How do Triangle and NC universities fare in this year’s US News best college rankings?

Choosing one of the thousands of colleges and universities across the nation can be overwhelming for students and parents. They consider the academic quality, price, size, location and about a dozen other things when making one of the most important decisions in their lives.

Each year, U.S. News & World Report publishes rankings to help students and their families narrow the search for the right school. This year, North Carolina’s universities were at the top of several categories.

Duke University was North Carolina’s highest-ranked national university at No. 10 in the country. UNC-Chapel Hill ranks 29th overall.

Here’s how some of the private and public schools around North Carolina stack up in the U.S. News 2020 Best Colleges Rankings. (Note: There are ties in several categories.)

National Universities

Duke University: Duke ranked 10th overall among national universities, 8th best value, 17th for undergraduate teaching and 26th most innovative school. It was rated 3rd best for biomedical undergraduate engineering and 20th overall for undergraduate engineering among schools with a doctorate program. Duke was highly ranked in several categories under “Focus on Student Success,” including writing in the disciplines (2nd), senior capstone (4th), service learning (5th), co-op/internship (8th), undergraduate research/creative projects (9th), study abroard (16th), learning community (17th).

UNC-Chapel Hill: UNC ranked 29th overall, 5th best public university, 10th for best value and 10th for veterans, and 63rd for most innovative among national universities. UNC ranked 8th for its undergraduate business program and 61st for its undergraduate engineering program among schools with doctorate programs. UNC also ranked third among all public universities nationwide by the 2019 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, which was released Friday.

UNC-Chapel Hill Robert Willett News & Observer file photo

NC State University: NC State ranked 84th overall, 31st most innovative, 52nd for veterans, 61st for undergraduate teaching and 69th for best value among national universities. It also ranked 34th among national public schools and 34th for its undergraduate engineering program among schools with doctorate programs.

East Carolina University: ECU ranked 228 overall and 75th for its undergraduate engineering programs among non-doctorate programs.

Elon University: Elon ranked 84th overall, 11th most innovative and 2nd best for undergraduate teaching among national universities. This is Elon’s debut in that category, previously it was ranked among regional universities. The upgrade came when Elon changed to a doctoral/professional university in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Elon also earned some of the highest marks in the country in categories under “Focus on Student Success,” including study abroad (1st), learning community (1st), first-year experience (2nd), service-learning (2nd), co-op/internship (4th), undergraduate research/creative projects (4th), senior capstone (5th), writing in the disciplines (10th).

N.C. A&T State University: NC A&T, a public university in Greensboro, ranked 281st overall and 6th among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities. NC A&T was also the top ranked public HBCU in the country.

UNC Charlotte: UNCC ranked 228th overall.


UNC Greensboro: UNCG ranked 272th overall.

UNC Wilmington: UNCW ranked 185th overall and 92nd among national public schools. This is the first year UNCW has been included in the national university category, previously it was ranked among regional universities.

Wake Forest University: Wake Forest, a private university in Winston-Salem, ranked 27th overall, 23rd for undergraduate teaching, 25th best value and 63rd most innovative.

National Liberal Arts Colleges

Meredith College: The private women’s college in Raleigh ranked 148 overall and 60th for undergraduate teaching.

UNC Asheville: UNC Asheville, ranked 148th overall and 50th most innovative among all national liberal arts colleges and the 8th best public school.

Regional Universities in the South

N.C. Central University: NC Central ranked 54th overall, 44th best value and 24th for undergraduate teaching. It also ranked 21st among public schools. Among HBCU’s, NC Central was ranked the 3rd best public school and 11th overall.

Appalachian State University: App State was ranked 6th overall, 2nd most innovative, 2nd for undergraduate teaching, 2nd for veterans and 17th best value. App State was also recognized in three categories under “Focus on Student Success” for its learning community (5th), first-year experience(6th) and service-learning (14th).

Fayetteville State University: Fayetteville State ranked 87th overall and 23rd among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

UNC Pembroke: UNC Pembroke ranked 87th overall and 19th most innovative.

Western Carolina University: Western ranked 23rd overall, 12th for veterans, 14th best value and 24th for undergraduate teaching. Its undergraduate engineering program ranked 97th among non-doctorate schools.

Winston-Salem State University: Winston-Salem State, which opted out of these rankings in previous years, ranked 61st overall and 17th among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Regional Colleges in the South

Saint Augustine’s University: The private university in Raleigh, ranked 55th and 57th among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

St. Augustine’s University. Chris Seward File photo

Shaw University: Shaw, a private university in Raleigh, ranked between 65 and 84 among regional colleges in the South and between 59 and 76 among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

William Peace University: William Peace, a private university in Raleigh, ranked 26th overall and 9th for veterans.

Elizabeth City State University: ECSU ranked 26th overall and 28th among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

High Point University: HPU, a private university, ranked No. 1 overall, No. 1 for undergraduate teaching and most innovative regional college in the South.

How were the rankings and categories determined?

National Universities: Schools in the National Universities category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. program, according to U.S. News.

Liberal Arts Colleges: Liberal Arts Colleges emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study, according to U.S. News.

Regional Universities: Regional Universities offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs but few doctoral programs, according to U.S. News. The four regions are North, South, Midwest and West.

Regional Colleges: These colleges focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than half their degrees in liberal arts disciplines, according to U.S. News. The four regions are North, South, Midwest and West.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: These historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were compared only with one another for these rankings and must be currently designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an HBCU, according to U.S. News.

Best Value Schools: This ranking takes into account a school’s academic quality and the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid, according to U.S. News.

Undergraduate Teaching, Most Innovative, Business and Engineering programs: The rankings in these categories were based on peer assessment surveys, according to U.S. News.

Veterans: For this ranking, schools reported on their enrollment of and benefits for veterans and active-duty service members in the annual survey, according to U.S. News.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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