Specifically, UTPA's program was ranked No. 17 out of 98 schools in the country. The rankings are based on peer assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators and/or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each of the subjects U.S. News evaluated, according to the magazine.
The periodical had the market research firm Synovate conduct the peer surveys. The firm sent surveys out in the fall of 2010 to programs and schools accredited by the Commission of Standards and Accreditation: Council on Rehabilitation Education and received responses from 40 percent of the institutions from which it sought feedback.
Respondents rated the academic quality of the programs on a 5-point scale, with 5 representing the top score of "outstanding."
UTPA's program received a 3.3 out of 5 from its peer institutions and tied with Auburn University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Kentucky, the University of Maryland-College Park and the University of Memphis.
The last time UTPA's rehabilitation services program was included in the U.S. News' best schools report was in 2007, when it was ranked No. 24.
The jump in rankings is reflective of the quality of faculty and the strides the program has made in the past few years, said Dr. Jerry Fischer, chair of the Rehabilitation Counseling Department.
The program has expanded to 14 faculty members, 625 undergraduates, 82 master's degree candidates and 17 doctoral candidates. Many of the department's faculty members sit on national boards related to their disciplines and are well-known and respected among others in their professions, Fischer said.
"I think this is the beginning. We're continuing on an upward swing," he said.
For more information about the Rehabilitation Counseling Department, visit the department's website or call (956) 665-7036.
Read more about the rankings here.