Buffeted by Budget Storms, U.Va. Holds Steady in U.S. News Rankings

August 20, 2009 — The University of Virginia continues its strong showing in the annual rankings of America's Best Colleges published today by U.S. News & World Report magazine.

U.Va. remains tied – this year with the University of California-Los Angeles – for second among all public universities and is tied for 24th among all universities, both public and private. Both Harvard (tied with Princeton) and the University of California-Berkeley retained their No. 1 rankings as best overall national university and best public university.

The University has ranked either first or second among publics since 1992 and has ranked among the top 25 nationally since the first U.S. News rankings came out in 1988.

In addition, the University once again made the "Great Schools, Great Prices" list, ranking 23rd. This is a reflection of high academic quality relative to the cost of attendance.

"Obviously, the ranking helps attract qualified students and underscores the quality of work done by faculty and staff members here," said U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.

While the University has long enjoyed high overall rankings, it has struggled in the "financial resources" category, this year slipping to the No. 64 spot among the top 100 universities. Although the University is ranked among the top 25, it has been unable to crack the top 50 in "financial resources" in the past five years. The other two public universities included in the top 25 – University of California-Berkeley (No. 21) and University of California-Los Angeles (tied with U.Va. at No. 24) – came in at numbers 43 and 25, respectively.

Financial resources account for 10 percent of the overall ranking score.

"For 20 years, our state has put essentially every other priority ahead of education. It has done this for so long that most people simply take it for granted now that the state can dodge this most basic of its obligations," Casteen added. "The rankings include many sub scores. Again this year, these emphasize how very far behind Virginia is in its support for its public colleges and universities – support that is now very probably the lowest in the country."

After the latest round of state budget cuts went into effect July 1, state support accounts for just 6.9 percent of the University's overall 2009-10 budget and 11.5 percent of its academic budget. Since 2007-08, the state has cut $32.9 million from U.Va.'s appropriation and is expected to announce another round of budget cuts next month.

In the face of ongoing, and often extraordinary, state budget cuts, the University has been committed to protecting its academic mission, directing a substantial percentage of financial resources to the faculty. While the University's "faculty resources" ranked 29 places above its "financial resources," U.Va. still trails 21 of the top 25 national universities.

"In every budget cut, we make protecting academic programming a priority," said Leonard W. Sandridge, the University's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "We do all we can to make sure that the students do not feel the budget crisis in the classroom."

Other components of the rankings in which U.Va. scored highly include graduation and retention (ranked 11th overall, including the highest graduation rate among public universities at 93 percent) and peer assessment (4.3 on a five-point scale, tied for 14th among the top 25).

McIntire ranked No. 6; Engineering, No. 37

U.S. News also announced its rankings of Best Business Programs and Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs. The University's McIntire School of Commerce ranked sixth nationally for the second consecutive year, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science ranked 37th.

The University of Virginia's College at Wise also earned national distinction, ranking fourth among liberal arts colleges in the least debt incurred by its graduates. The average debt load when a student graduates is $10,252.

— By Dan Heuchert