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UNC’s faculty resources ranking in U.S. News declines

The University’s standing in the annual U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” rankings, released Tuesday, remains largely unchanged from last year — except in one area.

The magazine ranked UNC 12 spots lower in faculty resources — to 59th overall, tying with the University of Michigan. UNC ranked 47th in faculty resources last year and 35th in 2010.

The plunge highlights the growing problem of faculty retention at the University, said Chancellor Holden Thorp in a memorandum to the Board of Trustees.

“We have clearly lost ground among our public peers this last year,” Thorp said in the memo.

UNC’s ranking among public universities remained at fifth for the 11th consecutive year, and it moved up one spot to tie for 29th among all public and private campuses.

The faculty resources category measures undergraduate class size, the two most recent academic years of average total faculty salary and benefits, student-faculty ratio and percentage of faculty who work full-time and have earned the highest degree in their field.

Thorp said in the memo he expects to see another drop when the rankings are released again next fall.

“U.S. News rankings tend to lag a year behind developments like budget cuts,” Thorp said. “It will all depend on what happens to our peer campuses, some of which are giving faculty raises.”

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney said faculty salary levels threaten the faculty resources ranking the most.

“It’s discouraging for faculty members to not have a pay raise in three years,” Carney said, adding that other universities have the capability to poach faculty.

Executive Associate Provost Ron Strauss agreed that a lack of faculty rewards is to blame.

“I think the drop has to do with our ability to maintain and provide faculty benefits and compensation,” he said.

Budget cuts, which affected class enrollment numbers, are the primary culprit in the rankings drop, Thorp said.

“The number of course sections we offered last fall enrolling 50 or more students went up slightly — to 13 percent from 12 percent,” Thorp said.

Course sections enrolling fewer than 20 students showed a two-point drop, to 37 percent.

But not all of the components of the faculty resources category were negative.

The student-faculty ratio stayed consistent at 14:1 for the 12th year in a row. The percent of full-time faculty remained at around 97 percent for the third year.

Thorp said UNC’s overall ranking was a positive sign.

“It’s also another solid indication of how well-regarded Carolina is in the national conversation about the nation’s very best universities,” Thorp said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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