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Best value public colleges in America

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Charlie Nguyen // Flickr

Best value public colleges in America

There are many differences between public and private colleges: Public universities often have larger class sizes and more degree options while private universities are known for better access to professors and greater geographical diversity among students because in-state tuition isn’t a consideration. But the biggest difference for many? Cost.

For in-state students, and even some out-of-state students, public universities are usually far less expensive than private institutions. The average private program today costs about $36,800 and elite schools can top out at over $50,000. In comparison, public schools average out at around $10,100 for in-state students and $22,500 for out-of-state students. That doesn’t mean that many students at these schools graduate debt-free–several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have called for making these schools entirely free or subsidizing students who chose to attend in-state universities. 

Still, many do graduate with less debt than peers who choose to attend public universities due to the lower overall cost, but that difference in price doesn’t mean that value is lost. On the contrary, some of the most prestigious schools in the United States, from the West Coast to the East Coast, are public universities, and many are conducting cutting-edge research that will fuel the technologies of tomorrow. And, in some cases, the return on investment is greater for those attending public programs. But which public colleges have proved their value the most?

For this list, Stacker looked at Niche's 2019 list of the best value colleges in America. This ranking includes only public, four-year colleges and weighs the cost of tuition with each school’s acceptance rate, quality of professors, diversity, and the median earnings for alumni six years after graduation.

Read on to see which public schools prospective students can apply to that will allow them to maximize their educational potential.

Story updated by Isabel Sepulveda.

You may also like: Best value private colleges in America

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SD Dirk // Wikimedia Commons

#50. Iowa State University

- Location: Ames, IA
- Students: 28,743
- Acceptance rate: 89%
- Graduation rate: 73%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $8,219
- Out-of-state tuition: $21,583
- Six-year median earnings: $50,700

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Mrtoren // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Rutgers University - Newark

- Location: Newark, NJ
- Students: 7,162
- Acceptance rate: 64%
- Graduation rate: 68%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $14,085
- Out-of-state tuition: $30,026
- Six-year median earnings: $57,900

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Jeffness // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Michigan State University

- Location: East Lansing, MI
- Students: 35,404
- Acceptance rate: 72%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Faculty ratio: 16:1
- In-state tuition: $14,516
- Out-of-state tuition: $39,461
- Six-year median earnings: $53,600

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Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Rutgers University - New Brunswick

- Location: Piscataway, NJ
- Students: 33,677
- Acceptance rate: 58%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $14,638
- Out-of-state tuition: $30,579
- Six-year median earnings: $57,900

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Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

#46. University of Washington - Bothell

- Location: Bothell, WA
- Students: 4,641
- Acceptance rate: 80%
- Graduation rate: 64%
- Faculty ratio: 20:1
- In-state tuition: $10,690
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,728
- Six-year median earnings: $57,700

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Pi.1415926535 // Wikimedia Commons

#45. University of Connecticut - Avery Point

- Location: Groton, CT
- Students: 575
- Acceptance rate: 94%
- Graduation rate: 58%
- Faculty ratio: 20:1
- In-state tuition: $12,838
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,906
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400

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Daniel Case // Wikimedia Commons

#44. University of Connecticut - Waterbury

- Location: Waterbury, CT
- Students: 784
- Acceptance rate: 96%
- Graduation rate: 59%
- Faculty ratio: 21:1
- In-state tuition: $12,838
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,906
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400

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Tdorante10 // Wikimedia Commons

#43. CUNY Baruch College

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 11,598
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 70%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $7,062
- Out-of-state tuition: $14,452
- Six-year median earnings: $57,200

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Cargoudel // Wikimedia Commons

#42. University of Delaware

- Location: Newark, DE
- Students: 18,195
- Acceptance rate: 63%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $13,160
- Out-of-state tuition: $33,150
- Six-year median earnings: $57,000

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Ben Franske // Wikimedia Commons

#41. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

- Location: Minneapolis, MN
- Students: 29,991
- Acceptance rate: 50%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Faculty ratio: 17:1
- In-state tuition: $14,488
- Out-of-state tuition: $26,674
- Six-year median earnings: $51,900

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John9474 // Wikimedia Commons

#40. University of Connecticut - Stamford

- Location: Stamford, CT
- Students: 1,452
- Acceptance rate: 82%
- Graduation rate: 64%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $12,848
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,916
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400

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Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

#39. University of Connecticut

- Location: Storrs, CT
- Students: 18,555
- Acceptance rate: 48%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Faculty ratio: 16:1
- In-state tuition: $14,880
- Out-of-state tuition: $36,948
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400

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UCSB Library // Wikimedia Commons

#38. University of California - Santa Barbara

- Location: Santa Barbara, CA
- Students: 21,777
- Acceptance rate: 33%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $14,445
- Out-of-state tuition: $42,199
- Six-year median earnings: $55,300

