Florida inches closer to the top 5 in university rankings

By Andrew Atterbury
The University of Florida’s quest to become a top-5 ranked university came closer to reality on Monday as the school rose to No. 6 in U.S. News & World Report standings.
UF and Florida State University remain the highest-ranked schools in the state, with both scoring among the top-20 public universities in the nation. Florida also has the highest-ranked public historically Black college and university in the U.S. — Florida A&M University — and received high marks for other colleges.
The state legislature has poured millions of dollars into universities in an attempt to bolster their national rankings. University leaders are seeking $115 million toward that goal in 2021-22, but the money could prove harder to come by with the state budget facing a $5.4 billion drop in revenue over the next two years.
Where they stand: UF ranked sixth in public universities in the new standings, rising from seventh last year to tie with the University of California-Santa Barbara.
U.S. News rankings are based on up to 17 measures of outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence, and alumni giving. The rates were adjusted this year to reduce the weight of SAT/ACT scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving.
UF officials credited the improvement on its 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, down from 21:1 four years ago, and smaller class sizes. More than half of undergraduate courses have fewer than 20 students.
Mori Hosseini, chair of the UF Board of Trustees, pledged last year that the Gainesville University soon would reach the top 5, a goal of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“By nearly every measure, UF is continuing to make gains, and I’m thankful to the elected leaders, faculty, staff and supporters of the university who have made that possible,” President Kent Fuchs said in a statement.
FSU ranked No. 19 in the standings, dropping one position to tie with the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Washington. The university improved in 11 of 15 metrics and saw improvement in its graduation rate for students who receive a Pell Grant, according to FSU officials.
This marks the second straight year FSU has cracked the top 20.
The University of South Florida remained in the top 50 for a second year, falling two slots to No. 46. USF has risen by 78 steps among all universities over the last decade, school officials said Monday.
FAMU rose from No. 123 to No. 117 in the new rankings, again landing the top spot for a public HBCU.
FAMU ranked No. 20 in social mobility, which is tied to the six-year graduation rate of Pell grant eligible students.
“We’ve long known that HBCUs play a key role in the growth of the Black middle class,” President Larry Robinson said in a statement. “This ranking confirms FAMU’s commitment to continuing this tradition.”
University of Central Florida ranked No. 77 among public universities, a rise of two spots over last year. UCF reached No. 16 in the “Most Innovative Schools” list, tying Cornell University.
Florida International University tied for No. 95.
Florida Polytechnic University, which has existed for only six years, was ranked in the report for the first time Monday, coming in at No. 72 among more than 230 undergraduate engineering colleges without a doctorate degree.
University of West Florida ranked 15th among regional universities in the south, according to the new report.
Investing: Florida lawmakers set aside $30 million in 2020-21 to help UF and FSU climb the national rankings. That money goes toward research and adding faculty critical to hitting benchmarks such as student-to-professor ratios.
The state university system Board of Governors on Wednesday is considering a new legislative budget request of $115 million for UF, FSU and USF, enough to add 377 faculty and 107 staff.
The money is intended to push UF to the top 5, FSU into the top 10 and USF to the top 25.