50 Best Public Colleges and Universities 2022

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

50 Best Public Colleges and Universities 2022

What is a public college?

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a 4-year degree at a public university is often lower than the cost at a private college, especially for students attending a public school in their state. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a 4-year public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually.

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 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.

Best Public Colleges and Universities 2022
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How do we determine the best public colleges and universities for undergrads?

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 – 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, will 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 freer from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to the schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

If you would like to see this ranking without school size considered, visit our best universities in the US ranking.

The following list of the best public colleges and universities is composed entirely of schools offering four-year undergraduate degree programs. We’ve identified 637 public universities in the United States. In order to be included in this list of best public colleges and universities, a school must be fully accredited and must receive direct funding from the state.

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The Best Public Colleges and Universities for Undergrads

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    17%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    What is University of California, Berkeley known for?

    University of California, Berkeley’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    26%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is University of Michigan known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is University of California, Los Angeles known for?

    University of California, Los Angeles’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    University of Washington

    Seattle , WA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/30

    What is University of Washington known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Social Work
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    University of Pittsburgh

    Pittsburgh , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1350/30

    What is University of Pittsburgh known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    City College of New York

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    12K

    What is City College of New York known for?

    City College of New York’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    What is University of Texas at Austin known for?

    University of Texas at Austin’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #11

    United States Military Academy

    West Point , NY
    Other Rankings

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/27

    What is United States Military Academy known for?

    United States Military Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1355/30

    What is University of California, Santa Barbara known for?

    University of California, Santa Barbara’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #18

    William & Mary

    Williamsburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is William & Mary known for?

    William & Mary’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #20

    University of Baltimore

    Baltimore , MD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1052/20

    What is University of Baltimore known for?

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

    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #23

    Indiana University Bloomington

    Bloomington , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    41K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/27

    What is Indiana University Bloomington known for?

    Indiana University Bloomington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #25

    Stony Brook University

    Stony Brook , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    What is Stony Brook University known for?

    Stony Brook University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  15. #26

    University of Florida

    Gainesville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    47K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    What is University of Florida known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #30

    University of Oregon

    Eugene , OR
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/25

    What is University of Oregon known for?

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

    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Business
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #31

    University of Kansas

    Lawrence , KS
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    23K

    What is University of Kansas known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #32

    Wayne State University

    Detroit , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/24

    What is Wayne State University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #33

    University of New Mexico

    Albuquerque , NM
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    What is University of New Mexico known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #34

    Brooklyn College

    Brooklyn , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    15K

    What is Brooklyn College known for?

    Brooklyn College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #35

    Michigan State University

    East Lansing , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/26

    What is Michigan State University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/28

    What is University of California, Irvine known for?

    University of California, Irvine’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #38

    George Mason University

    Fairfax , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/27

    What is George Mason University known for?

    George Mason University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Law
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #39

    University of Connecticut

    Storrs , CT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    What is University of Connecticut known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  25. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    37K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/28

    What is University of California, Davis known for?

    University of California, Davis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  26. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    What is University of California, Santa Cruz known for?

    University of California, Santa Cruz’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  27. #42

    Virginia Military Institute

    Lexington , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    What is Virginia Military Institute known for?

    Virginia Military Institute’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  28. #43

    University of Missouri

    Columbia , MO
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of Missouri known for?

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

    • Communications
    • Earth Sciences
    • Literature
    • Education
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  29. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    29K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/29

    What is University of Massachusetts Amherst known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Education
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  30. Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Acceptance

    24%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1260/28

    What is United States Merchant Marine Academy known for?

    United States Merchant Marine Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  31. #46

    University of Oklahoma

    Norman , OK
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/26

    What is University of Oklahoma known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  32. #48

    University of Tennessee

    Knoxville , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of Tennessee known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Nursing
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  33. #49

    University of Kentucky

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    What is University of Kentucky known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  34. #50

    Washburn University

    Topeka , KS
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Washburn University known for?

    Washburn University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • History
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

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The best public colleges by discipline

Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive
  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of Michigan
  3. University of Virginia
  4. University of California, Los Angeles
  5. United States Military Academy
  6. United States Naval Academy
  7. University of California, San Diego
  8. University of Wisconsin–Madison
  9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  10. William & Mary
  11. University of Washington
  12. City College of New York
  13. Brooklyn College
  14. University of Texas at Austin
  15. University of California, Santa Barbara
  16. University of Iowa
  17. University of Pittsburgh
  18. University of California, Santa Cruz
  19. University of Minnesota
  20. University of Maryland, College Park
  21. Stony Brook University
  22. University of Utah
  23. State University of New York at Purchase
  24. Purdue University
  25. Georgia Tech
  26. United States Air Force Academy
  27. University of California, Davis
  28. University of Arizona
  29. University of Massachusetts Amherst
  30. University of Oregon
  31. Virginia Military Institute
  32. Evergreen State College
  33. University at Buffalo
  34. George Mason University
  35. University of California, Irvine
  36. Hunter College
  37. University of Colorado Denver
  38. University of Massachusetts Boston
  39. University of Florida
  40. University of Missouri
  41. University of New Mexico
  42. University of Montana
  43. Michigan State University
  44. University of Tennessee
  45. University of California, Riverside
  46. Wayne State University
  47. North Carolina State University
  48. Binghamton University
  49. Queens College, City University of New York
  50. University of Illinois Chicago

Photo Credit: University of California, Berkeley, Wheeler Hall, By Bob Collowan, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.