The Gator Nation has been buzzing with the thrilling news of UF’s rise to No. 7 on the U.S. News & World Report Top Public Schools rankings. Hundreds of social media posts attest to the pride and motivation elicited by this good news. For the third consecutive year, UF has worked hard to not only be the only university in Florida represented in top 10, but to also to rise in ranking.

But what exactly has changed about UF that caused this shift? What does it mean?

Nikki Fleming, an admissions officer and recent UF grad, had some theories. “We hired 500 new faculty members, so we were able to drop the student-to-faculty ratio from 19:1 last year to 18:1 this year,” Fleming noted. In an article released in November 2017 announcing the decision to hire many new faculty, UF President Kent Fuchs said that the goal was to “further enhance teaching and research to continue to be one of the very best research universities in the nation.” Fleming believes this commitment to research has contributed to the ranking rise. “[The university is] a research-based institution, with many resources for professional schools and research facilities all over the country,” she said. In fact, as a preeminent research university, UF is involved in 11,013 active projects with $865 million devoted to research expenditures for more than 1,622 research faculty. In addition, the university has launched 20 start-ups this year.

U.S. News bases its ranking on 15 measures of a university’s academic quality such as standardized test scores of admitted students, student-faculty ratios and graduation rates. It also compares the student body characteristics, tuition and financial aid, faculty resources, and academic reputation among peer institutions.

More than one-third of a school’s rank is based on its ability to retain and graduate students in a timely manner. UF boasts a 97 percent retention rate of freshmen and a 68 percent graduation rate after four years and an 85 percent rate after five. As Fleming shared, the changes that UF has been making in order to improve student’s education have also allowed it to rise in ranking.

These numbers are impressive. But what does this mean for students? How will they be affected?

Many students are aware and excited about this shift upward because of what it means for their education now, as well as for their future beyond UF.

Avery Ferguson, a senior health science major, said, “[The rankings] make me proud to be a student here. I feel like I got a solid education for sure.” She is hopeful for how this ranking will continue to support her when she graduates in May.

Diego Perez is a junior double majoring in biomedical engineering and neuroscience, and neural engineering and psychology neuroscience. As a student who has already seen UF’s improvement during his time here, he shared how he has experienced professors improving courses because of feedback from students as well as seen those removing barriers to taking part in faculty research. “UF pushes you to be the best that you can be and gives you a lot more freedom to do what you want to do,” Perez said.

Newly enrolled freshmen also are excited because this ranking confirms what they already believe to be true about UF and have experienced in the first weeks of school.

Aliyan Ali added, “I think the resources that UF provides and the professors all combine to make it a good education for us.”

Fleming said admissions expects more public interest in the university because of this change. That means more interest from prospective students, which will affect the quality and volume of applications received. It also means an increase in the quality and volume of interest from individuals and organizations who want to work with UF and come to speak to students, providing more opportunities for students to learn and network.

As a student here and one of the admissions bloggers, I am certainly excited. I have already experienced the benefits of attending a university that is preeminent in research, abounds with opportunities to discover, and provides students with personal care. Just last week, I benefitted from the lower student-to-faculty ratio when I was able to meet with a professor for the personal attention I needed to succeed in that class. Teachers, advisors and other faculty here have given me their time, listened to me, and sought to help me resolve any problems I’ve encountered.

It is these qualities that add to the merit of UF’s No. 7 status. The fact that a school of this size can produce Ivy-caliber advancements in research while also providing personal care and empowerment for students is something to celebrate. Upon graduation, UF students may benefit from the title of their alma mater, but will also find value in their degree beyond its status because of the education, connections, and opportunities and care that they have received in their time at UF.