The rising cost of higher education has led many potential students to question whether or not it is practical for them to enroll in a private institution. Some private universities have annual tuition fees that exceed $60,000. Plus, that doesn’t account for food, lodging, or education. There are many excellent public universities in the United States, and we’ll be highlighting the top 10 here.
So, students who don’t come from affluent backgrounds will need to rely on student loans to cover their educational expenses. Many students are opting for public universities because they provide a high-quality education at a much more manageable cost than private institutions.
What sets public universities apart from their private counterparts, then? The primary distinction is that state governments typically provide funding for public universities. Because of this, the schools can provide a first-rate education, athletic programs, and facilities while keeping costs to parents to a minimum.
We will also provide a breakdown of the costs for each school, though the costs will still vary from institution to institution and out-of-state students will be charged significantly more than in-state students. Now, then, let’s examine the best public universities in the United States.
Top public universities in USA
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UMAA) was established in 1817 as a public research university. The campus spans across 3,207 acres and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 32,282 (fall 2021). It operates on a trimester schedule. The 2022–2023 edition of Best Colleges places the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor at #25 among National Universities. The total cost to attend is $17,786 for residents within the state, and $57,273 for non-residents.
It is one of the best college towns in the United States, and it’s only 45 minutes from Detroit, according to the university. All incoming freshmen are guaranteed an on-campus room, but they are not required to live there. There are over 1,500 student organizations and 62 Greek chapters for students to join. Michigan’s football team has a heated rivalry with Ohio State, which is a big part of campus life. The University of Michigan is home to several prestigious professional schools, including the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, College of Engineering, Law School, and Medical School, as well as the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the School of Dentistry. When it comes to hospitals in the United States, the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers are consistently rated highly.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Founded in 1789, UNC Chapel Hill is a public research university. It is located in a suburban area, has a total undergraduate enrollment of 19,897 (fall 2021), and spans across 729 acres of land. There are two semesters per year. In the 2022–2023 edition of Best Colleges, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is ranked #29 among national universities. The total cost to attend is $8,998 for residents within the state, and $37,558 for non-residents.
UNC, short for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, provides a lot of different opportunities for its students. Among the most well-known UNC student groups are the student newspaper, The Daily Tarheel, and the student radio station, WXYC. Almost 20% of students actively participate in Greek organizations. The town of Chapel Hill, which is home to the University of North Carolina, is consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in the United States. Approximately half of all first-year students choose to make their home in one of the university’s dorms or apartment buildings. The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, known as the Tar Heels, is one of the most successful in college basketball history and is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Basketball greats like Michael Jordan and Vince Carter have retired.
The undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences is the largest of several schools and colleges at UNC. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a wide variety of prestigious postgraduate programs, including the Kenan–Flagler Business School, the School of Education, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the School of Social Work, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and the School of Government. State law requires that at least 82% of each entering freshman class be North Carolinians. UNC is also the alma mater of actor and former NBA player Rick Fox, as well as former president James K. Polk and senator John Edwards.
University of California, San Diego
Established in 1960, UC San Diego is a public research university. With an expected total undergraduate enrollment of 33,343 in the upcoming academic year, an urban location, and a campus size of 1,976 acres, this university is truly impressive on every front. Academic years are divided into three-month “quarters” here. U.C. San Diego is ranked #34 among national universities in the 2022–2023 edition of Best Colleges. Costs for in-state students are $15,348 per year, while those from out-of-state must pay $46,374 total.
Located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, the University of California, San Diego features stunning Pacific Ocean views. The UC San Diego Tritons participate in over 20 different NCAA Division II sports, most of which take place within the CCA. The university is home to a large and active Greek community and the student body is home to hundreds of different clubs and groups. Freshmen have the option of living on campus for the full two years, but everyone is guaranteed a place to call home for the first year. The campus is home to the Large High Performance Outdoor Shake Table, which is used to evaluate a building’s ability to withstand earthquake simulations, and the aquarium.
There are six different undergraduate colleges, five distinct academic divisions, and five separate graduate and professional schools at UC San Diego. Its medical school and engineering school both have stellar reputations. Sun God Festival is an annual event at UC San Diego that began in the 1980s and features student and professional performances by well-known musicians, carnival games, food and merchandise vendors, and student organizations. The International House at UC San Diego is well-known for housing and educating approximately 350 international students from over 30 different countries. People like Guy “Bud” Tribble and Bill Atkinson, who worked on the original Apple Macintosh computer, and people like Mike Judge, who acted in “Office Space” and “King of the Hill,” among many other things, are both UCSD alums. ”
University of California—Los Angeles
UCLA, located in Los Angeles’ ritzy Westwood district, is often ranked as the University of California’s (UC) second-best school after Berkeley; however, at present, the two are essentially on par in terms of academic reputation and selectiveness. According to your intended major, the university will direct you to one of several distinct departments. The School of Arts and Letters is the most popular option because it provides students with a well-rounded education in both the liberal arts and the natural and social sciences.
