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Top 10 Public Universities

A List of the Best State-Funded Universities in the U.S.


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These top public universities are state-funded schools with excellent facilities, world-renowned faculty, and powerful name recognition. Each represents a great value, especially for in-state students. I've listed the schools alphabetically rather than try to make superficial distinctions between top universities.

Related lists: 22 More Top Public Universities | Military Academies | Top Public Liberal Arts Colleges

Compare Top Public Universities: SAT Scores | ACT Scores

College of William & Mary

College of William & Mary
Photo Credit: Amy Jacobson

William & Mary typically ranks at or near the top of small public universities. The college has well-respected programs in business, law, accounting, international relations and history. Founded in 1693, the College of William & Mary is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the country. The campus is located in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, and the school educated three U.S. presidents: Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler and James Monroe. The college not only has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, but the honor society originated there.

Georgia Tech - Georgia Institue of Technology

Georgie Tech Fountain
disavian / Flickr

Located on a 400-acre urban campus in Atlanta, Georgia Tech consistently ranks as one of the best public universities in the United States. Georgia Tech's greatest strengths are in the sciences and engineering, and the school frequently appears on rankings of top engineering schools. The institute places heavy emphasis on research. Along with strong academics, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets compete in NCAA Divsion I intercollegiate athletics as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

UC Berkeley - University of California at Berkeley

UC Berkeley Tower
phoosh / Flickr

Berkeley, a member of the University of California system, consistently ranks as the best public university in the country. It offers students a bustling and beautiful campus in the San Francisco Bay area, and it is home to one of the country's top engineering schools and top business schools. Well known for its liberal and activist personality, Berkeley provides its students with a rich and vibrant social environment. In athletics, Berkeley competes in the NCAA Division I Pacific 10 Conference.

UCLA - University of California at Los Angeles

UCLA Royce Hall
_gene_ / flickr

Located on 419 acres in Los Angeles' Westwood Village just 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean, UCLA sits on a piece of prime real estate. With over 4,000 teaching faculty and 25,000 undergraduates, the university provides a bustling and vibrant academic environment. UCLA is part of the University of California system and stands as one of the top-ranked public schools in the country.

UCSD - University of California at San Diego

UC San Diego Library
kompressor / flickr

One of the "Public Ivies" and a member of the University of California system, UCSD consistently ranks in top ten list of best public universities and best engineering schools. The school is particularly strong in the sciences, social sciences and engineering. With its coastal location in La Jolla, California, and with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UCSD gets top marks for oceanography and the biological sciences. The school has a system of six undergraduate residential colleges modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, and each college has its own curricular focus.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
iLoveButter / Flickr

The large flagship campus of the University of Illinois spans the twin cites of Urbana and Champaign. UIUC consistently ranks among the top public universities and top engineering schools in the country. The school boasts over 42,000 students and 150 different majors, and it is particularly well known for its outstanding engineering and science programs. Illinois has the largest university library in the United States outside of the Ivy League. Along with strong academics, UIUC is a member of the Big Ten Conference and fields 19 varsity teams.

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

University of Michigan Football Stadium
allygirl520 / Flickr

Located in Ann Arbor Michigan, the University of Michigan consistently ranks as one of the best public institutions in the country. The university has a highly talented undergraduate student body -- about 25% of admitted students had a 4.0 high school GPA. The school also boasts of impressive athletic programs as a member of the Big Ten Conference. With roughly 40,000 students and 200 undergraduate majors, the University of Michigan has strengths in a wide range of academic areas. Michigan made my list of top engineering schools and top business schools.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill - Old Well
Seth Ilys / Wikimedia Commons

UNC Chapel Hill is one of the so-called "Public Ivy" schools. It consistently ranks in the top five among public universities, and its total costs are generally lower than the other top-ranked schools. Chapel Hill's schools of medicine, law, and business all have excellent reputations, and the Kenan-Flagler Business School made my list of top undergraduate business schools. The university's beautiful and historic campus was opened in 1795. UNC Chapel Hill also boasts excellent athletics -- the Tar Heels compete in NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference. Explore the campus in this Chapel Hill photo tour.

University of Virginia at Charlottesville

University of Virginia
rpongsaj / flickr

Established about 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia has one of the most beautiful and historic campuses in the U.S. The school also consistently ranks among the top public universities, and with an endowment now over $5 billion it is the wealthiest of the state schools. UVA is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference and fields numerous Division I teams. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the university is near Jefferson's home at Monticello. The school has strengths in a wide range of academic areas from the humanities to engineering, and the McIntire School of Commerce made my list of top undergraduate business schools.

University of Wisconsin at Madison

University of Wisconsin Social Sciences
Mark Sadowski / Flickr

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is the flagship campus of the Wisconsin university system. The waterfront main campus occupies over 900 acres between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Wisconsin has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and it is well respected for the research conducted in its nearly 100 research centers. The school also frequently finds itself high on lists of top party schools. In athletics, most of the Wisconsin Badger teams compete in the NCAA's Division 1-A as a member of the Big Ten Conference.

22 More Top Public Universities

The top ten list on this page barely scratches the surface of the United States' high quality publicly funded institutions. Be sure to check out this list of 22 more great public universities.

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