faculty by an additional 500 members to continue to increase research excellence and reduce class sizes.

Exceptional breadth of disciplines

Many new UF researchers have cited the school’s exceptional breadth of disciplines and the numerous opportunities for collaboration. UF is one of only six universities in the country with colleges of law, medicine, engineering, agriculture and veterinary medicine on one campus.

UF alumni – half a million strong – and friends represent one of the strongest and most loyal communities in the world. Members should be especially proud, says Mr Fuchs. He also offered his thanks to university leaders around the country for their votes of confidence in UF.

“We have benefitted greatly from their wise advice and sage counsel,” he said.

While he welcomed the new ranking, Mr Fuchs says the university’s work is far from done.

“Now is the time to double down. We have the talent, the collective will and the means to keep moving up. We owe it to our students and the people of Florida to be the very best public research institution we can be.”

Mr Fuchs also congratulated Florida State University, Florida A&M University, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida International University, that all improved their rankings.