Top 50 Public Universities

Learn.org has published it's list of the top public universities and colleges in the US. Read more to see what colleges made the list.

Top 50 Public Universities

Learn.org has crunched the numbers, examined the data and researched unique school attributes to come up with the 50 best public universities in the country. We used several pieces of data from the Department of Education such as graduation rates, tuition prices, and student retention just to name a few. We then balanced all this information with the schools' extra offerings, like study abroad opportunities, student activities, campus beauty and more. The end result? Learn.org's definitive list of the top public institutions of higher learning in America. Whether you're looking to pursue a popular degree such as a business, nursing, or education degree, any school on this list would be an excellent choice.

1. Indiana University - Bloomington

Indiana University in Bloomington has everything a top school should: a large variety of academic programs (more than 550 options!), innovative classes, a diverse student body (hailing from 139 countries) and internationally recognized faculty. IU students can also choose to participate in one or more of the 750 student organizations or 300+ study abroad options, or they could participate in research opportunities at world-renowned facilities like the Kinsey Institute or the Make, Innovate, Learn Lab (MILL) Makerspace Lab.

2. Kansas State University

At Kansas State University, located in Manhattan, Kansas, students can choose from a truly impressive array of programs - more than 250 undergraduate options are offered, plus over 155 graduate degrees and certificates. And they don't just offer a great education; K-State has a reputation for graduating students who are ready to hit the workforce. Over 95% of bachelor's degree grads and more than 96% of graduate degree grads were either employed or continuing their education within six months of graduating.

3. University of Kansas

Just about an hour outside of Kansas City is the University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, Kansas. KU is one of the preeminent research universities in the country, and it boasts a truly global outlook. More than 28% of the school's students study abroad thanks to a rich selection of 100 international study and research programs, plus it enrolls students from all 50 states and over 113 countries in its 400 programs.

4. St. Mary's College of Maryland

St. Mary's College of Maryland, located in St. Mary's City, Maryland, boasts a low 10-to-1 student to faculty ratio; 52% of the school's students receive merit-based scholarships; 99% of the faculty hold the highest degree in their field, and 90% of its graduates are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduating. Reasonable tuition, generous scholarships and $6 million per year in financial aid mean their graduates have the lowest student debt upon graduation among all public schools in Maryland.

5. University of Delaware

Founded in 1743, the University of Delaware (UD) is one of the oldest universities in America. It started as a prestigious private school and today it's a prestigious public university with an enrollment of over 24,000. UD boasts a relatively low annual cost (under $15,000) and a higher-than-average graduation rate (77%), plus 90% of students come back after their first year.

6. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been producing respected graduates since its founding in 1867, in fact 18 graduates have won Pulitzer Prizes and 11 are Nobel Laureates. Perhaps it's the faculty - their ranks include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Fields Medal in Mathematics and the Pulitzer Prize. Academically, the school offers more than 5,000 courses in 150 different fields of study, and its University Library is one of the largest in the country, boasting over 13 million volumes.

7. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology is a smaller school situated in the town of Rolla, Missouri, but its academics are anything but small. Missouri S&T boasts 99 degree programs across a range of disciplines, from engineering and information technology to liberal arts and the humanities, and it hosts 20 design teams where students get hands-on experience. It's also the only highly selective university in the University of Missouri System and home to the student designed Solar Village and EcoVillage neighborhoods that took part in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon.

8. University of Missouri - Columbia

With an enrollment of over 30,000 students and more than 300 degree programs, the University of Missouri - Columbia is the largest university in the state of Missouri. Thanks to its outstanding academics, distinguished faculty and renowned programs, Mizzou was named a member of the Association of American Universities, a prestigious organization whose ranks include just 62 public and private universities around the country. It's also one of only six public universities in the country that has a law school, medical school, and a college of veterinary medicine.

9. Longwood University

Founded in 1839 in the quaint town of Farmville, VA, Longwood University carries on the proud tradition and ideals of higher education in Virginia first established by Thomas Jefferson. The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 4,500, and they're proud of their small-school status. Eighty-two percent of full-time faculty at Longwood have terminal degrees, and the school also has 100% internship participation, over 200 clubs and organizations, and an average class size of 21 students.

