50 Best Public Colleges and Universities of 2021

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 of 2021

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

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.

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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 needs to satisfy the following three conditions:

  1. It must receive direct funding from the state.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its student body must have at least 1,000 students.

How do we determine the 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.

These are the best public colleges and universities in the US!” – @AcademicInflux

The Best Public Colleges & Universities

  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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  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:

    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  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
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    39K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1370/30

    What is University of California, San Diego known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. 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:

    • Biology
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #10

    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
    • Literature
    • History
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. 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:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #12

    City College of New York

    New York , NY

    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:

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Law
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #13

    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
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • History
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    REQUEST INFO
  10. 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:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. 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
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #16

    University of Iowa

    Iowa City , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/25

    What is University of Iowa known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #17

    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
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. 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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  15. #19

    University of Minnesota

    Minneapolis , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1370/28

    What is University of Minnesota known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  16. #21

    Stony Brook University

    Stony Brook , NY

    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
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  17. #22

    University of Utah

    Salt Lake City , UT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1261/25

    What is University of Utah known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/26

    What is State University of New York at Purchase known for?

    State University of New York at Purchase’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #24

    Purdue University

    West Lafayette , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1315/28

    What is Purdue University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  20. 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
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. 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
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  22. #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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. 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
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #33

    University at Buffalo

    Buffalo , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/26

    What is University at Buffalo known for?

    University at Buffalo’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Law
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  25. 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
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    REQUEST INFO
  26. 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:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  27. #36

    Hunter College

    New York , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    40%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    19K

    What is Hunter College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  28. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/23

    What is University of Colorado Denver known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  29. Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    13K

    What is University of Massachusetts Boston known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  30. #40

    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:

    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  31. #41

    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:

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  32. #42

    University of Montana

    Missoula , MT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/23

    What is University of Montana known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Law
    • History
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  33. #43

    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:

    • Biology
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  34. #44

    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:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  35. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1230/26

    What is University of California, Riverside known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  36. #46

    Wayne State University

    Detroit , MI

    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:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  37. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    What is North Carolina State University known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  38. #48

    Binghamton University

    Vestal , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    43%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1360/30

    What is Binghamton University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Sociology
    REQUEST INFO
  39. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    16K

    What is Queens College, City University of New York known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  40. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    What is University of Illinois Chicago known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO

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