In just its 12th academic year, the University of California, Merced, has been named one of the best public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The news magazine’s 2017 Best Colleges rankings, released this week, rate UC Merced No. 78 among public schools and No. 152 overall in the “National Universities” category, which evaluates major institutions with national reach, advanced degree programs and deep commitments to research.
“Earning a spot among the nation’s most highly regarded colleges and universities is an enormous honor and a tribute to the trailblazing faculty, staff and students who have brought us so far in such a short period of time,” UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland said. “UC Merced has emerged as the next great research university in the most respected and accomplished public university system in the world.”
UC Merced has been ranked by U.S. News in the past for individual graduate programs, but this is its first appearance on the National Universities list. The list includes 298 of the largest and best-known institutions in the country, with the top 231 being ranked numerically and the rest listed alphabetically. UC Merced is the youngest campus ranked.
Among the criteria by which the rankings are calculated, UC Merced showed particular strength in graduation rates and alumni giving rates.
U.S. News calculates a predicted six-year graduation rate for each school based on students’ SAT scores, the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, and institutional spending on instruction. UC Merced’s 2015 graduation rate of 66 percent was well above the predicted rate of 52 percent, and that 14-point differential ranked No. 8 among the 298 universities. The national average is 59 percent.
And despite being a young school with young alumni — the vast majority of whom are still in their 20s — UC Merced’s alumni giving rate of 11 percent ranked No. 47 among public universities and No. 102 overall, ahead of many schools with much larger and more established alumni bases.
UC Merced’s inclusion in prominent national rankings adds to a growing reputation and global profile for the newest UC campus. Since opening in 2005 as the first research university built in the 21st century, UC Merced has grown from 875 students to more than 7,000 expected to enroll in Fall 2016 — with plans to enroll up to 10,000 students upon completion of the Merced 2020 Project.