The University of California, Santa Cruz rose to second place on the annual list of Peace Corps Top Colleges (for the medium-size school category), its highest ranking since the Peace Corps began releasing its list in 2003.

With 52 alumni serving as Peace Corps Volunteers, Santa Cruz ranks second among all medium-size universities for the number of alumni currently in service (UCSC would rank 16th among all schools of all sizes). The university ranked sixth last year with 50 alumni serving.

The annual Peace Corps Top Colleges list is a friendly competition among many schools with a strong legacy of service. This year's top-ranked schools (in the three size categories) are the University of Washington, George Washington University, and the University of Chicago.

"The Peace Corps relies heavily on the graduates of contributing schools from across the country. Their education and experiences add to the diversity of the Peace Corps and its success in the host countries," said outgoing Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter. "We want to thank the schools and the graduates for their continued dedication to the mission of the Peace Corps."

Peace Corps saw a 16 percent increase in applications in fiscal year 2008-the largest increase in five years.

Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers serve in 76 countries. Rwanda becomes the 76th country next week, when the Peace Corps returns after a 15-year absence.

The Peace Corps is preparing celebrations for its 50th Anniversary in 2011. All-time, 665 UC Santa Cruz alumni have served in the Peace Corps. More than 195,000 Americans have served in 139 countries.

For more information and to view the entire Peace Corps Top Colleges 2009 rankings, visit: www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1414.