State leaders — including Gov. Ron DeSantis — celebrated the University of Florida Monday after U.S. News and World Report ranked the school among the top five public universities in the nation.
Speaking at the Gainesville-based university early Monday, DeSantis crowned the moment a “historic day” and touted the distinction as a “significant accomplishment.” The ranking, he said, is something all Floridians should be proud of, regardless of allegiances.
“I know you guys are not done yet … Just imagine what a great week it would be if we could beat Alabama on Saturday?” DeSantis said, garnering applause from the crowd.
Notably, Saturday’s ranking marks the university’s latest national milestone. UF first cracked Top 10 status in 2017, tying at No. 9 with the University of California, Irvine, and the University of California, San Diego. Just years later, it now ranks No. 5 among U.S. public universities.
“When we look back over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a steady improvement,” DeSantis said. “In 2012, the University of Florida was ranked number 19, and now, they are ranked five. There’s a lot of great students, administrators, the Florida legislature, and board members that have continued to make Florida the best place in the nation to get a great education.”
U.S. News and World Report’s ranking assesses universities on nine factors, including graduation and retention, social mobility, graduation rate performance, undergraduate academic reputation and faculty resources.
UF President Kent Fuchs credited the accomplishment to a village effort. He and university leaders presented DeSantis — a former Yale baseball captain — with a University of Florida baseball jersey.
“I want to express my gratitude and acknowledgment to all of the people in the UF community who contribute every day to a culture of hard work, passion, invention, and discovery that will far outlast this ranking season and any other accolades,” Fuchs said. “It’s an honor for UF to be recognized, and it’s a pleasure to say with full confidence that our momentum will continue.”
Senate President Wilton Simpson noted the ranking marks the first time a Florida school broke into the top five universities in state history.
The state’s investment, he added, is being put to “excellent use.”
“A few years ago, when the Legislature had a vision of establishing a preeminent university, we could not imagine how successful the effort would be,” Simpson said.
Among other accomplishments, UF boasts a 97% retention rate and a six-year graduation rate of 89%.
It’s also proven itself with a distinguished return on investment. According to the university, more than two-thirds of students enter the workforce with no debt. What’s more, the university has reduced student debt totals by 15% over four years.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls said at the event.
“UF’s commitment to excellence and continuous improvement has motivated and inspired all 12 of Florida’s public universities to strive for their very best,” added Syd Kitson, chair of the Florida Board of Governors. “UF’s accomplishments elevate the entire State University System, which in turn elevate the state of Florida.”
UF wasn’t the only state university to be recognized in the report.
Florida A&M University ranked as the top historically Black college or university for the third consecutive year.
This year, Florida State University maintained its top 20 ranking with a three-way tie with the University of Maryland, University of Washington, and the University of Pittsburgh.
The 2021 University of Florida announcement can be viewed online.