With the rising cost of higher education, many students are coming to the realization that attending a private college or university may not make financial sense. Many private colleges charge upwards of $50,000—and sometimes $60,000—per year. And this doesn’t even include room and board or books. In this post, we’re going to highlight the 10 best public universities in the United States.
This means that students who don’t come from super-wealthy families will have to take out student loans in order to pay for school. Instead of being saddled with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, many students are looking to public universities because they often offer an excellent education at a dramatically lower cost.
So, how do public universities differ from private schools? The main difference is that public universities receive money from their state government to cover many of their operating costs. This means that the schools can offer excellent academics, athletics, and facilities while keeping tuition as low as possible.
The cost from school to school still varies, and out-of-state students will be charged far more than in-state students, but we’re also going to break down the cost for each school. So, let’s take a look at our list of the 10 best-ranked public universities.
1. University of California—Berkeley
The University of California—Berkeley is just one of ten schools that make up the University of California system. It is also generally ranked as the best of these schools, with UCLA close behind. Located in Berkeley, California, they were founded in 1868 and currently have an undergraduate enrollment of 32,143 students.
UC Berkeley is also the most selective of the UC schools with a 15% acceptance rate. As such, Berkeley has very demanding admission requirements. Typically, accepted students have an SAT score above 1500 and a GPA over 4.0. However, since the pandemic began in 2020, the UC system no longer requires applicants to submit standardized test scores.
Currently, Berkeley has a student-teacher ratio of 20:1, which means 50.5% of its classes have fewer than 20 students. The student-teacher ratio for their graduate programs is lower. Popular majors at Berkeley include social sciences, computer science, engineering, and biological and biomedical sciences. However, they are also known for having excellent liberal arts majors as well
Cost of attending Berkeley: (in-state) $14,226 (out of-state) $43,980
2. University of California—Los Angeles
Located in the posh Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, UCLA is typically considered the second-best UC school after Berkeley, however, at this point, they are basically tied when it comes to academic reputation and selectiveness. The university itself is broken up into different schools depending on your field of study. The most populace school is the School of Arts and Letters, which offers students a general college education encompassing both liberal arts and sciences.
UCLA is also home to a number of world-renowned graduate schools including the Anderson School of Management and the Geffen School of Medicine. Currently, UCLA has an even lower acceptance rate than Berkeley with only 11% of applicants accepted. Applicants typically have SAT scores over 1500 and GPAs over 4.0. Their student-teacher ratio for undergraduate classes is 18:1, which means 47.8% of their classes have fewer than 20 students.
Popular majors at UCLA include social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, psychology, engineering, and math. But they also have excellent performing arts programs and visual arts programs.
Cost of attending UCLA: (in-state) $13,804 (out of state) $44,830
3. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
Located about 45 minutes from Detroit, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor was founded in 1817 and has an undergraduate enrollment of 32,283 students. One of the things that stands out immediately about U of M is its massive campus which is spread over 3,207 acres. Rather than a semester or quarter-based system, U of Michigan uses a trimester schedule. Freshmen are guaranteed to house, but unlike many schools U of M does not require that freshmen live on campus.
In addition to their undergraduate school, U of M also has a number of highly ranked graduate schools including the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Law School, College of Engineering, Medical School, and the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Typically, accepted student have SAT scores between 1360 and 1530 and GPAs above 3.5.
The student-teacher ratio at the University of Michigan is 15:1, which means that 53.9% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Currently the gender distribution at U of M is nearly equal, and 39% of students receive some sort of financial aid.
Cost of attending the University of Michigan: (in-state) $17,786 (out of state) $57,273
4. University of Virginia
Founded in 1816 by former US President Thomas Jefferson, UVA is one of the country’s oldest and most respected public universities. Their campus encompasses 1,683 acres in a suburban setting. Their total undergraduate enrollment is 17,299, and they use a semester system. At UVA freshmen are required to live on campus, but many upperclassmen choose to live off campus in fairly affordable nearby apartments.
In addition to their excellent undergraduate college, UVA is home to a number of prestigious graduate schools including the Darden Graduate School of Business, Curry School of Education, The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Law, and School of Medicine. With an undergraduate acceptance rate of 21%, UVA is considered to be among the most selective public universities.
The student-teacher ratio at UVA is 15:1, which means that 51.9% of classes have 20 students or fewer. Popular majors at UVA include liberal arts and sciences, general studies, social sciences, engineering, business, and biological and biomedical sciences.
