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Public University Rankings

Looking at the best public university rankings can help you to prepare for your future learning opportunities.

With a unique funding source, these schools offer an incredibly diverse selection of courses for students to consider. You’ll find they are significantly more diverse than private schools with an assortment of students from all over the country.

With the impressive number of students applying annually, you’ll need to ensure your transcripts are outstanding. Otherwise, you’ll find it challenging to get into some of their top-rated degree programs.

In this guide, we’ll explore ten of the top-ranked public universities sorted by four specific types of criteria:

  • Accreditation
  • Average Net Price
  • Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate
  • Median Earnings

These universities have been vetted for quality and value. Each university on our list has earned rankings on some of the most reputable college ranking sites, such as Forbes, Money, U.S. News, Times Higher Education, and others. They’ve also received high marks on student review sites like Cappex, Niche, U.S. News, Grad Reports, and others.

Top 10 Best Public Universities

1. Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

Atlanta, GA

  • Net Price: $14,820
  • Graduation Rate: 91.35%
  • Retention Rate: 97.03%
  • Median Earnings: $96,375

Undergraduate Enrollment: 16,566

The Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus is a public research university located in Atlanta, Georgia. It is a 4-year university offering a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgia Tech is known for its interdisciplinary research and its strong emphasis on technology and engineering.

The five most popular programs offered at Georgia Tech are:

  • Computer Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering

Georgia Tech offers a variety of online programs and support services for online students. These include online advising, library services, career services, access to student organizations and clubs, and online tutoring.

2. University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, CA

  • Net Price: $15,240
  • Graduation Rate: 92.58%
  • Retention Rate: 96.15%
  • Median Earnings: $88,046

Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,811

The University of California-Berkeley is a public research university and a top-ranked institution. It offers over 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to students from all over the world. UC Berkeley is known for its innovative research, diverse student body, and its commitment to public service. Notable alumni include former US President Ronald Reagan, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and Nobel Prize Laureate George Smoot.

  • The five most popular programs offered at UC Berkeley are:
    • Business Administration
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
  • Support services available for online students at UC Berkeley include:
    • Academic advising and counseling
    • Online library resources
    • Technical support
    • Online tutoring and writing support
    • Career services

3. University of Virginia-Main Campus

Charlottesville, VA

  • Net Price: $20,507
  • Graduation Rate: 93.86%
  • Retention Rate: 96.78%
  • Median Earnings: $80,584

Undergraduate Enrollment: 17,041

The University of Virginia-Main Campus is a public university located in Charlottesville, Virginia. It offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as online programs. The University of Virginia is known for its strong academic programs, its research opportunities, and its commitment to public service. Notable alumni include U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Woodrow Wilson.

The five most popular programs offered at the University of Virginia-Main Campus are:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
  • Juris Doctor in Law

Support services available for online students at the University of Virginia-Main Campus include:

  • Online tutoring
  • Academic advising
  • Library services
  • Technical support
  • Career services

4. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

  • Net Price: $17,086
  • Graduation Rate: 93.54%
  • Retention Rate: 97.43%
  • Median Earnings: $79,580

Undergraduate Enrollment: 32,063

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university offers a wide range of programs, both on-campus and online, and is known for its academic excellence, diverse student body, and extensive research opportunities. Notable alumni of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor include President Gerald Ford, Google co-founder Larry Page, and actress Kristen Bell.

The five most popular programs offered at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor are:

  • Engineering
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Science
  • Psychology
  • Biology

Support services available for online students at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor include:

  • Online tutoring
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support
  • Online library services
  • Career counseling

5. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL

  • Net Price: $15,483
  • Graduation Rate: 85.51%
  • Retention Rate: 93.47%
  • Median Earnings: $77,368

Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,889

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a public research university located in Champaign, Illinois. It offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as online courses. The school is known for its excellence in research, academics, and athletics. Notable alumni include Barack Obama, Stephen Hawking, and David Foster Wallace.

The five most popular programs offered at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are:

  • Business Administration
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Communication

Online students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have access to a variety of support services, such as academic advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and mental health services. In addition, the school offers a variety of online resources and tools to help students succeed in their studies.

6. University of California-Davis

Davis, CA

  • Net Price: $14,920
  • Graduation Rate: 86.60%
  • Retention Rate: 91.05%
  • Median Earnings: $74,305

Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,637

The University of California-Davis is a public research university located in Davis, California. It is part of the University of California system and offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. UC Davis is renowned for its research and teaching in the fields of agriculture, veterinary medicine, and biological sciences. Notable alumni include former California governor Gray Davis, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, and former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.

