UNC's ranking among the nation's public colleges fell by two, making it the 5th best public university nationwide.
The annual report, which will hit newsstands Monday, is a popular guide for prospective college students. But many college administrators publicly have discounted the rankings' importance.
Last year, the University was ranked 25th nationwide and 3rd among public schools -- topped only by the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Virginia.
UNC tied with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and University of California-Los Angeles.
This year, UNC was behind all four universities in the public school rankings.
UNC also fared poorly in the nationwide rankings compared to what administrators have dubbed its "peer schools."
While UNC fell three spots, the national rankings of UC-Berkeley and UM-Ann Arbor are unchanged from last year. UVa. and UCLA both fell by only one spot.
All four schools now rank between two and eight spots ahead of UNC in the nationwide rankings -- unlike past years when the five major public universities were grouped closer together.
Provost Robert Shelton said the gap between UNC and the other top public schools reflected changes at private schools, adding that UNC's scores in individual categories were more important than its overall ranking.
A university's score is based on several criteria, including faculty resources, academic reputation and financial resources.
UNC showed great decline in faculty resources, which is primarily based on faculty pay and benefits. "The benefits packages are noncompetitive -- that's the polite way to say it," Shelton said.
He said a $600 tuition increase passed last year, the second year of which was implemented this fall, would help improve faculty salaries.
Despite UNC's low faculty resource score, Faculty Council Chairwoman Sue Estroff said she was not bothered by the University's overall drop. "I'd be much more concerned about a change in my blood pressure or cholesterol than this."
But Estroff also said she was not surprised by the low faculty resource scores. "Our total compensation is terrible," Estroff said. "We're about 23rd in the nation in salaries. But we fall to 49th when you look at total compensation."
She said the problem could be eased if the state legislature would allocate more money to pay faculty.
The state legislature has planned limited budget cuts to state agencies to cover a multimillion dollar financial shortfall.
Chancellor James Moeser announced Wednesday during his State of the University address that he will propose a five-year tuition increase plan this fall -- partly to cover increased faculty salaries.
Moeser declined to comment after the rankings were released but said Thursday afternoon that he was not expecting any significant changes in the University's ranking. He said the report emphasizes certain parameters, such as the cost of attending a school and the size of its endowment, that favor private schools.
Moeser also addressed rankings during his Wednesday address. "If you must, read what the magazine has to say about us, but let us not for a second be diverted by these arbitrary and artificial ratings from the substance of our vision for excellence."
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