UCF again is recognized among the nation’s most impactful institutions for students and communities — advancing into the top 40 Best National Universities and the top 20 for social mobility in Washington Monthly’s annual rankings released today.
Washington Monthly’s rankings are based on what institutions “do for our country” — contributions to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and promoting public service. All of those categories align well with UCF’s mission and commitments to unleashing potential by empowering all students to succeed, and serving as a talent pipeline to industries critical to our region and state.
UCF rose 11 spots from last year to rank No. 36 among Best National Universities. UCF also ranks No. 16 nationally among peer public universities, advancing 26 spots in the past two years.
UCF also moved into the top 20 among universities nationally for social mobility and advanced to No. 9 for Best Bang for Your Buck School in the Southeast.
“At UCF, our mission is to unleash potential through access to high-quality education and the opportunity to earn success,” UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright says. “In doing so, we are not just transforming individual lives, but uplifting our entire community, driving success and prosperity for generations to come.”
In the social mobility category, UCF jumped to No. 20, up 17 spots from last year and 38 from 2021. UCF also rose 14 spots in the past two years to move into the top ten among Best Bang for Your Buck schools in the Southeast for the first time.
“We’re proud to see UCF climb in the social mobility rankings,” says UCF’s Senior Vice President for Student Success Paul Dosal. “We believe firmly in the transformative power of higher education. When we admit students, their success is our top priority as we support them through graduation and help them pursue high-impact careers. For the thousands and thousands of limited-income, first-generation students and underrepresented minorities we serve, that means we give them the chance to unleash their potential and improve their lives.”
As a metropolitan research university that empowers faculty to find innovative solutions to local and global challenges, UCF ranks No. 105 for Research — eight spots higher than 2021. UCF’s dedicated efforts to supporting our community and engaging students and alumni in opportunities to give back is recognized with a No. 163 ranking for Service.
Prioritizing Student Success to Drive Social Mobility
UCF’s efforts to accelerate student success and enhance well-being prepare our graduates to lead enriched and fulfilling lives, and to have the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes that align with the workforce of the future.
The number of students who received Pell Grants and graduated was also considered, with UCF producing 5,166 in the last year. UCF is the second-highest producer of graduates with Pell Grants across all institutions Washington Monthly ranked this year.
“A higher education degree is the ticket to a better life,” Dosal says. “My life changed for the better because I earned a college degree. I am proud that we can give these same opportunities to other students, who find UCF is an institution that cares deeply and sincerely about promoting social mobility and economic prosperity for our state and country.”
Investing in Critical Research to Benefit Humankind
UCF aspires to be the No. 1 provider of diverse talent and fuel the nation’s talent pipeline across critical areas, many of which are STEM fields that rely on evolving research. Washington Monthly considers the number of science and engineering Ph.D.s awarded by institutions, and UCF awarded 217 in the last year.
UCF alumni work for major companies such as Lockheed Martin and Siemens, which are key partners that provide experiential learning experiences for our students. Recently engineering alum Raghu Kancherla ’19PhD received the Dilip R. Ballal Early Career Engineering Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ International Gas Turbine Institute. Kancherla, in part, is honored for developments he made at UCF that have been used in academia, industry and government agencies to advance supercritical CO2 combustion technology.
His mentor, Professor Subith Vasu, also received the award in 2017 — which highlights how students benefit from the expertise and guidance of UCF’s world-renowned faculty to make their own impact on the world.
Research funding also contributes to the overall ranking. Among the innovations developed at UCF are:
- An artificial intelligence (AI) model, developed by students, researchers and faculty members Ozlem Garibay ’01MS ’08PhD and Sudipta Seal, that accelerates the development of life-saving medicines that otherwise take billions of dollars and decades to produce.
- The first large-scale and multicolor alternative to pigment-based colorants, which can contribute to energy-saving efforts — reducing costs and helping to reduce global warming. This novel technology was created by Professor Debashis Chanda.
- Engineered tissue with human cells to study how to fight diseases transmitted by mosquitos — the world’s deadliest animal. This was created by College of Medicine researchers Bradley Jay Willenberg with Mollie Jewett working with a University of Tennessee faculty member.
Dedicated Efforts to Serving Others
UCF fosters a culture of innovation, inclusion, public service, and collaboration, and aims to be a model for civil discourse.
Students’ enrollment in service-oriented majors, such as social work and public administration, was also considered — with about one in five UCF students pursuing a field with a focus on helping others. Institutions that received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification — which UCF received in 2015 — also received points toward their ranking. UCF received six points for voter engagement, the highest number institutions received for this factor.
Students’ engagement in ROTC programs contributed to the ranking. UCF is home to the Fighting Knights Battalion, an Army ROTC program that hosted its 15th annual Iron Knight Challenge, which recruits students to the program, this spring. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 159, which is also known as the Flying Knights and celebrated 50 years at UCF last year, is also a part of Knight Nation.
The number of alumni active with the Americorps and Peace Corps contribute to Washington Monthly’s ranking — with 229 Knights engaged in volunteer work nationally and internationally.