Two Florida universities ranked in Top 5 – and we’re not even talking about football

by | Sep 6, 2023



  • The University of Florida (UF) and Florida International University (FIU) have surged in national college rankings, with UF now holding the 15th overall spot in the nation and the top position among public universities, while FIU has risen to 29th overall and the 4th spot among public universities.
  • The remarkable ascent particularly for FIU, can partially be attributed to a new methodology that assesses not only traditional metrics but also the impact colleges have on their students’ career trajectories, highlighting their contributions to student success.  
  • Florida International University, in particular, has emphasized career readiness through initiatives like “micro-credentialing” programs, aligning its curriculum with employer needs, and setting a precedent for how colleges are evaluated in the future, not only in Florida but nationwide.

While Florida State University (FSU) may be celebrating its shiny new #4 national ranking in NCAA football this week, two other Florida schools are stealing the spotlight for a different reason. The University of Florida (UF) and Florida International University (FIU) have leaped through the national rankings for best colleges in the United States, grabbing attention not just for their educational prowess but also for their extraordinary contributions to student success and outcomes.

UF, previously ranked 54th overall in the Wall Street Journal’s Best U.S. Colleges and Universities listings for 2022, also ranked 11th among public schools. But UF now stands tall at 15th overall in the nation, and holds the number one spot among public universities. FIU, which was 337th overall in 2022 and 114th among public schools, has made an incredible jump to 29th overall and the  number 4 spot among public universities.

Behind this phenomenal rise lies a significant change in the methodology of ranking colleges. In collaboration with data scientists at Statista, The Wall Street Journal and College Pulse revamped the ranking system. The new methodology not only measures traditional metrics but also evaluates how well these institutions propel the career trajectories of their students. Colleges are now not just rewarded for their raw performance in traditional metrics; they’re also held up against a benchmark that shows the impact they have on their students’ lives.

This approach brings out hidden gems like UF, FIU, and the University of La Verne. For instance, La Verne, where over half of the students are Pell Grant recipients, ranked 33rd overall, largely due to its excellent graduation score. Likewise, nearly half of FIU’s students receive Pell Grants, a fact that resonates with the school’s emphasis on career readiness and high post-graduation salaries.

FIU’s Provost, Elizabeth Béjar, told the Wall Street Journal that the university has aligned its curriculum with the needs of employers, incorporating “micro credentialing” programs that focus on professional skills and competencies. “We really want FIU to be a career laboratory,” Béjar noted.

The rise in rankings for UF and FIU could set a precedent for how colleges are evaluated in the future. Other colleges with a heavy focus on STEM or business, like Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, also fared well in the rankings, standing at 23rd overall.

As the tides shift in how we understand and assess higher education, it’s clear that the University of Florida and Florida International University are setting a standard—not just for schools in the Sunshine State, but for institutions nationwide.

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