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States with the best public colleges

  • States with the best public colleges

    Choosing a college is never an easy process—and admissions, especially at highly selective private colleges, are getting more competitive. For many high school students, the pressure is on from freshman or sophomore year as they select their coursework and prepare for their post-high school futures. Fortunately, by the time junior and senior year roll around, students will be pleased to discover that in each state there are public options available, should they wish to get a great education close to home. In fact, these options are often a better bang for their buck than private colleges in their home state or elsewhere and offer programs unique to the geography of the region. Even if their programs are not unique, these schools often have fascinating histories that, in some cases, reach back to before when the states themselves were founded.

    In collecting data for this article, Stacker examined Niche's 2019 rankings of the top 300 public universities in the U.S. Each school was assigned a score from 15 (for the #1 school) to .05 (for #300) based on its Niche ranking, which was itself based upon a methodology including the strength of that school's academics, student life, and student surveys. After that, states themselves were ranked by adding up the individual scores of public schools in that state.

    Read on to find out where you can study at a space-grant university or a sea-grant university (and what exactly that means) as well as where you can participate in the Cowbell Yell. If you're more into electrical engineering or nursing, there's room for that, too. Whether you're looking to save money by getting in-state tuition rates or to go to college with 40,000 other students, you'll be sure to find what you're looking for somewhere in the U.S.

    You may also like: Colleges with the best student life in every state

  • #50. Alaska

    - Points: 0.8
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Fairbanks

    The University of Alaska Southeast is the only public university in the state to appear in the top 300 of Niche's best public universities list. With campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka along with extensive student research opportunities in biology and other sciences, UAS offers plenty of options for Alaskans as well as students interested in science from other states.

  • #49. Hawaii

    - Points: 3.2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Hawaii at Hilo

    Ranked #36 by Niche as one of the most diverse colleges in America, the University of Hawaii at Manoa is the main campus of the 10-campus University of Hawaii system. The school is renowned as an international-level research university as well as the home to a number of Division I sports teams.

  • #48. Rhode Island

    - Points: 4.2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Rhode Island

    Located in Kingston, the University of Rhode Island features an honors program as well as academic programs in marine affairs, ocean engineering, and oceanography. The flagship campus of the URI system is also a member of NCAA Division I sports, featuring 18 club teams and intramural options.

  • #47. West Virginia

    - Points: 10.3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: West Virginia University, Marshall University

    One unique feature of West Virginia University, ranked third on Niche's list of top party schools, is its participation in the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium. This partnership of academic institutions seeks to build academic infrastructure among its member schools and affords faculty the opportunity to apply for various research grants. Interested students may major in one of several engineering concentrations in hopes of one day working for NASA themselves.

  • #46. Nevada

    - Points: 10.7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 2
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Nevada - Reno, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

    The University of Nevada, Reno, is Nevada's first university; it was established in 1874. Members of the so-called “Wolf Pack” are most likely to major in nutrition/wellness, psychology, or business; considering that the campus is also home to a medical school, these choices of concentrations are perhaps unsurprising.

  • #45. Vermont

    - Points: 11.0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Vermont, Vermont Technical College

    Though out-of-state students may be drawn to the University of Vermont for its proximity to great skiing and liberal political views, they stay for the strong academic programs in agricultural and environmental science. The med school admission rate for UVM graduates is 56%, higher than the national average of 43%, according to the university's admissions website.

  • #44. Wyoming

    - Points: 11.3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 1
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Wyoming

    The University of Wyoming ranks highly among schools in the U.S. for great professors, according to Niche. Its graduates tend to major in nursing, psychology, or elementary education, and the school offers online and distance learning programs as well as in-person classes at its Laramie campus.

  • #43. Maine

    - Points: 11.4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 2
    - Top public universities in the state: Maine Maritime Academy, University of Maine

    Depending on what you're looking for, Maine has options for you: if you're seeking a conservative college experience at a small school, check out Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, while if you want a larger school with more Greek life, you'd be more at home at the University of Maine in Orono, where around 13% of current students participate in Greek organizations.

  • #42. Idaho

    - Points: 12.8
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 2
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Idaho, Boise State University

    The University of Idaho is an affordable option for those seeking to attend college, offering students more than $25 million in scholarships annually—the most of any public Idaho university. In-state residents will pay just under $22,000 per year in tuition without any financial aid. Boise State offers automatic scholarships to residents based on their high school GPA and standardized test scores, making it a good value for in-state students as well.

  • #41. Montana

    - Points: 13.0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 2
    - Top public universities in the state: Montana Technological University, Montana State University

    At nearly 17,000 students, Montana State University in Bozeman is Montana's largest university. There are more than 250 academic options to choose from, and MSU is nationally recognized for its status as a public research university. For athletic students, there are plenty of bike and running trails near campus, as well as two major ski areas.

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