10. University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi in University, Mississippi, was founded in 1844 and enrolls over 24,000 students, making it the oldest and largest public university in the state. Ole Miss is renowned for its library, which houses almost four and a half million volumes, and its business and medical programs. The business program is accredited by the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business, an achievement that's only been bestowed on 5% of the business schools across the globe, and the school has been designated as a Carnegie Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity.

11. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona in Tucson offers an impressive array of programs - 372, in fact - to its nearly 45,000 students. This school has a unique 100% Engagement Initiative, in which it provides students with the opportunity for real-world experiential learning, such as internships, study abroad options, research experiences, and service-learning projects, to help them develop purpose and career-focused skills. The school is considered a top research university, and the school has R&D partnerships with more than 270 organizations, including an unprecedented relationship with NASA; UA has partnered with them on every planetary mission.

12. University of Cincinnati - Main Campus

When it comes to research institutions, the University of Cincinnati in Ohio is one of the top schools. Scientists from the University of Cincinnati invented the oral polio vaccine, the first electronic organ, and a little drug called Benadryl. Students can choose from hundreds of programs and participate in a cooperative program that's considered one of the best in the world, perhaps because the University of Cincinnati invented that, too (in 1906).

13. The University of Texas at Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas joined Texas' public university network in 1969, so it's a relatively new institution. The university has done a lot in that time, growing into eight distinct schools that offer more than 140 degree programs to nearly 30,000 students each year. Even with that exponential growth, UT Dallas has managed to maintain a smaller feel - the student to faculty ratio stands at 23:1. That faculty boasts a Nobel Laureate and several members of the National Academies.

14. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Campus

The University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania has been around since 1787. This historic institution has a retention rate of 92% and a much higher-than-average graduation rate of 82%, and, despite a large student population of over 32,000, Pitt's student to faculty ratio is an impressively low 15:1. It's one of a select group of schools whose academic achievements earned them membership into the prestigious Association of American Universities.

15. Oregon State University

As a student at Oregon State University, you've got choices galore. Through its 11 colleges, OSU offers more than 200 programs for undergraduates and 100 programs for graduates, including options in engineering, business and agriculture. What's more, with relatively low tuition and plenty of grants, scholarships and financial aid, 43% of students graduate with zero debt, which is well above the national average of 32%. Student life is rich, too. Oregon State students can choose from hundreds of extracurricular programs and clubs.

16. Citadel Military College of South Carolina

Situated in the low country amongst the snaking waterways, grand oak trees and Spanish moss in beautiful Charleston is the Citadel Military College of South Carolina. The Citadel, as it's colloquially known, is home to 2,300 undergraduate students, an exclusive group that makes up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. The school offers a classic military-style education that focuses not only on academics but also on physical fitness, leadership and character.

The Citadel Graduate College provides a more traditional-style education for civilians. The school boasts some of the lowest class sizes in the South -- 21 students for the undergraduates and 13 for the graduates.

17. The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville has been churning out productive Volunteers for more than 200 years and, if the numbers are any indication, the school isn't showing any signs of slowing down:

  • 11 distinct colleges and more than 900 programs of study
  • $60 million given out in scholarships
  • 17:1 student/faculty ratio
  • 3.6 - 4.3 GPAs for the middle 50% of the freshman class

Throw in a sprawling 910 acres of verdant campus and more than 300 study abroad programs and its not hard to see how UT landed in our top 25.

18. East Carolina University

Located about 80 miles outside the famed research triangle in Greenville, NC, is East Carolina University. Founded in 1907, ECU offers students over 100 undergraduate degree programs and more than 75 graduate degree programs, including those at the Brody School of Medicine, a highly regarded rural medicine program. Outside of school, students can join one of over 300 clubs, pledge with a wide array of sororities and fraternities, and try out for the Division I sports teams.

19. Rutgers University - New Brunswick

Students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, are the beneficiaries of a long, storied history. Rutgers was founded in - a full decade before we became a country. On its hallowed grounds have walked future vice presidents, senators, governors, novelists and Nobel Prize winners. And, it has the distinction of being the birthplace of college football, a rich tradition that's carried on today in the Big Ten.

Today, its 17 schools offer more than 350 programs and majors to nearly 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It boasts a retention rate of 93% and a graduation rate of 80%. Rutgers is also a proud member of the Association of American Universities.

