Florida universities made strides on a national stage Monday, moving up on annual lists of the country’s top higher education institutions compiled by U.S. News & World Report.
Ranked again as the state’s best college, the University of Florida improved one spot, to No. 7, on a list of the nation’s best public schools. The University of South Florida is 44th on that list — 14 spots higher than last year and up significantly from 2015, when it was No. 88.
“No one has greater trajectory than USF,” university president Steve Currall said in an interview Monday. “That’s what we’re focused on.”
Florida State University improved, too, moving up eight spots from last year to become the 18th-best public institution in the country. The University of Central Florida is the state’s only other institution in the top 100 of that list, at 79th.
A list of all institutions nationwide, including public and private, ranked Florida schools this way: UF at 34th, FSU and the University of Miami tied at 57th, USF at 104th and UCF at 166th.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spent Monday morning at UF, announcing the news to a room that erupted in applause. He praised the school for its “steady improvement” since 2012, when UF was the nation’s 19th-best public university.
UF “is going to be knocking on the top 5 soon” DeSantis said, adding that the university’s rise is the result of hard work by UF administration and support from state government. At the end of the governor’s remarks, UF president Kent Fuchs gave him a Gators football jersey with “DeSantis” and a No. 7 on the back.
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At No. 44 on the public university list, USF ranks above or is tied with six schools holding membership in the Association of American Universities, a prestigious, invitation-only group of the nation’s top 62 institutions. Joining the association, whose only Florida member is UF, remains a top goal for USF leaders.
USF ranked 11th — higher than any other Florida school — on another list by U.S. News that measures “social mobility,” or an institution’s ability to enroll, retain and graduate low-income students who receive federal Pell Grants.
Florida’s second-best school in that category was Florida International University at No. 12. UF tied with Keiser University at No. 34. Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic universities tied for 45th. UCF ranked 60th, and FSU ranked 80th.
UCF’s most notable ranking was for innovation: At No. 16, it is Florida’s best in that category. FSU ranks 39th for innovation, while USF is 42nd and FIU is 63rd.
USF was Florida’s top institution on a list for “best value schools," at No. 60. Rankings for that category are calculated by comparing academic quality and cost. The University of Miami is 77th, UF is 110th, FSU is 114th and UCF is 154th.
In all, U.S. News ranked about 1,900 schools. Of those, 399 were in the “national universities” category and 146 were in the group of “top public schools.”
Both at UF and later in the day during an announcement at FSU, DeSantis said Florida colleges and universities are not only high-performing, but more affordable than those elsewhere. "The education you’re getting for the price, I think that combination is probably unmatched anywhere in the country,” he said at UF.
It’s a result of investments by the Florida Legislature, DeSantis said, and moves by the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, to hire more faculty, reduce class sizes and help more students graduate within four years.
“The importance goes beyond just providing opportunity to our students,” DeSantis said. "As governor, it really helps me to attract more investment to Florida if I can point to the great job universities are doing.”
To see all the rankings, visit www.usnews.com/best-colleges.
Staff writer Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.