Western Carolina University has maintained its status as one of the top universities in the South in two categories in the 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guidebook released Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The guidebook lists WCU as 13th among “top public regional universities” in the South, the university’s same ranking as last year. The publication also has WCU tied with two other schools at No. 37 on a list of the “best regional universities” in the South.
The “best regional universities” category in which WCU appears includes 653 public and private higher education institutions that offer a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and that tend to attract most of their students from surrounding states. The universities are ranked against their peer group in one of four regions – North, South, Midwest and West.
The annual rankings are based on a variety of indicators, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, graduation rates, retention of students, faculty resources, average class size, student/faculty ratio, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
“The latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report provide further evidence of Western Carolina University’s reputation of high academic quality,” said WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher. “Our rapidly increasing profile as an institution of high academic quality didn’t just happen. Our faculty and staff have built an environment in which our students thrive, made high retention rates reality, nurtured our successes in undergraduate research, and worked with our students and helped them to punch their tickets to promising lives.”
The best universities recognition comes days after WCU announced it has smashed enrollment records for the size of the overall student body and of the freshman class for fall 2016. Total enrollment at WCU stands at 10,806 students, shattering the previous record of 10,382 students set in 2014. WCU’s freshman class this year totals 1,913 students, surpassing the high-water mark of 1,859 students set in 1972 during an enrollment boom near the end of the Vietnam era.
The university also saw a small uptick in its retention rate, with slightly more than 80 percent of last year’s freshmen returning this fall for their sophomore year.
Rankings guidebooks can provide some assistance in the college search process, but prospective students should focus on finding the school that is the right fit for them personally, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions at WCU.
“The best way to see if Western Carolina is a good fit is to visit during Open House, which allows students and parents to get a feel for the campus by taking a tour, talking with faculty and staff, and learning about academic programs, extracurricular activities, student support programs and financial aid,” Cauley said.
The next Open House at WCU is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 19, with two others to be held in early 2017, on Feb. 25 and March 25. More information and registration is available at openhouse.wcu.edu.
Students who cannot attend an Open House have the alternative of participating in a weekday campus tour, Cauley said. More information is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 828-227-7317, or visiting the websites visit.wcu.edu and tours.wcu.edu.
By Bill Studenc