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DXR // Wikimedia Commons

#37. University of Georgia

- Location: Athens, GA
- Students: 27,142
- Acceptance rate: 54%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 17:1
- In-state tuition: $9,364
- Out-of-state tuition: $27,574
- Six-year median earnings: $50,500

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Yb20061462 // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Binghamton University, SUNY

- Location: Vestal, NY
- Students: 13,345
- Acceptance rate: 40%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $9,523
- Out-of-state tuition: $24,403
- Six-year median earnings: $61,600

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loustejskal // Flickr

#35. University of California - San Diego

- Location: La Jolla, CA
- Students: 27,880
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $14,018
- Out-of-state tuition: $42,032
- Six-year median earnings: $59,900

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ProfReader // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Citadel Military College of South Carolina

- Location: Charleston, SC
- Students: 2,559
- Acceptance rate: 81%
- Graduation rate: 73%
- Faculty ratio: 12:1
- In-state tuition: $12,056
- Out-of-state tuition: $33,819
- Six-year median earnings: $56,800

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Ryan Kosmides // Wikimedia Commons

#33. University of Maryland - College Park

- Location: College Park, MD
- Students: 27,708
- Acceptance rate: 45%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $10,399
- Out-of-state tuition: $33,606
- Six-year median earnings: $62,900

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jedhakuro // Flickr

#32. New Jersey Institute of Technology

- Location: Newark, NJ
- Students: 6,380
- Acceptance rate: 61%
- Graduation rate: 64%
- Faculty ratio: 17:1
- In-state tuition: $16,898
- Out-of-state tuition: $31,918
- Six-year median earnings: $68,500

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Bev Sykes // Wikimedia Commons

#31. University of California - Davis

- Location: Davis, CA
- Students: 29,284
- Acceptance rate: 43%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 20:1
- In-state tuition: $14,419
- Out-of-state tuition: $42,433
- Six-year median earnings: $58,200

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Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#30. The College of New Jersey

- Location: Ewing, NJ
- Students: 6,728
- Acceptance rate: 48%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $16,148
- Out-of-state tuition: $27,577
- Six-year median earnings: $58,500

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Allyunion // Wikimedia Commons

#29. University of California - Irvine

- Location: Irvine, CA
- Students: 28,855
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $13,738
- Out-of-state tuition: $41,752
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400

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Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

#28. University of Washington

- Location: Seattle, WA
- Students: 28,759
- Acceptance rate: 46%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $11,207
- Out-of-state tuition: $36,587
- Six-year median earnings: $57,700

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Cbg628 // Wikimedia Commons

#27. North Carolina State University

- Location: Raleigh, NC
- Students: 21,384
- Acceptance rate: 51%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $9,058
- Out-of-state tuition: $27,406
- Six-year median earnings: $52,500

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Alma mater // Wikimedia Commons

#26. James Madison University

- Location: Harrisonburg, VA
- Students: 18,905
- Acceptance rate: 75%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Faculty ratio: 16:1
- In-state tuition: $10,878
- Out-of-state tuition: $27,278
- Six-year median earnings: $56,600

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Yousef Abdul-Husein // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Clemson University

- Location: Clemson, SC
- Students: 18,642
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Faculty ratio: 16:1
- In-state tuition: $15,116
- Out-of-state tuition: $36,058
- Six-year median earnings: $52,400

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Bogdan Migulski // Flickr

#24. University of California - Los Angeles

- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Students: 30,458
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $13,261
- Out-of-state tuition: $41,275
- Six-year median earnings: $60,700

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Spohpatuf // Wikimedia Commons

#23. University of Florida

- Location: Gainesville, FL
- Students: 31,384
- Acceptance rate: 42%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $6,381
- Out-of-state tuition: $28,659
- Six-year median earnings: $56,000

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imwilliam // Flickr

#22. California State University Maritime Academy

- Location: Vallejo, CA
- Students: 1,007
- Acceptance rate: 66%
- Graduation rate: 64%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $7,056
- Out-of-state tuition: $18,936
- Six-year median earnings: $82,900

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Jon Kees // Wikimedia Commons

#21. University of Wisconsin

- Location: Madison, WI
- Students: 28,977
- Acceptance rate: 54%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $10,533
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,783
- Six-year median earnings: $56,200

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Caroline Culler // Wikimedia Commons

#20. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

- Location: Chapel Hill, NC
- Students: 18,303
- Acceptance rate: 24%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $9,005
- Out-of-state tuition: $34,588
- Six-year median earnings: $55,600

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Utexas // Wikimedia Commons

#19. University of Texas - Austin

- Location: Austin, TX
- Students: 37,740
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $10,398
- Out-of-state tuition: $36,744
- Six-year median earnings: $58,200

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Diego Delso // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Purdue University

