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States with the best public colleges

  • States with the best public colleges
    1/ Minh Nguyen // Wikimedia Commons

    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
    2/ Gary Whitton // Shutterstock

    #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
    3/ Ingus Kruklitis // Shutterstock

    #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
    4/ Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    5/ Jeanne6924 // Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    6/ Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    7/ Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

    #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
    8/ Thecoldmidwest // Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    9/ Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    10/ Iamneven // Wikimedia Commons

    #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
    11/ Leaflet // Wikimedia Commons

    #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.

  • #40. Delaware
    12/ mathplourde // Flickr

    #40. Delaware

    - Points: 13.3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - 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 Delaware

    Though it doesn't boast quite as many outdoor attractions as MSU, the University of Delaware is also a large university in a small place. With a 24,000-student enrollment in one of the smallest states in the U.S., UD has a large economic impact on its region (a $4.7 billion impact on the Northeast Corridor, according to its website). 95% of the university's graduates are either employed full-time or pursuing further studies 6 months post-graduation, as compared to an 84% national average.

  • #39. New Hampshire
    13/ AcrossTheAtlantic // Wikimedia Commons

    #39. New Hampshire

    - Points: 16.3
    - 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: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 2
    - Top public universities in the state: University of New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire at Manchester

    The University of New Hampshire holds the distinction of being a top research university—and ranks #23 on Niche's list of best college food in America. The main campus in Durham, NH is an hour's drive from both Boston and Portland, Maine and is 20 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean; it's perfect for fans of urban living and beautiful beaches alike.

  • #38. Connecticut
    14/ Pi.1415926535 // Wikimedia Commons

    #38. Connecticut

    - Points: 19.9
    - 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: 4
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Connecticut, University of Connecticut - Stamford, University of Connecticut - Avery Point

    UConn may be best known for its basketball teams and their record-breaking winning streaks, but it's also strong in terms of the level of financial aid it awards its students. In the 2018 fiscal year, $192 million was devoted to scholarships and grants at the main campus at Storrs and the four regional campuses.

  • #37. North Dakota
    15/ Brianna.glaus // Wikimedia Commons

    #37. North Dakota

    - Points: 20.0
    - 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: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: North Dakota State University, University of North Dakota, Minot State University

    With Division I athletics, a strong agricultural sciences program, and more than 10,000 students, North Dakota State University in Fargo has something for everyone. Other options in the state include the University of North Dakota, which was founded in six years before the state itself was even established in 1889, and Minot State University, which offers in-state tuition to every student.

  • #36. South Dakota
    16/ PatrickRohe // Flickr

    #36. South Dakota

    - Points: 20.8
    - 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: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, South Dakota State University, University of South Dakota

    South Dakota School of Mines and Technology placed as a best value school on Niche's list; it's a STEM-focused school near Mount Rushmore where 97% of grads either enter graduate school or start their careers at a starting salary of $61,000 on average. South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota offer more liberal arts-based education for those less inclined towards math and science.

  • #35. New Mexico
    17/ PerryPlanet / Wikimedia Commons

    #35. New Mexico

    - Points: 20.9
    - 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: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: New Mexico Tech, New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico

    Unlike many other public colleges, New Mexico Tech is home to a small student body of only about 1,300 undergraduates. In another departure from the norm, admission is competitive at a rate of 22%. Students may choose from majors in the sciences, including mechanical engineering, mineral engineering, and petroleum and natural gas engineering.

  • #34. Arkansas
    18/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #34. Arkansas

    - Points: 20.9
    - 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: 4
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech University

    The University of Arkansas is highly rated in terms of its agricultural science programs as well as its Greek life, where 31% of students participate in the Greek system. Located in Fayetteville, it's among the top 2% of research schools in the country.

  • #33. Utah
    19/ MrSchmidt // Wikimedia Commons

    #33. Utah

    - Points: 23.2
    - 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: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Utah, Utah State University, Southern Utah University

    The University of Utah in Salt Lake City has 18,000 undergraduate students and a 67% graduation rate. It's also the best employer in the state, according to a recent ranking by Forbes on the workplaces most liked by their employees.

