50 Best Public Colleges and Universities Ranked for Students in 2022

50 Best Public Colleges and Universities Ranked for Students in 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.

Key Takeaways

  • Public colleges and universities are institutions that receive a sizable amount of public funding from a national or sub-national government.

  • Benefits of a public university include lower tuition, a large student body, more degree programs, student organizations, and robust athletics programs.

  • The University of California, Berkeley is considered the best public university.

Exploring Public Colleges and Universities in the US

Some people believe that public universities are no match for expensive and prestigious private universities. However, public colleges and universities provide several fantastic benefits that private institutions might not.

While public universities are not everyone’s dream school, they can still provide one of the best and most practical ways to have a successful career.

With the rise of college education, more and more students are considering obtaining a degree from a public university. As a result, the public college admissions process is getting more competitive.

While these are government-funded institutions, public colleges still need to take control of their student body to provide high-quality education and still be able to compete with private colleges.

Benefits of Top Public Universities

Low Tuition and Fees: This is the #1 advantage of enrolling in a public school. The federal and state governments fund state universities and other public colleges. As a result, a public college has lower tuition and fees than a private school.

Additionally, public schools offer different types of financial aid that will significantly reduce tuition and fees. Many public universities offer discounted tuition.

According to recent data, undergraduate students at public universities incur lower student debts than students in private colleges and universities due to low tuition costs.

Greater Inclusivity: More students from other towns, states, and even nations enroll in public universities than private universities. Public universities have far more diverse student bodies than private colleges because of the sheer number of students who attend. This implies that you’ll have more chances to connect with supporters or other students who share your beliefs.

Great Athletic Programs and Bigger Greek Life: Public universities typically devote more resources to their athletic departments than private universities and house the best sports teams.

Even if you’re not a major sports enthusiast, you can still consider the camaraderie you’ll find at your school’s athletic events to be a crucial aspect of college life. After all, one of the biggest athletic programs in higher education is college basketball.

Public universities have better Greek life due to their large student body. More clubs, social gatherings, student activities, and campus performances keep everyone entertained.

On-Campus Employment Options: Larger public institutions have a ton of on-campus job opportunities for students. There are generally always positions available for students to work a few hours per week, whether they work in the library, the gym, or one of the various offices. Additionally, public schools also offer vast internship opportunities.

More Academic Programs: Because public universities get their funding from the government and have a more diverse student body, they generally offer more majors than private colleges and universities.

This is extremely helpful if you are unsure about the major you want to pursue. It is particularly beneficial if you intend to study a niche subject or a major that is difficult to locate.

Additionally, the best public universities receive the largest funding for research facilities and labs, which result in more significant research opportunities.

Application Advice to the Best Public Colleges and Universities

Even though public institutions frequently have greater acceptance rates than private colleges, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that admission will be simple. You should take your time and research to select the best public institutions, just like you would with any other college on your list.

Look into the school’s resources, programs, financial aid, enrollment, and graduation rates. You also must treat your application to the public school as if it’s your dream school.

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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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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

    14%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1420/32

  2. #2

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    46K

  4. #4

    University of Virginia

    Charlottesville , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

  5. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1326/30

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1385/30

    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:

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    29%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

  8. Other Rankings

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1325/30

  9. #20

    University of Baltimore

    Baltimore , MD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1004/25

    University of Baltimore’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • General Business
    • Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Policy, Politics And International Affairs
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  10. #25

    Stony Brook University

    Stony Brook , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Stony Brook University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 57
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Electrical Engineering
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. #26

    University of Florida

    Gainesville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    48K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31

  12. #27

    University of Iowa

    Iowa City , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/25

    University of Iowa’s Online Degrees

    BA in Applied Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Creative Writing
    • Human Relations
    • Justice Studies
    • Political Science
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Enterprise Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120-136
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Expression in Writing and Arts
    • Global Studies
    • Family
    • Community
    • and Social Support
    • Health and Human Studies
    • Justice and Ethics
    • Organizational Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 32
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Radiation Sciences
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 121-132
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. #29

    University of Arizona

    Tucson , AZ
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    40K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/25

    University of Arizona’s Online Degrees

    BA in Africana Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Administration of Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Care, Health and Society
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Emergency Medical Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Cyber Operations
    Degree Concentrations
    • Engineering
    • Defense & Forensics
    • and Cyber Law & Policy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Early Childhood
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of General Studies in Economy and Industry
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Environmental Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of General Studies, in Arts, Media and Entertainment
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of General Studies in Global and Intercultural Understanding
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Global Media
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Government and Public Service
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Human Rights Practice
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering
    • Required Credits: 128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Geographic Information Systems Technology (GIST)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Literacy, Learning and Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Information Science and ESociety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Law
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Regional Commerce
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Intelligence and Information Operations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy: Ethics
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Biology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nutritional Sciences
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Spanish
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of General Studies in Sports and Society
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Sustainable Built Environments
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of General Studies in Social Behavior and Human Understanding
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. #32

    Wayne State University

    Detroit , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/23

    Wayne State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Mortuary Science
    • Required Credits: 56
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  15. #43

    University of Missouri

    Columbia , MO
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    University of Missouri’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Early Childhood Education In A Mobile Society
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BES in Educational Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in English
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BGS in General Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BHS in Radiography
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BHS in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 30
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BHS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BHS in Health Science
    • Required Credits: 64
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Fitness Programming And Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  16. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    30K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/29

    University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Online Degrees

    BA in Film And Media Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Bachelor Of Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality And Tourism Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Arts Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  17. Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1290/27

    What is United States Merchant Marine Academy known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #49

    University of Kentucky

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    University of Kentucky’s Online Degrees

    Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Health Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Medical Laboratory Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Information Communication Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  19. #50

    Washburn University

    Topeka , KS
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    4K

    Washburn University’s Online Degrees

    BAS in Technology Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BIS in Integrated Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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Find the Best Public Colleges and Universities Near You

The best public colleges and universities in your state
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Find the Best Public Colleges and Universities in Your Area of Interest

The best public colleges by discipline
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.