With a focus on innovation, research and student success, UCF earns high marks for social mobility and fields that serve the region and nation.
By Nicole Dudenhoefer ’17 September 12, 2022
As UCF continues to unleash the potential of people and ideas to positively impact the world, the university upholds its reputation as a top-ranked public institution of higher education and a leader in innovation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2023 Best Colleges rankings.
UCF is ranked No. 64 for Public Schools, moving up three spots from last year. The university is also recognized as No. 137 among 443 total national universities, both public and private, considered. Placement in these two categories on the 2023 rankings marks the highest in university history.
UCF and its faculty continue to gain recognition for making an impact in the lives of students, Central Floridians, and people across the globe. This year’s notable increases in U.S. News & World Report rankings highlights UCF’s growing national reputation. The university aims to accelerate this trajectory of positive influence, striving for a top 50 ranking among public schools by 2027.
“Our continued rise in the rankings is a direct result of the exceptional work of faculty, staff and incredible students. UCF’s ongoing focus on excellence through student success, discovery, innovation, and partnership with our community set our trajectory as we work to build the University for the Future,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “We will continue to invest in unleashing the potential of people and ideas to positively impact our community and the world.”
UCF is ranked No. 20 in the Most Innovative Schools category across all institutions for 2023 and in the top 20 for the fifth consecutive year
UCF remains a leader in innovation, ranking No. 20 across all institutions for 2023 and in the top 20 in the Most Innovative Schools category for the fifth consecutive year. With the latest ranking, Knight Nation is the highest ranked in Florida and in the same company as excellent universities such as the Georgia Tech, Harvard, the University of Michigan and the University of Texas at Austin. Innovation is at the heart of how UCF faculty teach, how the university supports the success of students and novel research conducted across its campuses.
The Academy of Inventors has also recently ranked UCF No. 60 among worldwide universities for producing patents. This is a tangible measure of innovation that is a result of an institutional priority to empower students, faculty and staff to pursue groundbreaking research that provides solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. Locally, UCF is constantly seeking new opportunities to put faculty expertise to good use through service to Central Florida, often making insight and assistance more accessible through technology. Recent contributions include an app to help Florida residents prepare for hurricane season, providing in person and telehealth services for mental health care throughout the pandemic and developing a statewide toolkit to expand resources for first responders while acting as a regional support center.
In the Top Performers on Social Mobility category, UCF is ranked No. 59 across all institutions in the nation and 41st among public schools. UCF was also ranked 178th for Best Value Schools nationally. These rankings bring to light a commitment to access and opportunity, reducing achievement gaps, and ultimately breaking cycles of intergenerational hardship through education. As of Spring 2022, 42% of UCF students are the first in their family to attend a college or university. Of first-time-in-college students at UCF, nearly 60% graduate without any educational debt — an important factor that influences financial security. Each year, UCF enrolls nearly 22,000 Pell Grant students — more than the 12 Ivy Plus universities combined — with over 7,700 graduating in 2021-22. Earlier this month, Washington Monthly ranked UCF No. 37 for Social Mobility across national universities and 19th among public institutions.
These rankings, and the ones listed below, highlight just a few of the many areas UCF has achieved excellence in due to the efforts and dedication of our students, faculty, staff and partners.
While McKinsey & Company estimates there will be a national shortage of 200,000 to 450,000 nurses by 2025, UCF is stepping up to provide qualified professionals needed to sustain our healthcare system.
With the COVID-19 pandemic drawing attention to the need for a strong medical professional workforce, UCF’s College of Nursing saw a 26% increase in bachelor’s programs applications last year. This summer a cohort of nearly 70 individuals who previously earned their bachelor’s in other subjects and were inspired to change career paths graduated from UCF’s College of Nursing accelerated second degree bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) program. Efforts like this one at UCF are critical to curbing the rising nursing shortage. The four-semester program fast tracks high-performing students (admitted students have an average 3.6 GPA) into the nursing field by providing a convenient path while still requiring the same number of clinical hours as their counterparts in the traditional BSN program. UCF already graduates the most newly licensed registered nurses annually in the State University System, with approximately 260 Knight nurses entering the workforce each year.
“Today’s rankings reflect our faculty and staff’s dedication to academic excellence, to solving healthcare’s challenges, and to positively impacting the health of our communities.” — Mary Lou Sole, UCF College of Nursing dean
“UCF’s College of Nursing continues to lead the charge in solving our nation’s nursing shortage by providing a cutting-edge education to a much-needed Knight nurse workforce of providers, leaders, scientists and faculty,” says College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole. “Today’s rankings reflect our faculty and staff’s dedication to academic excellence, to solving healthcare’s challenges, and to positively impacting the health of our communities. We will continue to build upon this momentum, unlocking more opportunities and realizing our full potential, with our new home at Lake Nona’s Medical City.”
UCF will be able to ramp up the number of nursing graduates it produces with a new 90,000-square-foot College of Nursing building at the 50-acre, state-of-the-art UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus in Lake Nona. The new facility will also house more labs to foster innovative, hands-on learning opportunities. The location is near the College of Medicine, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, the UCF Lake Nona Hospital and other local partnership facilities, which will align more opportunities for interdisciplinary education and research to serve students and patients alike. Proximity to Lake Nona’s growing Medical City bolsters UCF’s ability to be distinctive in areas of healthcare expertise while working collaboratively to address our community’s most challenging problems.