Cost of attending the University of Virginia: (in-state) $21,381 (out of state) $56,837
5. University of Florida
Coming in at #5 on our list of best state schools, the University of Florida was founded in 1853 on a 2000-acre campus in suburban Gainesville, Florida. They use a semester-based system, and their current undergraduate enrollment is 34,881. U of Florida is known in the NCAA division I for having one of the top ranked football teams in the nation: the Florida Gators. Fun fact: Gatorade was invented at the University of Florida specifically to hydrate their football players.
In addition to their well-regarded undergraduate academics, U of F is also known for a number of graduate schools including the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, the Warrington College of Business, the Levin College of Law, and their medical school. Popular undergraduate majors include engineering, business, management, marketing, and biological sciences.
The student-teacher ratio of the University of Florida is 17:1, which translates into 54.6% of classes having fewer than 20 students. Currently, the undergraduate acceptance rate is 30% with applicants typically scoring between 1300 and 1470 on the SATs.
Cost of attending the University of Florida: (in-state) $6,380 (out of state) $28,658
6. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
Founded all the way back in 1789, the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill is one of the country’s oldest universities, and they rank #6 on our list of best public universities. UNC has a total undergraduate enrollment of 19,897 on their campus which spans 729 acres in suburban Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In addition to excellent academics, UNC is known for being an NCAA Division I contender, and their basketball team was the launching pad for a young Michael Jordan. The school has many other activities as well. From a wide variety of different student groups and clubs, to the Daily Tarheel newspaper and WXYC student radio station. Students at UNC—Chapel Hill have near endless possibilities for their time outside of class.
For public universities UNC is quite selective, with an acceptance rate of 19%. Students who are accepted to UNC typically have SAT scores between 1320 and 1510, and GPAs close to or above 4.0. UNC also has a student-teacher ratio of 16:1, which means 40.7% of their classes have fewer than 20 students. This contributes to a student satisfaction rating of 96%.
Cost of attending University of North Carolina (in state) $8,998 (out of state) $37,558
7. University of California—Santa Barbara
Technically located in Goleta, California, the UC Santa Barbara overlooks the Pacific Ocean in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States. Their total undergraduate enrollment is 23,091, and their campus covers 989 beautiful square acres. Like most other schools in the UC system, UCSB uses a quarter-based system rather than semesters.
UCSB is split into five different schools, but like UCLA, the largest of the colleges is the College of Letters and Sciences. With an acceptance rate of 29%, UCSB isn’t quite as selective as UCLA or UC Berkeley, but it is still one of the more selective schools in the UC system.
UCSB boasts an impressive student-teacher ratio of 17:1, which means that 55.9% of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Popular majors at UCSB include, social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics, communication, and journalism. However, UCSB is also well-known for their performing arts and visual arts programs as well.
Cost of attending UC Santa Barbara: (in-state) $14,450 (out of state) $44,204
8. University of California—Irvine
It looks like the University of California is going to round out the last four spots on our list, and this is just a testament to how good the University of California system has become. UC– Irvine, was founded in 1965, and is located in Irvine, California, just south of Los Angeles. Like most of the UC schools, UC– Irvine uses a quarter-based system for their academic calendar, and their total undergraduate enrollment is 29,449.
Because the UC—Irvine Medical Center is so well-regarded, it comes as no surprise that pre-med is a popular major at UC—Irvine. But they also are known for their graduate programs at the Paul Merage School of Business and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. In terms of their location, UC—Irvine is located just five miles from the Pacific Ocean, and while on-campus housing is available, it is not guaranteed. As a result, many students choose to live off-campus.
UC—Irvine has a student-teacher ratio of 18:1, which translates into 55.4% of their classes having fewer than 20 students. Popular majors include, health-related knowledge and skills, psychology, business, marketing, and management.
Cost of attending UC—Irvine: (in-state) $13,985 (out of state) $43,739
9. University of California—San Diego
Technically located in beautiful La Jolla, California, the setting of the University of California—San Diego almost resembles a resort. But don’t be fooled. This is one of the best public universities in the country. With a heavy focus on the sciences, UC- San Diego is more than just good looks and perfect weather. Their total undergraduate enrollment is 33,343 with a campus that covers 1,976 acres of beachfront property. Students can literally walk from class to the beach in a few minutes.
UCSD has a student-teacher ratio of 19:1, which means 46.9% of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Popular majors include, cognitive sciences, general studies, computer science, anatomy, international studies, and economics. With an acceptance rate of 34%, UCSD is still one of the most selective public universities in the country, but it is somewhat less selective than some other UC schools.
Cost of attending UCSD: (in state) $15,348 (out of state) $46,374
10. University of California—Davis
As we said, this list will be rounded out with schools from the excellent University of California system. UC—Davis is located in central California and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 31,657 students. In total, the UC—Davis campus stretches over 5,300 acres, making it one of the largest UC schools.
