UNI ranked no. 2 midwest public school



UNI was ranked second among midwestern public universities.


UNI is ranked the second best public university in the midwest by the recently released 2019 U.S. News and World Report Best College Rankings. On the U.S. News and World Report’s list which accounts for both public and private institutions in the Midwest, UNI ranked number 25.

“I think the top [reason for the rank] is the sense of community that we have on this campus,” said Student Body President Drew Stensland. “It’s hard to quantify; it’s hard to measure. But the fact [is] that if you pull aside the students and ask them, ‘What’s your favorite part about UNI?’ a lot of them end up saying it’s the community. It’s the ability to walk to class and know someone. It’s the ability to feel connected to professors, to administrators, to everyone really on campus. I’d say that’s a huge thing we have on our campus that not necessarily other campuses have.”

Peer assessment is one of the defining factors that decides how each institution ranks on the list. However, it only accounts 15 percent of the overall rank. The other factors that the U.S. News and World Report looks at include graduation and retention rates, faculty resources and financial resources, among others.

Student Body Vice President Kristen Ahart agreed that UNI’s sense of community is one of its greatest assets.

“We’d done a study when we were looking at renovating the Maucker Union,” said Ahart. “So, we brought in these architects and they went around doing surveys of faculty, staff, and students and asked them what their top three qualities that they’d assign to UNI were. [Students] all said ‘home,’ ‘community’—all of these heartfelt words. [The architects] said that out of the hundreds of institutions that they’d worked on in projects like this, they’d never had a unanimous set of words that faculty and staff and students all used to describe the same institution. I think that’s what make it special that we all hold the same qualities about UNI close to our heart.”

Ahart said further that she and Stensland are “very proud” to be the student body president and vice president of such a highly-ranked institution.

However, not everyone is inclined to put so much stock into the U.S. News and World Report’s annual list.

“I think it’s great that we get acknowledged, but we’re not doing it for the numbers,” said Paula Knudson, the Vice President for Student Affairs. “What’s unique and wonderful about UNI is that we’re doing it because we believe it’s the right thing to do—educators, holistic educators that are trying to help young people or people in general be better citizens of tomorrow. And that I think is truly engrained in the values of this institution. Data is great. Data is useful. But data informs. It doesn’t ground you. It’s people that grounds this institution.”

Knudson believes that this ranking could aid in recruiting faculty. For those who pay attention to these college ranks, she believes the numbers two spot speaks volumes.

Ahart, on the other hand, believes that the rank has the most impact on potential students who are unsure if they should attend UNI.

“I think definitely looking at the change of how students are learning about institutions has switched to a little bit more personal research online,” Ahart said. “In my graduate school research, I’m looking at those rankings and looking at the research that’s been done on those institutions, so I think now more than anytime that’s really influencing the way students choose for sure.”

Stensland said he is reminded about just how special UNI is when he interacts with his counterparts from the other two public universities. He hears of the high regard UNI is held in from legislators and people all over Iowa.

Despite the university’s high ranking, Stensland says that one of the great things about UNI is its refusal to be complacent.

“We don’t do it for the ranking,” Stensland said. “The ranking is a result of what we’ve got here, which is awesome.”

Over the last several years, the number one spot on the list has consistently gone to Truman State University.

“Here’s purely my opinion[…] We could spend a lot of time and money trying to be number one. I’d rather spend our time and money on people,” Knudson said. “And if number one happens, great—because I don’t want to divert money to try to raise the numbers on things that they’re counting. I’d rather have the resources driven by institution of priorities and that is student success.”