FAU moves up eight spots in national rankings for best public universities

The jump marks the biggest by any public university in Florida this year.

Sofia De La Espriella, Contributing Writer

Florida Atlantic University made some strides in presenting itself as one of the best universities in the United States.

According to this year’s Best Public Schools Rankings from U.S. News and World Report, FAU went from 140th to 132th, the biggest jump by any public university in Florida. The university also ranked second from Florida in Campus Diversity, making it the second most racially, culturally and ethnically diverse school in the State University System. 

FAU also ranked 263rd out of 443 national universities. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.

Every year, U.S. News & World Report uses more than 17 factors, including Student-faculty ratio, faculty salaries, SAT or ACT scores and graduation rate performance, among others, to determine college rankings. This method has made the U.S. News & World Report rankings one of the most accurate in the country and largest college search and ranking site in the country in 2021. 

“Florida Atlantic is a top choice public university and we are thrilled to see that reflected in the national rankings. Our commitment to ensure success for all has helped elevate FAU on all fronts, and I am proud to see the hard work of our faculty, staff and students paying off,” said President John Kelly. 

Assistant Provost for Academic Operations and Planning James Capp said one of the specific strategies that helped to achieve that climb in the ranking this year is called “Team Based Analytics.” This has created a diverse cross functional team from the university to have enough data to make better decisions and programs enhance student’s success. 

I found it to be very useful because we can make sure that all our different initiatives are validated with evidence and that we test and assess every initiative,” Capp said. “For example, campus involvement: we have found that if you are participating in a registered student organization that you have a 7% increase in your likelihood to succeed. That’s a pretty significant lift.” 

On the other hand, FAU ranked 58th in Campus Ethnic Diversity within National Universities and second in the state of Florida, behind Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. This diversity ranking is based on where students are most likely to encounter undergraduates from racial or ethnic groups different from their own. U.S. News factors in the total proportion of minority students, leaving out international students, and the overall mix of groups. 

The ethnic categories used in the calculations are non-Hispanic, African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, Asian, non-Hispanic white and multiracial (two or more races). Based on these groups, U.S. News creates a formula that generates a diversity index that ranges from 0 to 1. Meaning that the closer a university score is to 1, the more diverse is their student population. FAU has a 0.69 score.

Even though this ranking doesn’t include international students, Capp explained in his 14 years working at the offices of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, the main thing that kept the university successful is its celebration of differences. 

“It’s really ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ That’s the approach we try to take to make sure that we are supporting all our students and the result of that is that we all become successful together,” Capp said.  

Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Faerman spoke about the strategies the university has to keep working on involving diversity and social mobility. 

“From a student affairs lens, we are always looking at our ability to increase retention from first to second year as well as our four year graduation rate,” said Faerman. “We also look to enhance the student experience with the belief that the better the experience a student has, the more likely they are to be engaged as alumni.” 

Capp said there are a few goals still left to achieve from the university’s strategic plan ending in 2025, including becoming a top 100 public school according to U.S. News and World Report, and continuing to grow the research enterprise to the point where the Carnegie Institute would categorize FAU as an R1 highest research category. Those two are the biggest objectives to achieve in the upcoming years. 

“Our biggest goal is to really keep transforming our students’ lives by taking the students coming to our institution at one income rate and giving them the tools so that they can move up into another income rate. And [the university] is also committed to making them successful to become local and national leaders,” Capp said. 

Sofia De La Espriella is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or message her on Instagram @sofidelaespriella