Missouri’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Missouri provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Missouri’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Missouri

Tuition costs in Missouri fall below the national average, allowing students access to many affordable options. For example, at Missouri State University, the second largest public school, tuition fees are around $7,000. Students of actor John Goodman’s alma mater can major in fields like religious studies, history, and business, and even have the option of earning an associate degree in arts or a bachelor’s in business at the university’s sister school in China. Missouri also offers more than 40 private schools.

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Tuition and student populations vary greatly among these schools, but students who attend these higher education institutes also have the option to attend classes at other campuses. For example, Saint Louis University, a college with Jesuit roots, has campuses in both St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Additionally, Missouri offers special loan forgiveness programs for nurses and other health professionals, including dentists, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians, who work in designated, high-need areas.

When you aren’t exploring one of its 6,000 caves, chowing down on some barbecue, or taking in a live jazz performance, Missouri can serve as the perfect place to begin a road trip. The Show Me State is bordered by eight other U.S. states, making it ideal for students love travelling and planning weekend getaways. During the week days, students can continue on their road to success by pursuing their degree at one of Missouri’s 72 higher education institutes.

See where Missouri’s many roads can take you while earning your degree at one this state’s top learning institutions.


What are Missouri’s Colleges & Universities?

Missouri’s Best Overall

What is a public college? And what is the difference between a private and public college?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models — one is a private company with private funding; the other is owned by the state and receives both state and federal funding to operate. If you’re weighing the pros and cons of private vs. public college, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a four-year degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a four-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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How do we determine Missouri's best public colleges and universities?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.


This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 13 public universities in Missouri, 9 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best public universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It offers a broad range of bachelor’s degree programs.
  4. It must have a graduation rate greater than 40%.

Best Public Colleges & Universities in Missouri

  1. #1

    University of Missouri

    #101 institution's historical influence
    #1169 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    Columbia, MO

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    What is University of Missouri known for?

    University of Missouri’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Missouri University of Science and Technology

    #728 institution's historical influence
    #1443 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1325/29

    Rolla, MO

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    What is Missouri University of Science and Technology known for?

    Missouri University of Science and Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Southeast Missouri State University

    #614 institution's historical influence
    #1249 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    9K

    Cape Girardeau, MO

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    What is Southeast Missouri State University known for?

    Southeast Missouri State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Truman State University

    #1036 institution's historical influence
    #1189 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    Kirksville, MO

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    What is Truman State University known for?

    Truman State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Medical
  5. #5

    University of Missouri–Kansas City

    #672 institution's historical influence
    #1389 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Kansas City, MO

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    What is University of Missouri–Kansas City known for?

    University of Missouri–Kansas City’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Missouri State University

    #1286 institution's historical influence
    #1219 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Springfield, MO

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    What is Missouri State University known for?

    Missouri State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    University of Missouri–St. Louis

    #1979 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    Saint Louis, MO

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    What is University of Missouri–St. Louis known for?

    University of Missouri–St. Louis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Northwest Missouri State University

    #1460 institution's historical influence
    #1083 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1119/22

    Maryville, MO

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    What is Northwest Missouri State University known for?

    Northwest Missouri State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    University of Central Missouri

    #1694 institution's historical influence
    #1136 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    9K

    Warrensburg, MO

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    What is University of Central Missouri known for?

    University of Central Missouri’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

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