Publication Ranks UTEP #7 Among Nation’s Universities

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

A pep rally broke out in the lobby of UTEP’s Undergraduate Learning Center as University President Diana Natalicio announced a new national ranking that further validates the campus’ access and excellence efforts.

President Natalicio, backed by about 30 orange-and-blue clad, sign-waving students, said that Washington Monthly magazine ranked UTEP #7 among national universities based on its research, social mobility and service to the community and the nation. She shared the information during an Aug. 26 media event.UTEP’s successful access and excellence model is becoming known nationwide thanks to the University’s No. 7 ranking in Washington Monthly magazine, UTEP President Diana Natalicio said during an Aug. 26 media event on campus. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceUTEP’s successful access and excellence model is becoming known nationwide thanks to the University’s No. 7 ranking in Washington Monthly magazine, UTEP President Diana Natalicio said during an Aug. 26 media event on campus. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

The publication’s rating – up five spots from 2012 – gave the University another reason to celebrate the first day of the fall 2013 semester. The University was sandwiched between #6 Stanford and #8 Harvard.

“How’s that neighborhood?” a pleased President Natalicio asked as students cheered.

“UTEP has chosen to follow a different path and so has Washington Monthly. What Washington Monthly is more interested in is the impact of a university on its region and on this nation. By that set of criteria, UTEP zooms to the top because we’re getting it right.”

For the second year in a row, the magazine rated UTEP #1 in social mobility, which is described as the recruiting and graduating of students from low-income families. The research component includes annual expenditures (in excess of $76 million) and the growing number of undergraduates who continue to earn doctoral degrees. The service module involves students who are taught to give back to the community through volunteer hours or participation in service organizations such as ROTC and Project MOVE.  

President Natalicio said she was proud and excited that the nation has noted the different model UTEP created for higher education that focuses on quality and affordability. She said UTEP’s access and excellence method will be the answer to some of the challenges faced by universities in the 21st century. She will be part of a Sept. 4 panel discussion organized by Washington Monthly to discuss higher education issues reflected in the rankings.

In its introduction to the rankings, the magazine’s editors praised UTEP for enrolling – and graduating – a large number of low-income students. More than half of UTEP’s almost 23,000 students – 12,116 – received a Pell Grant during the 2012-13 academic year, and 75 percent received some form of financial aid.

“Our rankings aim to identify institutions that are acting on behalf of the true public interest,” the editors wrote. They later added that UTEP enrolls “large numbers of low-income students and graduates more of them than the economic and academic profiles of their students would predict, while charging the kind of affordable tuition that is increasingly rare.”

Gary Edens, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs, was among the University officials who attended the media event and pep rally. An undergraduate student from the late 1980s who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from UTEP, Edens said the ranking generates a lot of emotions in him because it is a public affirmation to the University’s efforts to build the access and excellence model.

“As a graduate I feel a lot of pride in the designation and as a University employee I feel a sense of accomplishment,” said Edens, who added that the recognition sends a message to every high school senior in El Paso that they can stay home and get a top-notch education.

“(Washington Monthly) is saying that we’re doing a great job,” he said. “It’s one thing for us to say it, but it’s a whole other thing for someone else to prove it and show it. The external validation means a lot. The challenge for us is to do better next year.”

Daniel Gloria, executive assistant to the Student Government Association president, said the magazine’s acknowledgement is further evidence that the University is growing into a Tier One (national research) institution.

Gloria, a senior organizational and corporate communication major who mentors students at El Paso’s Coronado High School, said he will use this latest ranking when he speaks with students eager to attend private East Coast universities.

“We’re a University that creates opportunities for students,” he said. “This should make UTEP their first choice.”

UTEP was the highest rated institution within The University of Texas System on the list. UT Austin was ranked 18th. The top school in the state was Texas A&M at #3, falling one spot from 2012. The University of California, San Diego earned the top spot overall for the second year in a row.

This is the eighth year that the publication, an investigative, system-analysis periodical based in Washington, D.C., produced college rankings. To view the complete listings, visit “2013 College Rankings.”

Students who spoke at the event called the recognition a source of pride and accomplishment. They lauded President Natalicio for her leadership as well as the University’s talented faculty and staff. They wished they could share their Miner pride with everyone – especially with high school students – at the local, state and national levels. They share the University’s goal to achieve Tier One status.
Oscar Casanova, a junior finance and accounting major, said he was a Miner “at the right place at the right time.” He referred to students, including those who live in Mexico, who wake up early, study hard, and try to achieve the best grades possible. “We wake up with a passion. We tell ourselves that we’re proud to be a UTEP Miner.”