DeSantis touts UF #5 ranking among the nation’s top public universities; ceremony was maskless

Gators tie with UC-Santa Barbara, University of NC Chapel Hill for No. 5 position for public universities

By: - September 13, 2021 2:07 pm
University of Florida

University of Florida campus. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The University of Florida ranks No. 5 on the 2022 U.S. News and World Report ranking of public universities and No. 28 when ranked among high-caliber national universities in the United States.

The new list places UF with such esteemed public institutions as the University of California, Los Angeles; the UC Berkeley; the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia. UF’s ranking of No. 5 was tied with University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and UC Santa Barbara.

The 2022 analysis covers 209 public universities as well as 392 national universities that encompass undergraduate and master’s and doctoral programs and a focus on research.

The news arrived a couple of weeks into the fall term, with the DeSantis administration barring state colleges and universities from requiring mask-wearing or vaccination to limit transmission of COVID-19, although most schools strongly encourage both. Schools are offering inducements including gift certificates and football tickets to encourage students to take the shots.

As of last week the deaths of 272 people in Florida between the ages of 18 and 29 have been attributed to COVID, according to data from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was presented with a UF baseball jersey during a campus ceremony on Sept. 12, 2021. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

During a maskless ceremony Monday at UF’s Emerson Alumni Hall, in which Gov. Ron DeSantis joined UF and State University System leaders in highlighting the new ranking, the governor hailed the “significant milestone.” (DeSantis has been vaccinated against COVID.)

“To see the increase in constantly doing better — I think it’s something that all Floridians, regardless of your allegiances, should feel proud about.”

UF has the highest rankings of Florida universities in the category of public universities and national universities. Here are rankings from other Florida schools in those category:

  • Florida State University ranked No. 19 among public institutions and No. 55 for national universities overall.
  • The University of South Florida was No. 46 among public institutions and No. 103 overall.
  • The University of Central Florida was No. 67 among public institutions and No. 148 overall
  • Florida International University was No. 78 among public institutions and No. 162 overall.
  • Florida A&M University was No. 104 among public institutions and No. 202 overall.
  • The University of North Florida was No. 132 among public institutions and No. 263 overall.
  • Florida Atlantic University was No. 140 among public institutions and No. 277 overall.

Florida’s other universities, not included in the public university and national universities categories, are: Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Polytechnic University; University of West Florida and New College of Florida. Those are listed as regional or other types of rankings.

For example, New College is listed in the category of national liberal arts colleges and is ranked 82 of the 223 schools in the report.

U.S. News annually surveys close to 1,500 colleges and universities for factors including student-faculty ratios; debt burdens for graduates; tuition and financial aid policies; student body demographics; campus life; majors offered; and post-grad earnings.

The process has long drawn criticism, including that schools monkey around with their metrics to boost their rankings — for example, encouraging applications to boost the percentage they turn down, to make themselves appear more exclusive. See this summary from a few years ago in The Atlantic.

At UF, the magazine cited factors including an average six-year graduation rate of 88 percent, a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1, and a selection rate of 31 percent as of 2020.

In a press release, UF said it had tripled its research volume over the past 20 years and is close to $1 billion in research spending. The university has added more than 500 full-time faculty since 2019, it added.

More than 80 percent of its students ranked among the top 10 percent in their high school class and UF’s retention rate is 97 percent, the release said.

It has reduced student debt by 15 percent in four years and two-thirds of its graduates leave debt-free, the university said.

“We’re also very happy that we not only have a top five public university in the state of Florida now, but we have one that’s very affordable for Florida families; very supportive of making sure that tuition is something that’s within reach,” DeSantis said.

When he became Florida’s governor in 2019, “people were just starting to realize, ‘Hey, this is really a place that’s producing a lot of great folks. Now, there’s not really any question about that. People understand that and they know that if you have folks coming out of the University of Florida, you have a lot of people that are very talented and will do very well in the economy,” he said.

“The only other thing I’d day is, what a great day, but just imagine what a great week it’d be if we could beat Alabama on Saturday. So, fingers crossed.”

DeSantis did not take any questions at the ceremony.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.