  • #32. Nebraska
    20/ Bkell // Wikimedia Commons

    #32. Nebraska

    - Points: 25.9
    - 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: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Nebraska - Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Nebraska at Omaha

    Business mogul Warren Buffett counts himself among the alumni of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, which is the flagship campus of the state's only public research university. In addition to this claim to fame, UNL established the world's first undergraduate psychology laboratory and has been foundational to the development of ecology as a field of study. Three of the university's four campuses made the Niche list of top 300 public colleges.

  • #31. Kentucky
    21/ Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

    #31. Kentucky

    - Points: 27.2
    - 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: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Murray State University

    The University of Kentucky, located in Louisville, is highly ranked on Niche's lists of best college athletics and best colleges for student-athletes, coming in at #17 and #73, respectively. Unsurprisingly, physical education and coaching is a popular major among the 20,000 students here.

  • #30. Tennessee
    22/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #30. Tennessee

    - Points: 29.7
    - 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: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Tennessee, University of Memphis, Tennessee Technological University

    The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is known for its nationally-ranked graduate printmaking program in addition to popular undergraduate majors such as psychology and biology.  The University of Memphis, meanwhile, is home to the Helen Hardin Honors College, the largest honors college in the state.

  • #29. Oklahoma
    23/ MARELBU // Wikimedia Commons

    #29. Oklahoma

    - Points: 29.9
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 5
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma

    The Sooner Schooner, a covered wagon pulled by two white ponies, represents the University of Oklahoma's 20,000 students at games as the school's mascot. This school's “Boomer Sooner” yell expresses its spirit on game day. Needless to say, athletics is big at OU, but the school's 170 majors for undergraduates offers diverse academic programs as well.

  • #28. Massachusetts
    24/ Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism // Flickr

    #28. Massachusetts

    - Points: 31.7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 5
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Massachusetts - Amherst, University of Massachusetts - Lowell, University of Massachusetts - Boston

    Massachusetts may be best known for the big-name private universities in the Boston and Cambridge area, but its public university system is nothing to sneeze at either. UMass Amherst, the largest of the system and the flagship university with nearly 31,000 combined graduate and undergraduate students, offers a quality education at a fraction of the cost of Harvard or Boston University for in-state residents. There's even a campus in Boston for those who can't get enough of the City on a Hill.

  • #27. Oregon
    25/ Another Believer // Wikimedia Commons

    #27. Oregon

    - Points: 32.9
    - 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: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 4
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Oregon Institute of Technology

    In the scenic and lush Willamette Valley lies the University of Oregon, offering options for every type of student: there's a school of design, a business school, and a school of music and dance in addition to the more traditional college of arts and sciences. For those who are more scientifically inclined, the Oregon Institute of Technology offers a great return on your investment, with 97% of recent grads either employed or pursuing further studies 6 months out of school.

  • #26. Mississippi
    26/ CJ Anderson // flickr

    #26. Mississippi

    - Points: 34.2
    - 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: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi

    Mississippi State University is the home of the Bulldogs and the Cowbell Yell, an annual pep rally named for the visual and auditory symbol of Mississippi State pride. Beyond their prowess on the athletic field, Bulldogs are known for their meteorological knowledge: according to a recent study, one-third of all on-air weather broadcasters were trained at MSU.

  • #25. Iowa
    27/ Tony Webster // Wikimedia Commons

    #25. Iowa

    - Points: 36.1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 3
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa

    The University of Iowa houses a highly-ranked medical center as well as the renowned Iowa Writers' Workshop; it has 13 graduate programs ranked among the top ten in the country. Beyond those accolades, the home of the Hawkeyes was the first public university in the U.S. to admit men and women equally as well as the first to admit students regardless of race.

  • #24. Kansas
    28/ Arnhem // Wikimedia Commons

    #24. Kansas

    - Points: 38.4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 5
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University

    The University of Kansas, located in Lawrence, is highly ranked by Niche as a top party school as well as a top school for athletics. Students here tend to major in psychology, biology, or journalism, while at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., students prefer to major in animal sciences and husbandry, human development, and business.

  • #23. Minnesota
    29/ Ben Franske // Wikimedia Commons

    #23. Minnesota

    - Points: 43.0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, University of Minnesota - Morris, University of Minnesota Duluth

    With nearly 30,000 undergraduates, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities is not for the faint of heart (or the overly shy). It's an excellent school for those looking to study agricultural science or physical therapy, as it ranks in the top 15 of schools across the country on Niche's lists for each of those majors.