UC—Davis features over 700 student organizations and clubs, and freshmen are guaranteed on-campus housing, however, they are not required to live on campus. There are also plenty of off-campus apartment buildings which are reasonably priced for students. Beyond their undergraduate academics, UC—Davis is well-known for many of their graduate programs including the Graduate School or Management, School of Law, School of Medicine, College of Engineering, and their world-renowned School of Veterinary Medicine.
The student-teacher ratio at UC—Irvine is 21:1, which means that 31.2% of their classes have fewer than 20 students. Popular majors at UC—Irvine include, health studies, business, management, and general studies.
Cost of attending UC—Irvine: (in state) $14,740 (out of state) $44,494
So, there you have it. AdmissionSight’s list of the 10 best public universities in the US. If you’ve been wondering about the top public universities, hopefully this post has helped. If you want to discuss your college plans with experts who specialize in tailoring a college admissions plan specifically for you, contact AdmissionSight today and schedule your free consultation.
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The Top 10 Public Universities in the United States? ›
1. University of California—Los Angeles. UCLA has an A+ ranking in almost all of the categories that Niche rates. With a fairly small acceptance rate of 17%, the school's the most popular major is economics.What is the #1 public university in USA? ›
1. University of California—Los Angeles. UCLA has an A+ ranking in almost all of the categories that Niche rates. With a fairly small acceptance rate of 17%, the school's the most popular major is economics.Which state has best public colleges? ›
California. In addition to its No. 1 ranking for top public schools, the University of California-Los Angeles is also the 20th best national university in the country and 16th in best undergraduate engineering programs.Which state has the best universities? ›
1. California: Along with having the most colleges by state in the U.S., California also has the highest number of top-ranked institutions.What is the best public school ranking in the US? ›
- Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Alexandria, Virginia. ...
- Carnegie Vanguard High School. Houston, Texas. ...
- Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School. ...
- Gilbert Classical Academy. ...
- Design and Architecture Senior High School. ...
- University High School. ...
- Stanton College Preparatory School. ...
- International Academy.
1 public university in the world. For the ninth straight year, UC Berkeley tops the list of the world's best public universities and remains the fourth-best university overall in U.S. News & World Report's 2023 global universities rankings.Why public universities are better in us? ›
A significant aspect of public universities is that it is state-financed. The fund provided by the state is aimed at developing the infrastructure of the university, provide better educational opportunities and increase the exposure of the students enrolled.What is the hardest college to get into? ›
Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, unsurprisingly, are America's toughest colleges to get into in 2023, according to Niche's most recent rankings.What state is ranked 50 in education? ›
|State||Academic Performance Rank||Overall Rank|
In addition to larger athletic programs, public colleges tend to offer a more diverse selection of extracurricular activities due to their larger student bodies. If college sports and campus events are an important part of the college experience for you, you may prefer a public institution.
What are the 3 best universities in the United States? ›
- Princeton University.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Harvard University.
- Stanford University.
- Yale University.
- University of Chicago.
- Johns Hopkins University.
- University of Pennsylvania.
|Universities||Times Higher Education Ranking (2023)||U.S. News & World Report Ranking (2023)|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||5||2|
|California Institute of Technology - Caltech||6||9|
Massachusetts is the smartest state in the U.S. Massachusetts has the highest percentage of Bachelor's degree holders at 42.1% of adults and graduate or professional degree holders at about 32.4%. Additionally, Massachusetts is home to MIT, Harvard, and several other high-ranked institutions.What are the richest public schools in America? ›
- Scarsdale Union Free School District, N.Y.
- Weston School District, Conn.
- Piedmont City Unified School District, Calif.
- Darien School District, Conn.
- Chappaqua Central School District, N.Y.
This ensures a variety of higher-education choices, from large research universities to small specialized institutions. On the other side of the coin, the states with the lowest percentage of bachelor's degrees are West Virginia at 24.1%, Mississippi at 24.8%, and Arkansas at 25.3%.Who has the best school system in the world? ›
Canada. Canada has long been a favourite with students and boasts the best educational system globally. According to the Times and QS, Canadian universities are among the best in the world. The educational institutions in this city provide a variety of degrees and short-term courses in a variety of subjects.What is the most respected university ranking? ›
World University Rankings 2023.
|1||University of Oxford United Kingdom|
|2||Harvard University United States|
|=3||University of Cambridge United Kingdom|
|=3||Stanford University United States|
1. Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.What's the difference between a college and a university? ›
Colleges and universities primarily differ in program offerings and degree types. "University" refers to larger institutions offering both undergraduate and graduate programs. "College" refers to community colleges, technical schools, and liberal arts colleges.Are public universities harder? ›
No, private colleges aren't necessarily harder than their public counterparts. Some of the hardest schools are private, such as MIT, CalTech, and Harvard, but there are many private schools that are in the same range of difficulty as your average state school.
