The University of Florida lost its much-coveted standing as a top 5 public university and slipped to No. 6, but rose in stature among all universities nationally, according to the 2024 Best College rankings from U.S. News & World Report released early today.
Many of the state’s public universities followed a similar pattern in a year when Gov. Ron DeSantis and lawmakers moved to overhaul Florida’s higher education system.
UF moved up one spot to No. 28 among all universities in the U.S., public and private.
The University of South Florida stayed in the top 50 public universities, falling 3 spots from last year to No. 45, but climbing to No. 89 from No. 97 overall.
Florida State University fell from No. 19 to No. 23 among public universities, but moved up two spots to No. 53 overall. The University of Central Florida held it’s No. 64 ranking among public universities, and moved up 13 spots to No. 124 overall.
New College of Florida, where a controversial takeover engineered by DeSantis drew national attention, had a similar fate. The Sarasota school fell 24 spots among all national liberal arts colleges, from No. 76 to No. 100.
Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland retained its spot as the top public regional college in the South, moving up one spot to No. 2 overall, and the private Rollins College was the top regional university in the South.
For the fifth consecutive year, Florida A&M University was ranked No. 1 among public historically black colleges and universities and No. 3 among all schools in that category. It also broke into the top 100 of all public colleges and universities for the first time, coming in at No. 91.
The State University System noted in a news release that six of its schools were among the top 100 public universities in the nation. Ray Rodrigues, the system’s chancellor, called this year’s U.S. News rankings “another endorsement that Florida is leading the nation in higher education.”
This year’s rankings followed a new methodology, which added factors including the proportion of employed graduates earning more than high school graduates. Also factored in were metrics on first-generation college students enrolled and faculty research productivity.
At the same time, the ranking removed some factors from consideration, including the proportion of graduates who leave the school with debt, alumni giving rates and the proportion of faculty with the highest degrees in their field. U.S. News also increased the weight given to social mobility, measured by graduation rates of low-income students receiving federal Pell Grants.
Florida schools saw improvement when it came to social mobility, with USF ranking No. 16 overall, UCF climbing 24 spots to No. 35 and UF rising 28 spots to No. 37.
UCF also ranked No. 14 for “most Innovative school,” up six spots from the previous year while UF ranked No. 20 in that category, up 32 spots.
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The University of Florida’s slight drop in the U.S. News public school rankings follows an announcement early this month that the Wall Street Journal ranked it No. 1 among public universities. The school is heavily promoting the Journal ranking with social media posts this week that show “No. 1″ banners being installed around the Gainesville campus.
Still, UF President Ben Sasse recently told faculty members he considers himself “a moderate” about rankings. He stated in one meeting that, while he appreciated the work it took to get there, rankings are not always accurate measures of a university’s success.
In a news release, USF President Rhea Law said the university will stay focused on “sustaining positive momentum.”
“Our ranking as a top-tier university and our recent invitation to join the Association of American Universities show that the value of a USF degree is on the rise,” she said. The association is a group of 71 top research schools that invited USF to join its ranks in June, fulling a major goal for the university.
This year’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report
1. University of California, Berkeley*
1. University of California, Los Angeles*
3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
5. University of Virginia.
6. University of Florida*
6. University of California, Davis*
6. University of California, San Diego*
9. University of Texas at Austin
10. University of California, Irvine*
10. Georgia Institute of Technology*
(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story contained incorrect rankings for Florida State University.)
Divya Kumar covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with Open Campus.