  • #22. Indiana
    30/ Diego Delso // Wikimedia Commons

    #22. Indiana

    - Points: 44.0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: Purdue University, Indiana University - Bloomington, Ball State University

    Purdue University in Indiana offers excellent academics: it ranks #17 on the list of top public universities in America. Purdue also boasts competitive Division I sports teams in the Big Ten athletic conference. For a comparable atmosphere at a similar price, students can consider IU - Bloomington, the flagship university for the Indiana University system.

  • #21. Louisiana
    31/ Christopherlin // Wikimedia Commons

    #21. Louisiana

    - Points: 44.3
    - 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: 9
    - Top public universities in the state: Louisiana State University, Louisiana Tech University, University of Louisiana - Lafayette

    Those seeking a top-ranked landscape architecture program will definitely want to consider Louisiana State University - Baton Rouge. Sports fans, meanwhile, may also be attracted to this school, as it is ranked fourth in the country by Niche for college athletics. Those seeking a smaller Division I school in the state can look at the mid-sized Louisiana Tech University, which is home to 12,467 students.

  • #20. Washington
    32/ Punctured Bicycle // Wikimedia Commons

    #20. Washington

    - Points: 46.6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Washington, Washington State University, University of Washington - Tacoma

    If it's a welcoming space you're looking for, check out the University of Washington, which was named the best school in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ students according to Best Colleges. Its Q Center is a primarily student-run space that provides year-round programming, including support groups for LGBTQ+ students. The center is located on the main campus is in downtown Seattle, while the school also has locations in Tacoma and Bothell.

  • #19. Colorado
    33/ ChrisEngelsma // Wikimedia Commons

    #19. Colorado

    - Points: 48.2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 5
    - Top public universities in the state: Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado - Boulder, Colorado State University

    Colorado School of Mines is ranked 15th in the country among top public universities by Niche. With a 56% acceptance rate and a small student body (less than 5,000 undergraduates), it has a reputation for producing industry-ready scientists and engineers. Meanwhile, the University of Colorado - Boulder (or CU, as it's known to locals) has nearly 27,000 undergraduate students and a reputation for great food, a scenic campus, and a party scene that is hard to beat.

  • #18. Arizona
    34/ Cygnusloop99 // Wikicommons

    #18. Arizona

    - Points: 48.6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University - Downtown Phoenix Campus

    Arizona State University in Tempe has nearly 39,000 undergraduate students and was ranked #50 among public universities in America by Niche. U.S. News and World Report ranked ASU first on its list of Most Innovative Schools the past four years running, ahead of powerhouses Stanford and MIT. This is due in part to programs pioneered by ASU to make higher education more accessible and affordable, such as full tuition reimbursement to Starbucks employees who complete an online degree.

  • #17. Georgia
    35/ DXR // Wikimedia Commons

    #17. Georgia

    - Points: 51.0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 7
    - Top public universities in the state: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University

    Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia both have plenty of southern charm on their campuses in Atlanta and Athens, respectively. However, only UGA can call itself one of the oldest public universities in the U.S.: it was chartered in 1785 and started admitting students in the early 1800s.

  • #16. South Carolina
    36/ Mike Buron // Flickr

    #16. South Carolina

    - Points: 51.5
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: Clemson University, University of South Carolina, Citadel Military College of South Carolina

    Clemson University in South Carolina boasts academic strength—it's ranked 24th by U.S. News and World Report as well as by Niche for public universities—as well as athletic power. Clemson's football team, the Tigers, has won three NCAA Division I championships, including the 2016 and 2018 titles.

  • #15. Illinois
    37/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #15. Illinois

    - Points: 52.2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 7
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois State University

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is renowned for its accounting program, Division I athletics, and student life, to name a few. The university counts 29 Pulitzer Prize winners among its alums, including the late film critic Roger Ebert.

  • #14. Maryland
    38/ carmichaellibrary/AlbertHerring // Wikimedia Commons

    #14. Maryland

    - Points: 53.4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 6
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Maryland - College Park, University of Maryland - Baltimore County, St. Mary's College of Maryland

    University of Maryland - College Park, located just outside of Washington D.C., is home to more than 41,000 Terps (short for their mascot, the terrapin). The University's Do Good Institute focuses on social justice and sustainability and seeks to advance service and innovation amongst all students.

