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Best Public Universities

A List of 22 Excellent State-Funded Schools in the U.S.

By

Ohio State

Ohio State - University Hall
ksr8s / Flickr

Ohio State University (OSU) has the distinction of being the largest university in the U.S. Founded in 1870, OSU consistently ranks among the top 20 public universities in the country. It has strong schools of business and law, and its political science department is particularly well respected. The school has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and its research strengths earned it membership in the Association of American Universities.

Penn State

Penn State University Old Main
acidcookie / Flickr
Penn State in University Park is the flagship campus of the 24 campuses that make up the state university system in Pennsylvania. Penn State's 13 specialized colleges and roughly 160 majors provide a wealth of academic opportunities for students with diverse interests. The undergraduate programs in engineering and business are noteworthy, and general strengths in the liberal arts and sciences won the school a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Research strengths earned PSU membership in the Association of American Universities.

Pitt (The University of Pittsburgh)

University of Pittsburgh
KitAy / Flickr
The 132-acre campus of the University of Pittsburgh is easily recognized by the towering Cathedral of Learning, the tallest educational building in the U.S. On the academic front, Pitt has wide-ranging strengths including Philosophy, Medicine, Engineering and Business. Like several schools on this list, Pitt has a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and its research strengths earned it membership in the Association of American Universities.

Purdue

Purdue University
j_cavera / Flickr
Purdue University in West Lafayette is the main campus of the Purdue University System in Indiana. As the home to over 40,000 students, the campus is a city unto itself that offers over 200 academic programs for undergraduates. Purdue has a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and its strong research programs earned it membership in the Association of American Universities.

Rutgers

Rutgers University Football
lisatozzi / Flickr
Located between New York City and Philadelphia, Rutgers gives its students easy train access to two major metropolitan centers. Rutgers, like many of the best public universities, has a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and the school was granted membership in the Association of American Universities for its strengths in research.

Texas (The University of Texas at Austin)

University of Texas, Austin, Tower
Silly Jilly / Flickr
Academically, UT Austin frequently ranks as one of the top public universities in the U.S., and the McCombs School of Business is especially strong. Other strengths include education, engineering and law. Strong research earned the University of Texas membership in the Association of American Universities, and its excellent programs in the liberal arts and sciences earned the school a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M
Blue Ag09 / Flickr
Texas A&M is far more than an agricultural and mechanical college these days. It is a huge, comprehensive university where business, humanities, engineering, social science and the sciences are all extremely popular with undergraduates. The university can boast of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and it is a member of the Association of American Universities for its research strengths.

UC Davis (The University of California at Davis)

UC Davis Performing Arts
basykes / Flickr

Like so many of the top-ranked public universities, the University of California at Davis has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, and it is a member of the Association of American Universities for its research strengths. The school's 5,300-acre campus, located west of Sacramento, is the largest in the UC system. UC Davis offers over 100 undergraduate majors.

UC Irvine (The University of California at Irvine)

UC Irvine
Ned Raggett / Flickr

The University of California at Irvine is located in the heart of Orange County. The 1,500-acre campus has an interesting circular design with Aldrich Park in the center. The park features a network of paths running through the gardens and trees. Like the other top University of California schools, Davis has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and membership in the Association of American Universities.

UC Santa Barbara (The University of California at Santa Barbara)

UCSB
tkramer / Flickr

UCSB has wide ranging strengths in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and engineering that have earned it membership in the selective Association of American Universities and a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The 1,000 acre campus is also a draw for many students, for the university has miles of beach-front property on the California coast.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Stadium
CipherSwarm / Flickr
Established in 1872 as a military institute, Virginia Tech still maintains a corps of cadets and is classified as a senior military college. Virginia Tech's engineering programs typically rank in the top 10 among public universities, and the university also gets high marks for its business and architecture programs. Strengths in the liberal arts and sciences earned the school a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Washington (The University of Washington)

University of Washington
Ken Lund / Flickr
The University of Washington's attractive campus looks off to Portage and Union Bays in one direction and Mount Rainier in another. With over 40,000 students, Washington is the largest university on the West Coast. Washington earned membership in the Association of American Universities for its research strengths, and like most universities on this list, it was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences.
  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Enrollment: 40,218 (28,570 undergraduates)
  • Athletics: NCAA Division I Pac 10 Conference
  • For acceptance rates, test scores and other admissions data, see the Washington profile
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