- Location: West Lafayette, IN
- Students: 30,277
- Acceptance rate: 57%
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $9,992
- Out-of-state tuition: $28,794
- Six-year median earnings: $55,100

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adam_jones // Flickr

#17. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

- Location: Champaign, IL
- Students: 32,613
- Acceptance rate: 62%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 20:1
- In-state tuition: $15,074
- Out-of-state tuition: $31,194
- Six-year median earnings: $61,500

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Stu Seeger // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Texas A&M University

- Location: College Station, TX
- Students: 46,724
- Acceptance rate: 71%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Faculty ratio: 21:1
- In-state tuition: $11,234
- Out-of-state tuition: $36,606
- Six-year median earnings: $58,000

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Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Maine Maritime Academy

- Location: Castine, ME
- Students: 989
- Acceptance rate: 80%
- Graduation rate: 69%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $13,278
- Out-of-state tuition: $26,628
- Six-year median earnings: $95,600

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Rob Bulmahn // Flickr

#14. California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo

- Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
- Students: 20,584
- Acceptance rate: 35%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Faculty ratio: 22:1
- In-state tuition: $9,432
- Out-of-state tuition: $21,312
- Six-year median earnings: $66,900

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Jcvertin // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Michigan Technological University

- Location: Houghton, MI
- Students: 5,492
- Acceptance rate: 74%
- Graduation rate: 67%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $15,346
- Out-of-state tuition: $33,426
- Six-year median earnings: $66,400

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brainchildvn // Wikimedia Commons

#12. University of California - Berkeley

- Location: Berkeley, CA
- Students: 29,351
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Faculty ratio: 18:1
- In-state tuition: $14,170
- Out-of-state tuition: $42,184
- Six-year median earnings: $64,700

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Adavidb // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Missouri University of Science & Technology

- Location: Rolla, MO
- Students: 6,128
- Acceptance rate: 84%
- Graduation rate: 64%
- Faculty ratio: 19:1
- In-state tuition: $7,974
- Out-of-state tuition: $25,082
- Six-year median earnings: $71,200

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Jrcla2 // Wikimedia Commons

#10. College of William & Mary

- Location: Williamsburg, VA
- Students: 6,199
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Faculty ratio: 11:1
- In-state tuition: $17,434
- Out-of-state tuition: $40,089
- Six-year median earnings: $58,500

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Jimmy and Sasha Reede // Flickr

#9. Virginia Tech

- Location: Blacksburg, VA
- Students: 26,603
- Acceptance rate: 70%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Faculty ratio: 14:1
- In-state tuition: $13,230
- Out-of-state tuition: $31,014
- Six-year median earnings: $62,500

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AndrewHorne // Wikipedia

#8. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

- Location: Ann Arbor, MI
- Students: 28,702
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Faculty ratio: 11:1
- In-state tuition: $15,558
- Out-of-state tuition: $51,200
- Six-year median earnings: $63,400

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Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#7. SUNY Maritime College

- Location: Throggs Neck, NY
- Students: 1,581
- Acceptance rate: 69%
- Graduation rate: 63%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $7,070
- Out-of-state tuition: $16,980
- Six-year median earnings: $82,800

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massmaritime // Flickr

#6. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

- Location: Buzzards Bay, MA
- Students: 1,607
- Acceptance rate: 83%
- Graduation rate: 75%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $8,398
- Out-of-state tuition: $25,824
- Six-year median earnings: $86,600

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Bestbudbrian // Wikimedia Commons

#5. University of Virginia

- Location: Charlottesville, VA
- Students: 15,766
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Faculty ratio: 15:1
- In-state tuition: $16,853
- Out-of-state tuition: $47,273
- Six-year median earnings: $61,200

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koocbur // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Virginia Military Institute

- Location: Lexington, VA
- Students: 1,722
- Acceptance rate: 53%
- Graduation rate: 77%
- Faculty ratio: 11:1
- In-state tuition: $27,650
- Out-of-state tuition: $53,338
- Six-year median earnings: $65,700

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cogdogblog // Flickr

#3. Colorado School of Mines

- Location: Golden, CO
- Students: 4,584
- Acceptance rate: 56%
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Faculty ratio: 16:1
- In-state tuition: $18,386
- Out-of-state tuition: $37,436
- Six-year median earnings: $84,900

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JJohahJackalope // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Georgia Institute of Technology

- Location: Atlanta, GA
- Students: 13,974
- Acceptance rate: 23%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Faculty ratio: 22:1
- In-state tuition: $12,418
- Out-of-state tuition: $33,014
- Six-year median earnings: $79,100

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Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#1. United States Merchant Marine Academy

- Location: Kings Point, NY
- Students: 954
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Faculty ratio: 13:1
- In-state tuition: $1,020
- Out-of-state tuition: $1,020
- Six-year median earnings: $88,100

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