GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The elite rankings of colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report – controversial and always much discussed – are out with a lot of praise for North Carolina’s deep lineup of colleges and universities.

The rankings are perhaps the most comprehensive and doubtless are the most impactful among the growing network of educational evaluations – such as the recently released student-based report by The Princeton Review – that provide insights about who does what the best in the world of academia.

Elon University did well in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. (HPU)

North Carolina touted institutions fare quite well across the spectrum, with Elon University and High Point University earning No. 1 spots in two categories: Elon for Best Undergraduate Teaching among all universities and High Point again atop the list of Best Regional Colleges in the South.

U.S. News says it provides more than 100 different types of rankings, and they include regional universities, liberal arts universities and historically black colleges and universities. Some of them have proven controversial for their process and the legitimacy of the data used, but the value provided by consumers is proven by a reported 40 million page views in 2021.

The list of Best National Universities draws most of the debate because of the jockeying among the most elite schools, and North Carolina is part of that jockeying.

Duke University is tied for 10th this year with Northwestern, and UNC-Chapel Hill and Wake Forest are tied with the University of Florida for No. 29.

The rest of the top 10 are, in order, Princeton, MIT, a tie among Harvard, Stanford and Yale for fourth, the University of Chicago, a tie for seventh between Johns Hopkins and Penn, then Cal Tech and the Duke-Northwestern tie.

Among universities in the area, UNC-Greensboro (tied with UNC-Charlotte at No. 219), NC A&T (tied with Campbell University at No. 299) and Winston-Salem State (tied for No. 285) also were ranked on that list.

Those rankings also included NC State (tied for No. 72 with American U, Fordham, Indiana and SMU), UNC-Wilmington (tied at No. 202), East Carolina (234) and Western Carolina (263).

There were 330 ranked on the list, and the rest were grouped at 331-440, which included Gardner-Webb, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Wingate.

Elon was tied for No. 89, with Brigham Young, Colorado School of Mines, Howard, TCU, Buffalo-SUNY, Cal-Riverside and Delaware, but it was the No. 1 for teaching that really had the school’s buttons popping.

“The depth and quality of the relationships between faculty and students at Elon is a hallmark of our culture, and we’re pleased this purposeful focus was recognized again this year with a #1 national ranking for teaching excellence,” Elon President Connie Ledoux Book said in a release. “Mentorship — inside and outside the classroom, by Elon faculty and staff — is a critical component of an Elon education as we focus on student success and building a foundation for lifelong learning.”

Best undergraduate teaching

A spring view on the Elon University campus. (ELON)

The list that followed Elon included some of the nation’s most elite names. Brown was No. 2, followed by Princeton and Rice (tied for third), Boston College and Dartmouth (tied for fifth), Georgia State and William & Mary (tied for seventh), Maryland-Baltimore County and Notre Dame (tied for ninth) and Duke.

Among Best Southern Colleges, Belmont Abbey, a Catholic school in Belmont, was ranked No. 1, too, for Undergraduate Teaching.

U.S. News & World Report said that, in creating these rankings, earlier this year it asked top academics “to name the schools they believe have faculty with an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.” The magazine said the rankings focused on schools that took a “high-quality” approach to teaching and relied on peer studies from college presidents, provosts and admissions deans.

Elon also ranked No. 6 among Most Innovative Schools and No. 144 for Best Value. Its class sizes and faculty-student ratios also were smaller than most. The school touted top 20 rankings in eight categories.

“These recognitions reflect how Elon puts the student at the center of its mission and values creating well-rounded graduates that the world needs,” Book said.

HPU is at the top again

A sunset shot of HPU’s campus. (HPU)

High Point touted its 11th consecutive year at being atop the Best Regional College list for the South, and HPU was No. 1 among the Most Innovative Regional College in the South for the eighth consecutive year and No. 2 among Best Undergraduate Teaching regional colleges in the South.

“At HPU, we have completely transformed our campus and created an environment of excellence, and we appreciate rankings such as these that honor our upward trajectory,” HPU President Nido Qubein said in a release touting the rankings. “As The Premier Life Skills University, we also remain laser-focused on the success of our graduates and committed to preparing students for the world as it will be.”

HPU was followed on the top-colleges list by Flagler College, Florida Polytechnic University, Wesleyan College and nearby Catawba College in Salisbury at No. 5.

That list was dominated by schools from the state, including

Barton College and Belmont Abbey College (tied for No. 14), Johnson & Wales and Mars Hill (tied for 19), Lees-McRae College (tied for 21), Brevard College and William Peace University (tied for 29), Elizabeth City State (31), North Carolina Wesleyan (47), Cowan College (54), Montreat College (60) and Livingstone College (tied for 68). Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University and St. Andrews University were in the 76-99 group

NC schools everywhere

North Carolina also had a significant presence on several other primary lists: Best Public Schools, Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Best Regional Universities in the South.

UNC was tied for No. 5 in Top Public Schools, NC A&T was in the top 10 among HBCUs, Davidson was ranked among Liberal Arts Colleges, and Appalachian State and Queens are among the many NC schools on the rankings of regional universities.

Here are how those groups broke down:

  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS: UNC-Chapel Hill tied with Florida for fifth on a list topped by Cal Berkley and UCLA, Michigan, and Virginia. NC State was tied for 29th.
  • HBCUS: A&T was ranked No. 9, behind Spelman College, Howard University, Tuskegee University and Xavier University of Louisiana. NC Central was No. 14, and Winston-Salem State was No. 19.
  • LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES: Davidson came in at No. 15, and many elite names, including the top military academies, led that list: Williams, Amherst, Pomona, Swarthmore, Wellesley College and Bowdoin College. In the state, Davidson was followed by Salem College (No. 124), Meredith College (130) and UNC-Asheville (136). Guilford College, Bennett College, Johnson C. Smith, and Warren Wilson College were in the 156-201 grouping.
  • REGIONAL UNIVERSITIES: Proving it is about more than just football, Appalachian State was tied for No. 6, with Queens ranking No. 9. Lenoir-Rhyne was No. 41, followed by NC Central (tied for No. 46), UNC-Pembroke (tied for 56), Mount Olive (63), Methodist College (70), Fayetteville State (72), Pfeiffer (88) and Greensboro College (tied for 94). The top five on that list were Rollins, The Citadel, Berry, Stetson and Christopher Newport University.

U.S. News says of its rankings: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. The four overall rankings – National UniversitiesLiberal Arts CollegesRegional Universities and Regional Colleges – are based on factors that indicate academic quality, such graduation rates and faculty resources.”