20. University of North Carolina Wilmington

The University of North Carolina Wilmington offers a variety of unique experiences for its students, and it has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its efforts to support students and helping them complete their degrees. and programs that regularly rank at or near the top of their field. UNCW offers more than 90 degree programs, ranging from the bachelor's to the doctoral levels, and uses the ETEAL (Experiencing Transformative Education through Applied Learning) learning model that incorporates hands-on and applied learning opportunities to help students learn - including study abroad programs, internships, research projects, independent study options and more.

21. University of Utah

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City awarded more than 8000 degrees in 2017-2018 and has plenty of degree programs and a wealth of hands-on opportunities for students. The school is known for encouraging innovative and imaginative thinking from its students through its MUSE Project (My 'U' Signature Experience), and its 'innovation nation' atmosphere inspires students to create startup companies. The school hosts an impressive faculty too - and they have claimed than 880 national and international awards and recognitions.

22. SUNY College at Geneseo

SUNY College at Geneseo has a rich history that dates back to 1871 - and today it is a liberal arts university that offers more than 50 undergraduate degree programs and a full schedule of over 4,000 events a year for its students. Almost half of its graduates (48%) had a double major and/or a major and minor and 50% of them completed an internship during their program that helped them build real-world skills. This New York school also boasts a 19:1 faculty-to-student ratio, 86.1% first-year retention rate and 77.4% 6-year graduation rate.

23. Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University sits in hip downtown Richmond and offers students more than 200 programs to choose from. VCU is also known for its academic excellence and diversity, including an:

  • 18:1 faculty-to-student ratio
  • 45% minority students
  • 86% first-year retention rate
  • $44,000 median salary for graduating students
  • 23% of students enrolled in STEM majors

24. Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Behrend

In student surveys, 95% of students who graduated from Penn Behrend would recommend the school to people they know who are considering college. This could be due to its small average class size of 26, the impressive 16:1 faculty-to-student ratio or the more than 120 clubs to join. This Erie-based school also offers over forty degrees programs at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels, as well minors, certificates, and continuing education programs. The school has a reputation for producing business students who are prepared to succeed.

25. Westfield State University

When Westfield State University was founded in 1839, it was the first public school in the country to offer an education to any student, regardless of race, religion or economic status. That proud history lives on today with a nice balance of gender and ethnic diversity. The Westfield, MA, campus features around 90 undergraduate programs, more than 30 graduate programs, and wealth of extracurricular clubs. This school is the only 4-year public university in 'New England's Knowledge Corridor' and is one of the largest producers of new teachers in the state.

26. University of Hawaii at Manoa

With tuition that's $4,000 below the national average, a student debt rate that ranks among the lowest in the country and a median graduate salary of $45,800, the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu easily makes our list. The 17,000+ students here come from all 50 states and 121 countries and make up one of the most diverse student/faculty bodies in the U.S. In fact, UH Manoa's diversity index of 76 is a whopping 22 points higher than the American average. The school is considered a top-tier research university and is only of only a few schools that has been designated a land-, sea-, space-, and sun-grant institution.

27. Massachusetts College of Art and Design

If you believe in changing the world through the power of art, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design is the place for you. For more than 145 years, MassArt has proudly been training the next generation of artists, disruptors, cultural critics and activists. This Boston school boasts a total enrollment of just over 2,000 students, which allows for an intimate, conservatory-style education that's difficult to find in public universities. Programs options range from animation and art history to photography and printmaking.

28. Louisiana State University

Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University is the flagship school in the Louisiana system. It offers nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate degrees, enrolls more than 31,000 students, and hosts 100+ student organizations. When it comes to return on investment, it's hard to beat LSU. The average annual cost for in-state undergraduates is low, but the median income for former students is relatively high. In fact, two out of every three students graduate without any debt and 92% of the student body receives some portion of the $300 million the school awards each year in scholarships and financial aid.

29. Oklahoma State University - Main Campus

Over the last decade or so, Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK, has consistently been considered one of the most affordable universities in the country. OSU also pulls its weight in other categories, too. It has more than 200 undergraduate programs, 79 master's programs and 45 doctoral programs, as well as a respected sports team and more than 500 student clubs and organizations. OSU was also Oklahoma's first Truman Honor Institution.