With its current location in Research Park, the College of Nursing has already received international recognition for its commitment to innovation in the field, as it regularly incorporates new technologies, such as augmented, virtual and mixed reality, into simulation learning experiences. Earlier this year the College of Nursing’s Simulation, Technology, Innovation & Modeling (STIM) Center was among an elite group of nine simulation programs worldwide — and the only one in Florida — to earn the new Healthcare Simulation Standards Endorsement from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL). This is the second global honor for the STIM Center, which earned accreditation from the Society for Simulation in Healthcare in 2020. With its new nursing facility, UCF will be able to expand upon its success with using simulation technology to train medical professionals.
“UCF is strengthening its reputation as a leader in the field and a driving force in the future of (nursing) simulation,” said Associate Professor Desiree Díaz, who is president-elect of INACSL, in a story about this year’s accreditation. “These honors also shine a light on the work of our dedicated team who are passionate about the field and in educating the best healthcare provider possible.”
As one the nation’s top 20 most innovative universities, UCF is constantly evolving its degree offerings to provide students with programs that will position them to become leaders in emerging fields.
This fall UCF launched its master’s in fintech program, which will prepare students for careers applying the latest technological innovations to the world’s financial services. In recent years, Global Finance said Florida is home for the new industry and Forbes has indicated Orlando is a fintech hub. UCF’s fintech program is the first of its kind in the state. The university is among institutions like MIT, Columbia, Stanford and Cornell that offer fintech degrees.
“The evolving relationship between business and innovation is driving the need for highly trained professionals with both advanced financial skills and technological know-how,” said Christo Pirinsky, program co-director and an associate professor of finance, in a story about the master’s in Fintech program launch. “UCF is uniquely positioned to offer a graduate degree program designed to promote entrepreneurial thinking, innovation and the fostering of relationships within the Central Florida business community and beyond.”
“To produce career-ready students, we need to be on the cutting edge of industry needs.” — Paul Jarley, UCF College of Business dean
The program, which is offered jointly through the College of Business and College of Engineering and Computer Science, expands upon the fintech certificate and minor. It teaches students how to harness the power of data, technology solutions, and financial services to reduce costs, improve customer experience, and create economies of scale. From apps and blockchain developers to cybersecurity analyst, compliance expert, data specialist, financial analyst, investment manager and more, the program prepares students for a wide range of jobs.
“To produce career-ready students, we need to be on the cutting edge of industry needs,” says College of Business Dean Paul Jarley. “Programs like our fintech offering were born out of extensive conversations with industry and understanding what our corporate partners need to be competitive in the years to come. Academic-industry partnerships drive innovation in the College of Business. It’s how we add value and blend academic rigor with practical relevance.”
Equitable access to STEM education is essential for America to remain globally competitive. Since the university began offering classes in 1968, 126,000 STEM degrees have been awarded, accounting for 31.5% of all degrees. Often seen as a challenging field with a high return on investment, UCF has a strong reputation for producing a high volume of engineering students — and about 80% of Knights land a job in their field before they even graduate. This is in part due to efforts to expose students to the most cutting-edge research while preparing them with practical skills that align with our region’s workforce needs.
“UCF is surrounded by an ecosystem of research and technology with major breakthroughs in engineering fields such as aeronautics and space right here in our state,” says Seetha Raghavan, UCF professor and aerospace engineering program coordinator. “We are spearheading this leadership in innovation by building a workforce equipped with scholarship and research capacity through our undergraduate and graduate programs.”
With NASA’s Artemis program aiming to land the first woman and person of color on the moon by 2025 to develop sustainable presence there and advance deep space exploration, now is a pivotal time for space research. As the Artemis 1 mission launch is scheduled for later this year, more than 30 UCF alumni, many of whom are engineering graduates, are supporting the initiative. More than 20 UCF faculty and dozens of students are also involved with Artemis program-related research projects that will provide important insight into the next wave of space exploration.
“Pushing ourselves beyond what can be imagined is how we do things in the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science,” says Michael Georgiopoulos, CECS dean. “Our inspiration comes from our world-class faculty, our high-achieving students, our multi-partner research efforts that provide real-world opportunities for all students, our robust industry partnerships, our leadership development programs for all students, our thousands of alumni who give back to us to benefit students — these all contribute to UCF’s growing reputation of excellence on the national and international stage.”
“These opportunities have paved the way for diverse groups of students to reach their full potential and this is what best measures our success.” — Seetha Raghavan, UCF professor
Raghavan is leading a team of engineering students to create a 3D printed coating to keep spacecrafts and other objects safe while traveling in space. The project is NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Space Technology Artemis Research, or M-STAR, initiative — which UCF was one of seven national institutions awarded a $500,000 grant to participate in. UCF’s Hispanic Serving Institution designation made it eligible for the award. With NASA aiming to build a more diverse and competitive workforce, this award enables UCF to recruit and retain underrepresented and underserved students. Through M-STAR, UCF engineering, as well and physics and medical students, have opportunities to make an impact in the real world — and help shape the future of it — before they even graduate.
“Our students have access to opportunities to engage in pioneering research and industry internships while preparing themselves academically for the exciting careers that lie ahead,” Raghavan says. “These opportunities have paved the way for diverse groups of students to reach their full potential and this is what best measures our success.”
In March, U.S. News & World Report ranked more than 30 UCF graduate programs among the best. In January, UCF broke into the top 10 best online schools with the No. 7 U.S. News & World Report rankings — the best in university history and seven spots up from the previous year.
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