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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee-Knoxville is 44th in a ranking of the nation’s best public universities by U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine also says only two other national universities send their graduates into the workplace with less debt than UT-Knoxville.

The information is in the U.S. News guidebook, ”1999 America’s Best Colleges,” available Aug. 24 at bookstores and newsstands.

Dr. John Peters, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UT-Knoxville, said he was pleased the campus is included in the rankings.

”To be included in the top 50 public universities is a reflection of the high quality of the UT-Knoxville faculty,” Peters said. ”We have worked hard to build a state university in which Tennesseans can take pride.”

Graduates of UT-Knoxville have an average debt of $6,532. Only graduates of Florida International University ($4,500) and Texas Tech ($5,100) have less, the magazine says.

Other public Southeast universities ranked in the top 50 included North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 3rd; Georgia Tech, 13; Florida, 23; Georgia, 26; North Carolina State, 34; Clemson, 38; with Auburn and Florida State tied at 40.

Another recent college survey, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, ranks UT-Knoxville a ”Top 100” value among state universities.

UT-Knoxville ranks 61st among the 600 colleges and universities reviewed for the magazine’s September edition.