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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolinians are aggressive and boastful in observing, analyzing and promoting various rankings of their universities and colleges.

Pure pride emerges with a spot on the U.S. News & World Report’s annual list or another by The Princeton Review. Each has its own methodology and structure – and the insight generated through someone else’s data crunching.

But now The New York Times is giving you the power: You can access and rank institutions in the state and the nation by how well they perform for your students and mix the data and geography to suit your interests.

UNC-Chapel Hill Old Well in the spring. (GETTY)

Launched in March, the “Build Your Own College Rankings” is a search tool that takes aggregated data and sorts schools by nation, state, region and overlapped in more than one category you deem most important.

Those categories include something as basic as cost or diversity but also topics such as how much alumni make on the average 10 years after graduation, overall academic status, athletic success or even proximity to home.

There is one caveat: The times included only schools that graduate 50% or more of their students, and there are 26 qualifiers from North Carolina. A school near to your heart may not be included.

From that baseline, determining the rankings is up to you, but if you select all categories and search for the most general list, you may or may not be surprised at the order. UNC-Chapel Hill, a renowned public university came out on top, but Duke University, which ranks in many top 10s nationally and tops many of the specifically sorted categories, was down in eighth place.

Winston-Salem State University came in second, and North Carolina Wesleyan University, which has about 1,500 students in Rocky Mount, was third. North Carolina State University, UNC-Greensboro, East Carolina University, UNC-Charlotte, Duke, Appalachian State University and Western Carolina University comprised the overall top 10.

Highest earners

Aerial over Duke University in Durham. (GETTY)

Then, when you start sliding those bars and searching by categories, those 26 schools sort in various orders. For instance, if you search by how much a school’s alumni earn in 10 years after they graduate, Duke had the highest median, at $93,115, which is 15th best in the nation.

The next four on that list have a Piedmont Triad flavor: Wake Forest University ($93,115), Davidson College ($71,671), Elon Univeristy ($64,238) and UNC-Chapel Hill ($61,353). High Point University came in 10th ($48,534), Appalachian State was 13th ($45,602), UNC-Greensboro was 15th ($44,195) and Winston-Salem State was 25th ($38,584).

Those “high earnings” were calculated using “the median income of people who attended the school 10 years ago and who received federal aid” based on data from 2020.

Families grateful to be able to graduate in-person at Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University ranks at the top for income mobility.

However, if you invert that list and compare how that median income compared to students’ original levels of income and how much they paid for their educations – a so-called Economic Mobility – the rankings inverted somewhat.

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Winston-Salem State, NC Wesleyan, Johnson & Wales University, Pfeiffer University and High Point made up the top five. Duke (No. 22), Elon (No. 24), Wake Forest (No. 25) and Davidson (No. 26) were at the bottom.

Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem (GETTY)

Change it up

The slider bars also allow for broader searches on the national and statewide levels. Some factors we found were:

  • Duke ranked No. 5 among all universities nationally for “academic profile,” which includes tests scores, graduation rates and faculty/student ratios. Cal Tech, MIT, University of Chicago and Princeton University were the only schools ranked higher. By comparison, the U.S. News & World Report rankings liked Duke, Wake Forest and UNC Chapel Hill among the best of the national colleges.
  • Western Carolina had the lowest overall base price ($19,018), followed by UNC-Greensboro ($20,404) and Appalachian State ($20,799). But when you subtract basic scholarships and grants, the best net price was UNC-Greensboro ($11,629), followed by Winston-Salem State ($12,415) and UNC-Chapel Hill ($12,469).
  • UNC-Greensboro also ranked second for diversity, behind Duke and ahead of Wingate University, a private school near Charlotte.
  • The highest rates of admission are 99% for Barton College in Wilson and 94% for East Carolina. Duke (6%), Davidson (18%) and UNC-Chapel Hill (20%) were the most exclusive.

Oh, and if you really must know, the new NYT tool allows you to rank schools for their athletic programs, which employed calculations that included student surveys, team performance and revenue. The University of Alabama, Clemson University, the University of Oklahoma and Ohio State University were the top four nationally. The University of Mount Union came in at No. 5. Go figure. Duke And UNC were Nos. 14 and 15, respectively. But in the state, the top five were Duke, UNC, App State, Queens University of Charlotte and Lenoir-Rhyne.