30. Rowan University

There are only three universities in the country with medical schools that offer both an M.D. and a D.O. degree, and Rowan is one of them, making it a world-class destination for students who want to get into the medical field. Rowan offers more than just medical degrees, though -- students can choose from 80 bachelor's programs, 44 graduate programs and seven doctoral programs. Incoming students can brag about an average SAT score of 1,279, a class size of only 20 and a low 17:1 faculty-to-student ratio.

31. Ohio University - Main Campus

Ohio University alumni include 41 Pulitzer Prize winners and 10 Fullbright Award winners, plus its researchers have been awarded more than 250 patents. The school has a low 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 93% of OU's graduates were employed or seeking further education within a year of graduating. More than 250 programs are on offer here, and students enjoy a rich extracurricular life with over 500 student organizations from which to choose. What's more, its sprawling, tree-filled campus in Athens, OH is considered one of the safest in the country.

32. University of Nebraska at Kearney

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is a small public university nestled in the heart of the state. UNK focuses on giving students a first-class education through it four colleges - which offer 170 majors, 20 pre-professional programs, and 27 graduate programs - and many of the programs have a job placement rate close to 100%. UNK encourages students to engage with the community in meaningful ways throughout their program, by doing public service and learning by getting their hands dirty (sometimes literally; one of the school's most popular programs centers on parks and recreation).

33. University of North Carolina at Asheville

Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in western North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Asheville is the only liberal arts school in North Carolina's public system, offering premier programs in the humanities and arts. Take that top-tier education and rich student life and add fixed tuition guarantees, a relatively low annual cost and plenty of financial aid and you've got one of the best values on our list.

34. Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Millersville University of Pennsylvania in Millersville, PA, takes a holistic approach to higher education, emphasizing extracurricular programs and athletic endeavors as a complement to coursework. In keeping with this, Millersville runs on a 4-1-4 academic calendar, giving students two 4-month semesters with a 1-month mini-semester in between. During that mini-semester, students can choose to focus their efforts on one enriching class or endeavor. It's a unique system and it might be why a high percentage of 77% of the school's students return after their first year.

35. Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, offers 150 undergraduate, 100 graduate, and another 50 doctoral programs across the 12 schools and colleges. Outside of academics, students can get involved with over 450 different clubs and organizations, go overseas to study (more 1,300 students did in 2017) or participate in unique service learning opportunities offered through the school's Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE) or the Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development Center (TLPDC).

36. Temple University

Philadelphia-based Temple University is home to state-of-the-art research centers, spanking new learning facilities and cutting-edge residence halls that promise to give incoming students a first-class educational experience. Temple boasts 3,400 international students who hail from over 120 countries around the world and this lends its classrooms a truly global perspective. Students here can choose from more than 400 academic programs offered through Temple's 17 schools - and can choose unique options ranging from accelerated programs, dual degrees, honors programs, international study, and online learning.

37. Montclair State University

Take stroll along the 252 acres of wooded campus at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, and you'll find students who are studying one of over 300 majors, minors, certificate programs and concentrations or enjoying one of the school's many extracurricular organizations. You'd also see one of the most diverse campuses on our list -- 61% of the school's student body are female, 29% are Hispanic/Latino, 13% are African-American and another 6% are Asian. Aside from diversity, Montclair prides itself on the one-on-one attention students receive there - the university boasts an average class size of 23 and a faculty-to-student ratio of 17:1.

38. West Virginia University

Students at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, get to enjoy world-class athletic teams and a campus that features 11 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Academically, the school offers more than 360 majors, 14 schools and colleges and a top-tier faculty (82% of which hold the highest degree for the field in which they teach). WVU also has 23 Truman Scholars, 25 Rhodes Scholars, 59 Fulbright Scholars, and 45 Goldwater Scholars amongst its ranks.

39. University of Massachusetts - Lowell

The University of Massachusetts - Lowell enrolls more than 17,000 students annually in its programs - programs that are designed to prepare students for success through a combination of personal attention and hands-on learning. The school is considered a top research university, and its campus includes state-of-the-art learning facilities, including 100% smart classrooms. 85% of UM Lowell's students come back after their first year, and by mid-career, its graduates are pulling down an average salary of $105,000.