What are the disadvantages of studying from a private university in USA? ›
Fewer majors and course offerings is a disadvantage of private universities. Students have limited choices for their course of study, and may have none at all if they have plans for graduate school. Many private universities offer baccalaureate programs in a few majors.
The GPA requirements for Harvard University are between 3.9 to 4.1. You will need an incredibly high GPA and will likely be graduating at the top of their class in order to get into Harvard University.What GPA do you have to have to get into Harvard? ›
The average high school GPA of admitted students at Harvard is around 4.2. 73% of students had a GPA of at least 4.0, indicating that admitted students typically mostly earned A grades in high school. If you're studying the IB, this translates to scoring mostly 7s and achieving a minimum score of at least 42.What is the rarest college to get into? ›
For example, Stanford, which tops the list of the hardest school to get into in the world, receives on average over 55,000 applications every year. Of these thousands of applications, they admit less than 2,200 students. That's a low, low admission rate of 3.9%.What country is #1 in education? ›
1. Massachusetts. Massachusetts has the best-ranked public schools in the United States and is the second-most educated state, just behind the District of Columbia. About 90.40% of Massachusetts adults have a high school diploma, and 42.90% have a Bachelor's degree or higher.Which state has the best economy? ›
Overall, in the calendar year 2022, the United States' Nominal GDP at Current Prices totaled at $25.463 Trillion, as compared to $23.315 Trillion in 2021. The three U.S. states with the highest GDPs were California ($3.6 Trillion), Texas ($2.356 Trillion), and New York ($2.053 Trillion).Are public universities free in USA? ›
Public universities in the US have two tuition fee rates: one for state residents and one for everyone else. The second (more expensive) category applies equally to applicants from other US states and from other countries.Is it harder to get into public or private university? ›
In general, private colleges are harder to gain admission into than public institutions. That's because many of them have low acceptance rates, especially competitive ones. However, there are public colleges with low acceptance rates, too. Similarly, there are private ones with 100% acceptance rates.What is the difference between a university and a state university? ›
UC schools operate as residential campuses focusing on research and graduate education. CSU schools, in contrast, largely enroll commuter students who do not live on campus. Their campuses also emphasize practical, career-focused training over research-heavy disciplines.
Which US universities have best campus? ›
- Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. ...
- University of Vermont, Vermont. ...
- United States Naval Academy, Maryland. ...
- Lewis and Clark College, Oregon. ...
- Belmont University, Tennessee. ...
- Furman University, South Carolina. ...
- Washington University in St. ...
- University of Washington, Washington.
|QS World University Rankings 2023: Top 100 US Universities|
|1||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)|
|Ivies||Crimson Ranking||US News National|
Established in 1911 in southwestern Utah, Dixie State University features a 100% acceptance rate. The campus, which sits adjacent to the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, serves more than 11,000 students, about 60% of whom attend full time.What state has highest IQ? ›
Massachusetts, with an average IQ of 104.3, is the state with the highest IQ in the United States, but only by 0.1, as New Hampshire is the second state with the highest IQ, with an IQ score of 104.2.What is the #1 least educated state? ›
West Virginia is the least educated U.S. state, with an overall score of 23.15. West Virginia ranks last for Educational Attainment with the lowest shares of people with associate's degrees or some college experience and those with bachelor's degrees, at 20.6%.What college has the nicest people? ›
- Vanderbilt University – Nashville, Tennessee. ...
- Rice University – Houston, TX. ...
- Tulane University – New Orleans, LA. ...
- College of William and Mary – Williamsburg, VA. ...
- Colby College — Waterville, ME. ...
- Clemson University – Clemson, SC. ...
- University of California-Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, CA.
In total, one out of every 20 Harvard freshmen attended one of the seven high schools most represented in the class of 2017—Boston Latin, Phillips Academy in Andover, Stuyvesant High School, Noble and Greenough School, Phillips Exeter Academy, Trinity School in New York City, and Lexington High School.What is the most expensive public school built in the US? ›
The nation's most expensive public school ever built is opening next month in downtown Los Angeles. The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, a K-12 complex built on 23 acres of land, cost $578 million to build. Considering the school will house about 4,200 students, construction cost about $130,000 per pupil.What is the largest public school in the US? ›
|Ten largest public university campuses by enrollment during the 2022–23 academic year|
|1||Texas A&M University||74,869|
|2||University of Central Florida||68,442|
What state has the best school system? ›
Massachusetts has the highest rank for public schools across the country. The quality of education is exceptional, and safety is also high. It ranked highest in math and reading test scores out of all states.
