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Holding its own as No. 2 public in the nation
U.Va. remains in top echelon of higher education in U.S. News ‘Best Colleges’ rankings

By Carol Wood

In a year in which public higher education across the nation faced on-going budget troubles, the University of Virginia continued to hold its own in the U.S. News & World Report 2005 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.”

While the University went from the No. 1 public university (in a tie with the University of California at Berkeley) to No. 2, it still ranks among the best of all national universities, public and private, tying with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor for the No. 22 slot overall.

In the eight years that U.S. News has ranked public universities as a separate category, U.Va. has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 school, more often than not sharing or changing places with Cal Berkeley.

U.Va. consistently has shown its strength in academic and financial areas that are key to high national rankings. Over the past decade, as state support of higher education in Virginia has decreased and the University has come to rely more heavily on private philanthropic support, U.Va. has managed to invest in faculty and programs — as well as a streamlined infrastructure — that have proved essential to laying the groundwork for future growth.

This year, the state contribution to the University’s budget is 8.1 percent, down from 27 percent a decade ago.

“I find it remarkable that U.Va. is able to consistently remain in the top tier of public institutions given the difficult financial environment in which it and other Virginia institutions operate,” said Gene D. Block, vice president and University Provost. “This is a testament to commitment on the part of our faculty to deliver a high quality product under challenging conditions.”

While there are areas in which the University continues to be vulnerable — U.Va. ranks No. 39 in faculty resources and No. 49 in financial resources — it is headed in the right direction. Last year, U.Va. was 44th in faculty resources and 54th in financial resources.

University President John T. Casteen III has launched two U.Va. initiatives that are intended to put the institution on a course toward the top 15, or even top 10, of the nation’s premier universities.

For the past year, U.Va., along with Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary, has been working with the Governor’s administration and General Assembly leadership to create a new partnership with the state that will allow the three institutions increased flexibility to operate in a business-like environment. The result will be the ability to compete more effectively with national peers for the best faculty and federal and private research dollars.

In addition, U.Va. is in the initial phase of what is expected to be a $3 billion fund-raising campaign to ensure U.Va.’s future aspirations.
In other U.S. News rankings, the University’s McIntire School of Commerce was ranked No. 9 in the Best Business Programs category. McIntire’s management program was ranked No. 4.

The University’s School of Engineering captured the No. 33 spot among Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs.

U.Va.’s outstanding first-year experience was also singled out. This is the second year that U.S. News has focused attention on how top-ranked institutions deal with the transition to college life. Forty university programs were cited as exemplary, although not individually ranked.

Finally, the University continued to be ranked in the top 25 in the Best Value category, this year coming in at No. 21.



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