U.S. News Ranking Reflects Lift From Research Funding in Education, Health Professions

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas broke into the top 100 for best graduate education programs in the nation for the first time this year as reported in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 edition of Best Graduate Schools.

“Our goal is to be a top 50 graduate education program among public universities,” said Tom Smith, dean of the college. “Based on our history of improvement, this is a very achievable goal.”

The numbers:

  • The college’s graduate education programs moved up 46 places in the overall rankings.
  • The programs were ranked 86th nationally overall, up from 132nd place last year.
  • The programs placed 70th among public universities, compared to 97th the year before.
  • The graduate education programs were first ranked by U.S. News in 2010, when the U of A was listed at No. 141.
  • The programs were ranked at No. 129 in 2011, No. 106 in 2012 and No. 132 in 2013.

“Last year, our ranking dropped to 132, primarily because of a reduction in external research funding,” Smith said. “Prior to last year, the trend was to steadily improve our rankings. This year, thanks to a significant increase in external funding and increased number of students with grants, our rankings improved substantially.”

Smith emphasized that rankings are just one of many factors prospective students must consider when choosing a college but they coincide with improvements made by the college.

“I think this ranking reflects a continued effort by our faculty and staff to improve the education our students receive,” he said. “This rise in the rankings would not be possible without their hard work and dedication, and in the end it’s the students – and the students they go on to teach – who benefit.”

The Best Graduate Schools ranking is based on ratings by deans from other education schools and graduate programs, assessments by school administrators who hire teachers, student quality, faculty resources and research activity.

The college reported external research expenditures of $13.4 million for the 2013 fiscal year. Research funding was awarded to 29 faculty members, and research projects covered such topics as hydration, literacy, disability services and education reform.

The college, characterized by its diverse academic programs, offers degrees in 26 areas, operates 23 research and service units and enrolled 5,200 students at the beginning of the fall 2013 semester. That includes about 1,200 graduate students, the largest graduate enrollment of any college at the University of Arkansas.

The graduate education programs in the College of Education and Health Professions are not the only programs that fare well in rankings. The program in rehabilitation counseling was ranked No. 16 in 2011 by U.S. News and has been in the top 20 for the past decade. U.S. News conducts ranking of some graduate programs only every few years, not annually.

Last fall, Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin published an article that ranked the scholarly productivity of rehabilitation counseling programs. The U of A program ranked eighth in the nation based on the number of research articles published by faculty in peer-reviewed publications. The researchers who wrote the article reviewed seven such publications in the years 2000-2009 to assess the prestige of academic programs.  

And in January, U.S. News released rankings of online degrees that included four academic programs delivered by the college in collaboration with Global Campus at the University of Arkansas. It was just the second year that U.S. News and World Report has ranked online academic programs separately from its annual general ranking of higher-education institutions.

“The College of Education and Health Professions strives to focus on quality programs,” Smith said. “We are creating opportunities for students who are unable to access programs on campus. These rankings allow us to have another measure of where we are and what we need to continue to do to provide the best academic experience possible for students learning online.”

The online rankings:

  • Graduate education programs were No. 42 of 166 ranked programs. The U of A programs were No. 34 among public institutions on the list.
  • The bachelor’s degree in human resource and workforce development education placed No. 56 of 207 such programs. The U of A degree was No. 32 among public institutions.
  • The Master of Science in Nursing degree, which offers a concentration for nurses who want to become educators, was ranked No. 71 of 96 online graduate nursing programs. It was No. 48 among public universities.

The University of Arkansas Global Campus supports academic units in the development and delivery of online and distance education programs and courses. It provides instructional design services, access to national distance education organizations, and assistance with strategic academic program development and marketing.

The future continues to look bright for the College of Education and Health Professions. In October, the U.S. Department of Education announced a $32-million, five-year research grant to the college. The grant, believed to be the largest in the U of A’s history, was awarded to the U of A and the Arkansas Department of Education to implement the PROMISE program.

“The focus of the project will be to develop a model program to assist adolescents with disabilities to become independent adults,” Smith said. “It’s another wonderful opportunity for our college to make a significant difference in the lives of young people. That’s what we do. And, in this case, we are extremely excited to work with the Arkansas Department of Education, Gov. Mike Beebe’s office and numerous state agencies on this project.”

Contacts:

Heidi Stambuck, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, stambuck@uark.edu

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