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US News and World Report includes university in annual 'best of' rankings

Western Carolina University is featured prominently ― including a top 10 ranking ― in regional and national categories of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges of 2020” guidebook, released Monday, Sept. 9.

WCU consistently has been a top university in the South in the magazine’s annual evaluations, both as a public institution and in the listing encompassing public and private institutions of higher education.

Catamounts frequently cite academic program quality, opportunity for experiences beyond the classroom and preparation for careers in making their college choice.

“The latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report provide another compelling piece of evidence reinforcing the fact that Western Carolina University offers a very high-quality education at an affordable cost,” said WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown. “We are especially pleased to see our high position in the publication’s social mobility rankings, a new category. As a regional comprehensive university, WCU is a place where many first-generation and rural students go to obtain their degrees toward the goal of achieving a better quality of life than their parents.”

The 2020 edition of the guidebook offers comprehensive advice for researching college choices, providing a “smart shortlist” of schools. The 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 and financial resources.

Unless indicated otherwise, the rankings include both public and private schools.

WCU in regional rankings

  • Top Public Universities ― 10th, moving up from 11th last year
  • Best for Vets ― 12th, after being 24th last year
  • Best Value ― 14th (new category)
  • Top Performers on Social Mobility ― 20th (new category)
  • Top Regional Universities ― 23rd, up from 34th last year

WCU in national rankings

  • Best Undergrad Engineering Programs ― 97th
  • Best Undergrad Business Programs ― 380th

WCU is the westernmost institution in the University of North Carolina System, with a main campus located some 50 miles west of Asheville and an instructional site at Biltmore Park in Asheville. The rankings come as WCU records more than 12,000 students enrolled for the fall semester, the most in the institution’s history.

“On the quest for ‘best,’ best is very subjective,” said Phil Cauley, WCU assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment. “What is ‘best’ for one student may not prove to be ‘best’ for another. But, rankings can help raise awareness of prospective students on the quest for best fit ― be it best public universities, best value, best for military service veterans or best for social mobility.

“WCU is pleased to receive high marks and praise in multiple categories when ‘best’ is the topic of discussion. Hopefully, such rankings put the university on the radar of students and families who otherwise would not explore the distinctive fit found at WCU that may lead them to the conclusion, ‘I’d rather be in Cullowhee!’”

The rankings are based on information collected from nearly 1,400 institutions during spring 2019 via the U.S. News & World Report’s annual statistical survey. “For more than three decades, we have collected and analyzed data on thousands of colleges and universities across the country and helped put schools on the map,” said Kim Castro, editor of U.S. News & World Report. “We’ve found the best institutions to be ones committed to academically and financially supporting their students through graduation. They draw in high-quality professors and set students up for postgraduate success.”

Guidebooks can serve as a tool in the college search process, as can campus visits and firsthand discussions with faculty and admissions staff. Open House events are held at WCU throughout the year, with registration now available for Saturday events on Nov. 2, Nov. 23, Feb. 22 and March 21.

WCU On Tour events are held throughout the state, with a presentation and representatives available to speak individually to potential undergraduate, graduate, transfer or distance students, as well as school counselors and parents. Doors open at 6 p.m. and programs start at 7 p.m. for the following dates and locations:

  • Monday, Sept. 16, in Greensboro at the Embassy Suites, 204 Centreport Drive
  • Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Raleigh at the Hilton Garden Inn-Crabtree, 3912 Arrow Drive
  • Wednesday, Sept. 18, in Charlotte at the Embassy Suites-Ayrsley, 1917 Ayrsley Town Boulevard

More information is available by going to or by calling the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 828-227-7317 or toll-free 877-928-4968.

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