The Anderson School of Management and the David Geffen School of Medicine are just two of UCLA’s many prestigious graduate programs. With only 11% of applicants being accepted this year, UCLA has a rate that is even lower than Berkeley’s. The average SAT score of applicants is over 1500, and the average GPA is over 4.0. With an 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio, nearly half of all undergraduate courses have under 20 students.
Popular undergraduate programs at UCLA include those in the social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, psychology, engineering, and mathematics. However, they also feature top-notch visual arts and performing arts departments.
UCLA tuition and fees are as follows: (in-state) $13,804; (out-of-state) $44,830
University of California—Santa Barbara
Even though it’s technically in Goleta, California, the University of California at Santa Barbara is in one of the most stunning settings in the entire country, perched on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean. With 23,091 first-year students, the campus has plenty of room to spread out across its 989 scenic acres. UCSB, like the other universities in the UC system, operates on a quarter system rather than a semester system.
Akin to UCLA, UCSB’s largest college is the College of Letters and Sciences. UCSB has an acceptance rate of 29%, making it one of the more selective universities in the UC system.
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin was established in 1883 as a public research university. It is located in an urban area, has a total undergraduate enrollment of 40,916 (fall 2021), and spans across 431 acres of land. The school operates on a semester system. In the 2022–2023 edition of Best Colleges, the University of Texas at Austin is ranked #38 among national universities. The total cost to attend is $11,752 for residents and $40,996 for non-residents.
When it comes to enrollment, the University of Texas at Austin is in the top five in the country. There are thirteen different schools and colleges there, with the largest being the College of Liberal Arts. Several of its graduate schools are among the best in the country as well, including the McCombs School of Business, the Cockrell School of Engineering, and the School of Nursing. Over a thousand student groups and the extensive UT Greek community are available to students. Many student publications come out of the school, and its sports teams are perennial powerhouses in the Division I Big 12 Conference. Hundreds of students each year take advantage of UT’s study abroad opportunities, most frequently heading to Spain, Italy, the UK, France, or China. Underclassmen have the option of not living on campus.
University of Virginia
UVA is one of the oldest and most prestigious public universities in the United States; it was founded in 1816 by former President Thomas Jefferson. They have a suburban campus that spans 1,683 acres. There are 17,299 undergraduates enrolled there, and they operate on a semester schedule. Although first-year students at the University of Virginia (UVA) are required to live on campus, many upperclassmen choose to live in relatively inexpensive off-campus apartments in the area.
In addition to its highly regarded undergraduate program, the University of Virginia (UVA) also features a number of world-class professional schools, including the Darden Graduate School of Business, the Curry School of Education, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine. The University of Virginia is widely regarded as one of the most competitive public universities due to its low 21 percent acceptance rate for undergraduates.
At UVA, there are 15 students for every faculty member, and 51.9% of classes have 20 students or fewer. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, social sciences, engineering, business, and biological and biomedical sciences are all very popular at the University of Virginia.
Undergraduate tuition at UVA is $21,381 per year for Virginia residents and $56,837 per year for non-residents.
University of Wisconsin—Madison
Students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison put in long hours studying and partying because the university is so well-respected in all of these areas.
As of the year 2022, there were 30,063 freshmen enrolled in the United States. The median cost of tuition is $14,030 per year, while the median salary of a graduate is $56,200 per year.
University of Georgia
Twenty-seven thousand eight hundred undergrads paid an average of $16,580 per year to attend this Athens university in 2022.
Six years after graduation, the typical graduate earns $50,500 per year. According to Niche, finance is the preferred academic path for the majority of students.
United States Military Academy
West Point is the more common name for this school, reflecting its New York location. Across the board, parents, and students have given the school glowing reviews.
Acceptance is extremely low at just 9%, making it the lowest on this entire list. If accepted, students at West Point join the United States Army and receive benefits including full tuition remission, room and board, and health insurance for the duration of their service.
In the year 2022, there were 4,536 students enrolled at the university.
What is the number one public university?
Different organizations and different criteria result in varying rankings of public universities. When it comes to public universities and the top 25 colleges and universities in the country, names like UCLA, Berkeley, and Michigan consistently perform well.
What is the most expensive public university?
In the 2020–2021 school year, in-state tuition at the nation’s priciest public universities averaged over $18,000. The highest annual tuition on this list was almost $23,360 at Virginia’s William and Mary University. Some University of California campuses are among the most expensive public universities in the country for out-of-state students, with UC San Diego charging the highest tuition at $41,390 annually.
That’s it; the end of the story. All of the top public universities in the United States are on our list. This post should answer any questions you may have had about the best public universities. Contact us today to schedule your no-cost consultation with college admissions experts to discuss your future academic endeavors.