CARBONDALE - Southern Illinois University Carbondale ranks among the top national universities in U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2011."

SIUC ranked 183 on the list of "Best National Universities" and landed at 101 in the "Top Public Universities: National Universities" list. The lists reflect the top 75 percent of schools in each category.

U. S. News & World Report ranked the top 191 universities out of the more than 1,400 it surveyed.

"The rankings convey the strengths we have here with the number of full-time faculty; the very large percentage of small classes, which are conducive to a positive learning environment; and the low percentage of large lectures, which may be off-putting, especially to freshmen," SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said. "We offer a high quality and excellent education at SIUC, and I think this is reflected in the ranking."

Ranking performance was partially based on ratios of students to faculty. At SIUC, 50 percent of the classes offered cap out at 20 or fewer students; only 5 percent of classes include 50 or more students, officials said. The ratio of students to faculty is 15.7 to 1 and the percentage of full-time faculty is 96 percent.

U.S. News changed the way it performs rankings this year, but those changes resulted in a better showing for the Carbondale campus, which before now hovered in the lower-tier rankings of the previous system, SIUC spokesman Rod Sievers said.

Sievers noted the campus' ranking continues to be somewhat stifled by student retention rates. SIU typically serves lower-income students who may have trouble financially in completing work on a degree midway through their college careers, he said but added it's an important mission the university will keep pursuing.

- Andrea Hahn of SIUC University Communications and Caleb Hale of The Southern Illinoisan contributed to this article.

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