The five most popular programs offered at UC Davis are:

  • Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Economics
  • Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

UC Davis offers online programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Support services available for online students include online tutoring, academic advising, library services, and career counseling.

7. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI

  • Net Price: $16,708
  • Graduation Rate: 88.77%
  • Retention Rate: 95.22%
  • Median Earnings: $70,586

Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,506

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the oldest and largest public university in the state and is a flagship institution of the University of Wisconsin System. It is known for its academic excellence, research opportunities, and vibrant campus life.

The school offers a wide range of programs, including:

  • Undergraduate Programs
  • Graduate Programs
  • Professional Programs
  • Online Programs
  • Certificate Programs

The five most popular programs offered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are:

  • Business Administration
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Communication Arts

The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a variety of support services for online students, including:

  • Academic advising
  • Technical support
  • Access to library resources
  • Career services
  • Disability services

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to many famous alumni, including former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, Pulitzer Prize-winning author August Wilson, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove.

8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC

  • Net Price: $13,263
  • Graduation Rate: 90.61%
  • Retention Rate: 96.52%
  • Median Earnings: $67,765

Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,722

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina system. UNC offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. It is known for its strong academic programs and world-class faculty.

The five most popular programs offered at UNC are:

  • Business Administration
  • Psychology
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Exercise and Sport Science

UNC offers online programs that provide students with the same quality education as on-campus programs. Support services available for online students include access to online library resources, academic advising, career counseling, and technical support.

9. University of Florida

Tallahassee, FL

  • Net Price: $9,561
  • Graduation Rate: 83.69%
  • Retention Rate: 93.66%
  • Median Earnings: $57,007

Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,368

  • The University of Florida is a public, land-grant university located in Gainesville, Florida. It is the oldest and largest university in the state, and is one of the largest universities in the United States. The university offers a wide variety of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs, as well as online programs. It is known for its research and academics, and has produced many notable alumni.
  • The five most popular programs offered at the University of Florida are:
    • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
    • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
    • Bachelor of Arts in English
    • Bachelor of Science in Biology
    • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • The University of Florida offers a variety of support services for online students, including academic advising, technical support, library services, and career services. The university also provides online tutoring and career counseling services.

10. University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA

  • Net Price: $2,037
  • Graduation Rate: 52.13%
  • Retention Rate: 73.09%
  • Median Earnings: $54,219

Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,506

The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public research university located in Los Angeles, California. It is a member of the University of California system and offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. UCLA is known for its academic excellence, research opportunities, and diverse student body. Some of its famous alumni include actors Jack Black and James Franco, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman.

The five most popular programs offered at UCLA are:

  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Biology

UCLA offers a variety of online programs and services to support online students, including academic advising, career services, library services, and technical support. Additionally, UCLA has an online learning platform that provides resources such as course materials, discussion boards, and access to student services.

Top Public Universities Analysis

The universities on our list offer a diverse range of programs with a strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Computer Science and Engineering are among the most popular programs across these universities. Business Administration and Psychology also feature prominently among the top programs offered.

Two universities are from California (University of California-Berkeley and University of California-Los Angeles), indicating that the state provides a high-quality public education system. However, the remaining universities are spread across different states, showing that excellent public education is available throughout the United States.

The University of Florida offers the lowest net price among the top 10 public universities at $9,561, while the University of Virginia-Main Campus has the highest net price at $20,507. This indicates a significant disparity in the cost of attending these universities, with the University of Florida being more affordable.

The highest graduation rate belongs to the University of Virginia-Main Campus at 93.86%, while the lowest graduation rate is seen at the University of California-Los Angeles at 52.13%. The retention rates for these universities are generally high, with the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor having the highest retention rate at 97.43%.

Median earnings for graduates also vary across these universities, with the Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus having the highest median earnings at $96,375, and the University of California-Los Angeles having the lowest median earnings at $54,219. This disparity in earnings could be attributed to the different fields of study and industries that graduates enter upon completing their degrees.

Enrollment sizes also vary, with the smallest undergraduate enrollment seen at the Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus with 16,566 students, and the largest undergraduate enrollment found at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with 33,889 students.

The top 10 best public universities in the United States offer a diverse range of programs, with a strong emphasis on STEM fields.

The universities are spread across different states, indicating that high-quality public education is accessible throughout the country.

While there are differences in net price, graduation rates, retention rates, median earnings, and enrollment sizes, these universities all provide valuable opportunities for students seeking a high-quality education.

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