40. New College of Florida

Sarasota's New College of Florida is the only liberal arts honors college in the University of Florida system and it's known for its 'choosiness' - the average GPA of its incoming students is 4.03! The school only has around 800 undergraduates, and it boasts a list-best faculty-to-student ratio of 10:1, which gives students the one-on-one attention they need to truly explore the curriculum. This honors college offers degrees in about 40 concentrations and 97% of their faculty have a doctorate or terminal degree in their field.

41. Rutgers University - Newark

Rutgers University - Newark is known for having one of the most diverse student bodies of any public university in the country, but that's not the only way it shines. An extraordinary 99% of the faculty here hold the highest degree possible in their fields, and among their distinguished ranks are winners of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, Pulitzer Prizes and other major honors. The student-faculty ratio is exceptionally low, and it awards more than 2,300 degrees each year. It is one of the few schools on this list that offers more graduate programs than undergrad options: Rutgers - Newark offers more than 50 graduate programs, including those that result in a JD, MA, MBA, MFA, MPA, MS, and Ph.D.

42. University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is regarded as one of the top public research universities in America by the Carnegie Institute, and it offers more degree programs (200+) than any other school in the state. There are over 50 centers for research on the campus covering a wide range of disciplines, from nanotechnology and health to food safety and the environment. Aside from innovative research facilities, students enjoy a low faculty-to-student ratio, a thriving study abroad program, and picturesque campus set against the backdrop of the Ozark Mountains.

43. University of California - Riverside

As a student at the University of California - Riverside, you'll study alongside a massively diverse student body (23,000+) and learn from distinguished professors. The faculty here includes 48 Fulbright Scholars, 19 Guggenheim Fellows and six members of the National Academies. There are nearly 200 degree programs to choose from, and this Southern California school hosts many unique research centers and facilities, including the world's largest indoor air pollution research facility, its Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center.

44. University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research university that offers 87 bachelor's, 101 master's, and 65 doctoral degrees to its 30,000+ students in the Windy City. Those 30,000+ students are exceptionally diverse, both ethnically and culturally, which provides a beautiful variety of perspectives for incoming freshmen. Also of note is the fact that UIC has a faculty member for every 18 students - that's low for a university of this size, meaning students receive more one-on-one attention.

45. Winona State University

Winona State University is the oldest member of the Minnesota State University System - and it has the highest student success rate among all members - in fact, 95% of the school's graduates find work in their field. WSU offers more than 80 majors, and all their programs include some form of experiential learning, such as internships. The school is also affordable - as an impressive 94% of freshmen receive some form of financial aid.

46. The Evergreen State College

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, is on the cutting-edge of learning, offering students a progressive, liberal arts education in the Pacific Northwest. Evergreen students take an average of only 3.9 years to graduate, and they pay some of the lowest tuition and fees in the state. Even more impressive, 90% of 'Greeners' are employed or moving on to graduate school within one year of graduating. ESC students also have the opportunity to learn on state-of-the-art equipment, even as freshman, like nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopes and 3D printers.

47. SUNY Oneonta

Situated in central New York in the charming town of Oneonta is SUNY Oneonta, the flagship school of the SUNY system. SUNY Oneonta has a compact student body (around 6,000), low tuition and a small class size, but it's big on everything else:

  • 85% of the faculty hold the highest degree in their field
  • 84% of first-year schools return for a second year
  • 87% of SUNY seniors ranked their college experience excellent or good

48. California State University - Chico

California State University - Chico - or Chico State, as the students call it - made our list because of its dedication to creating well-rounded, civic-minded graduates. Chico State features one of the most heralded study abroad programs in the country, giving students a truly global perspective. The school's business program enrolls the most students, but students have more than 300 programs to choose from. The university pushes students to volunteer, engage with the community and understand their connection with, and duty to, the world.

49. Sonoma State University

Nestled amongst the rolling hills and scenic vineyards of California's wine country, Sonoma State University has charm to spare, but it's about more than just good looks. SSU is the only university in California (and only one of 25 total) to be invited onto the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, a distinguished organization that recognizes excellence in liberal arts and sciences. The school offers programs through six schools, and it offers one of the only wine business programs in the country.

50. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

If you're looking for a degree in business, marketing or management, Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA, Pennsylvania is one of the best places in the Keystone State to get one. 92% of the professors here hold a terminal degree, there are plenty of scholarships and financial aid to go around, and 72% of graduates are employed within a year of graduation (and another 20% are enrolled in graduate school).

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