The states with the highest percentage of students not graduating on time were New Mexico (28.9%) and Oregon (23.3%). On-time graduation rates are lowest in Wheeler County, Oregon, where 74% of children fail to complete high school on time.What state has the most universities? ›
1. California: Along with having the most colleges by state in the U.S., California also has the highest number of top-ranked institutions. Some of the top ranked colleges on the list include Stanford University, Pomona College, and California Institute of Technology.Which country has the hardest education? ›
- South Korea.
- Hong Kong.
- Stanford University. ...
- University of California Berkeley. ...
- University of Oxford. ...
- University of Washington Seattle. ...
- Columbia University. United States|New York City. ...
- University of Cambridge. United Kingdom|Cambridge (U.K.) ...
- California Institute of Technology. United States|Pasadena. ...
- Johns Hopkins University. United States|Baltimore.
At the top? The Netherlands. According to the rankings, Dutch kids' education, their material well-being and behaviors and risks were the best in the world. Their happiness is attributed to a non-competitive, low-stress school culture and a good work-life balance for parents, among other reasons.Is Michigan the number 1 public university? ›
ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan has been named the No. 3 public university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The ranking site's 2022-23 Best Colleges list was released on Sept.Is UCLA or UC Berkeley better? ›
|Total Graduate Students||12,953||11,528|
|Total number of students||44,589||45,057|
|Acceptance Rate (2023)||16.1%||17.5%|
|U. S. News Ranking(2023)||20||4|
Overview. University of California, Los Angeles is a public institution that was founded in 1919. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 32,119 (fall 2021), its setting is urban, and the campus size is 419 acres. It utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar.Are there free public universities in the US? ›
The US Service Academies are among the tuition-free universities in the USA. There are five United States Academies. They are U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Why is University of Michigan so highly ranked? ›
The institution is known for its innovative research, diversity, hospitals, and athletic program. So where is the University of Michigan located?Is University of Michigan a public ivy? ›
Moll's list of the Public Ivies consisted of 15 schools, including William & Mary, UC Berkeley, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan, UCLA, and the University of Virginia.What college has the lowest acceptance rate? ›
Among the institutions with the lowest acceptance rate, colleges included, UCLA is the only public university with the lowest acceptance rate while the college with the lowest acceptance rate is Dartmouth College. The rest of the U.S. higher educational institutions with low acceptance rates are privately-owned.What GPA is required for UC Berkeley? ›
Although there is no minimum GPA requirement for applying to the major, the most successful applicants have a prerequisite GPA above 2.75.Which UC is hardest to get into? ›
The odds of getting into the UC system can drastically differ depending on which campuses a student applies to. UCLA and Berkeley are the most competitive campuses, with just 10% and 17% of California applicants, respectively, admitted to each in 2021.What GPA do you need for UCLA Berkeley? ›
UC has a specific way to calculate the grade point average (GPA) it requires for admission. California applicants must earn at least a 3.0 GPA and nonresidents must earn a minimum 3.4 GPA in all A-G or college-preparatory courses to meet this requirement.What GPA does UCLA take? ›
You must have a 3.0 GPA (3.4 for non-residents) or higher and no grades lower than a C in required high school courses. You can also substitute SAT subject tests for courses. If you don't meet the requirements, it is possible to gain admission with a high enough score on the ACT/SAT plus on two SAT subject tests.What is a hidden Ivy school? ›
The Hidden Ivies are colleges and universities considered to rival the eight Ivy League schools without being part of that prestigious group. These schools offer similar academic opportunities to students but might get overlooked because of their lack of popularity when compared to the famous Ivies.What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›
Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.What is the cheapest Ivy League school? ›
Princeton. Princeton is commonly regarded as the “cheapest Ivy” thanks to its extensive financial aid offerings. 62% of admitted students receive financial aid.
What state has free University? ›
Hawaii. The Hawai'i Promise Scholarship waives tuition costs for in-state students with financial need who are attending the University of Hawai'i Community College. The scholarship covers tuition costs and fees and also includes an allowance for books, supplies and transportation.How to go to Ivy League for free? ›
Just like Princeton, if your family makes less than $75,000 a year, you can get a free college education, including room, board and fees. Families earning between $75,000 and $150,000 are expected to contribute between 0% and 10% of their income toward a child's education.