Wisconsin’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 Wisconsin provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Wisconsin’s Best Public Colleges & Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Wisconsin

Between community colleges, technical schools, and universities, Wisconsin has 30 public schools. All the public schools in Wisconsin have affordable tuitions, ranging from $4,000 to $11,000. The University of Wisconsin – Madison has over 35,000 students in attendance, making it the largest in the state. The tuition runs about $11,000, and the school boasts an 85% graduation rate. Public affairs, veterinary medicine, and human ecology are just some of the fields students can study here.

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Of Wisconsin’s 29 private schools, 18 are religious. With just under 10,000 students, Marquette University is the largest, and tuition for this school is about $42,000. Located in Milwaukee, this Catholic, Jesuit university offers degrees in fields like business, engineering, physical therapy, and law. Also located in Milwaukee, the state’s smallest institution, the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology, is a private graduate school with just over 30 students, and is geared toward those earning their doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Wisconsin, like many states, also provides a loan forgiveness program to those who are working in the health care field.

When people think Wisconsin, they might immediately crave cheese. After all, the state is home to a museum dedicated to all things cheese, including the annual making of a 90-pound wheel of Swiss. But The Beaver State is also known for its more than 15,000 lakes, including Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Prospective students looking to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree will enjoy the food, landscape, and educational variety Wisconsin has to offer.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s variety of colleges and universities.


What are Wisconsin’s Colleges & Universities?

Wisconsin’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 Wisconsin's best public colleges and universities?

Methodology

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.


This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate degrees. We’ve identified 13 public universities in Wisconsin, 12 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 above 40%.

Best Public Colleges & Universities in Wisconsin

  1. #1

    University of Wisconsin–Madison

    #24 institution's historical influence
    #216 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/29

    Madison, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Madison known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Madison’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

    #429 institution's historical influence
    #1407 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    22K

    Milwaukee, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point

    #2450 institution's historical influence
    #1455 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    7K

    Stevens Point, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of Wisconsin–Green Bay

    #3800 institution's historical influence
    #1386 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    6K

    Green Bay, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Green Bay known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Green Bay’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  5. #5

    University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

    #2127 institution's historical influence
    #1259 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    10K

    Eau Claire, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

    #2325 institution's historical influence
    #1357 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    10K

    Oshkosh, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

    #2811 institution's historical influence
    #1239 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    11K

    Whitewater, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Whitewater known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Whitewater’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of Wisconsin–Stout

    #6505 institution's historical influence
    #1465 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    7K

    Menomonie, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Stout known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Stout’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    University of Wisconsin–Superior

    #6881 institution's historical influence
    #1053 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Superior, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Superior known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Superior’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of Wisconsin–River Falls

    #2647 institution's historical influence
    #1066 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    5K

    River Falls, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–River Falls known for?

    University of Wisconsin–River Falls’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    University of Wisconsin–La Crosse

    #2821 institution's historical influence
    #1128 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    10K

    La Crosse, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–La Crosse known for?

    University of Wisconsin–La Crosse’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of Wisconsin–Platteville

    #4884 institution's historical influence
    #1354 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    7K

    Platteville, WI

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    What is University of Wisconsin–Platteville known for?

    University of Wisconsin–Platteville’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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