  • #13. Pennsylvania
    39/ Kristopher Kettner // Shutterstock

    #13. Pennsylvania

    - Points: 58.6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 13
    - Top public universities in the state: Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University 

    With a total enrollment of 97,136 as of 2018, Penn State is one of the largest schools on this list, spread over a total of 24 campuses across Pennsylvania. At its main campus in University Park, students are most likely to major in information science, biology, or economics.

  • #12. Missouri
    40/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #12. Missouri

    - Points: 60.1
    - 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: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 8
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Missouri, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Truman State University

    Mizzou's core values of respect, responsibility, discovery, and excellence are key to all Tigers at the University of Missouri. The university was founded in 1839, and 45% of students graduate with no debt.

  • #11. Ohio
    41/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #11. Ohio

    - Points: 62.6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 8
    - Top public universities in the state: The Ohio State University, Miami University, University of Cincinnati

    Ohio State University in Columbus is highly ranked for college athletics and student life, as well as academic programs in agricultural sciences. Buckeye football is a local institution which takes place at Ohio Stadium to the delight of 105,000 enthusiastic fans on Saturdays each fall. Just avoid asking OSU fan about the University of Michigan, their historic football rival.

  • #10. Alabama
    42/ Steven Liveoak // Shutterstock

    #10. Alabama

    - Points: 67.1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 9
    - Top public universities in the state: Auburn University, University of Alabama - Birmingham, The University of Alabama

    Auburn University, which opened in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, is now home to more than 30,000 total students and more than 140 majors. University of Alabama - Birmingham is another great option with highly-ranked programs in nursing and criminal justice, according to Niche.

  • #9. Wisconsin
    43/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #9. Wisconsin

    - Points: 68.9
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 12
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

    University of Wisconsin's flagship location in Madison, founded in 1848, spends over $1 billion on research annually. The founders of satirical news site the Onion are among the school's quirky alums.

  • #8. New Jersey
    44/ Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

    #8. New Jersey

    - Points: 71.9
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 0
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 9
    - Top public universities in the state: Rutgers University - New Brunswick, The College of New Jersey, Rutgers University - Newark

    Rutgers University - New Brunswick, located an hour from both NYC and Philadelphia, is 16th on Niche's list of the most diverse colleges in America. At an average cost of around $16,000 per year for in-state students receiving financial aid, this school offers great value, especially considering it's one of the top public research universities in the U.S.

  • #7. Michigan
    45/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #7. Michigan

    - Points: 80.3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 9
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University

    The University of Michigan existed before Michigan even became a state and has 102 top-10 grad programs, according to U.S. News and World Report. The combination of outstanding academics and athletics here is hard to beat; the school's flagship Ann Arbor campus has a 97% freshman retention rate, a key indicator that students who go here have found something to love.

  • #6. North Carolina
    46/ Caroline Culler // Wikimedia Commons

    #6. North Carolina

    - Points: 93.7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 11
    - Top public universities in the state: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Appalachian State University

    UNC Chapel Hill has made headlines in recent years for its winning men's basketball team, but it has also produced two Nobel Laureates: one in Chemistry and one in Physiology or Medicine. Students are also concerned with giving back to the community; the Peace Corps ranked it 4th in its 2018 list of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities.

  • #5. Florida
    47/ DouglasGreen // Wikimedia Commons

    #5. Florida

    - Points: 102.7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 5
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 12
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Florida, Florida State University, University of South Florida

    Many of the public universities listed in this story are land-grant, meaning they were built on land given to states by the government to build public colleges, and a few are also sea-grant, but UF is unique in its status as a space-grant university. This means that it's part of a consortium of colleges in the state that work towards expanding and diversifying Florida's space industry.

  • #4. Virginia
    48/ Michael Gordon // Shutterstock

    #4. Virginia

    - Points: 108.7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 11
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, College of William & Mary

    Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, UVA was ranked second among best-value public universities by U.S. News and World Report in 2018. Their hospital system was ranked first in the country by the same news outlet that year. The school is also known for their top-notch men's basketball program, which took won the NCAA tournament in 2019 after an upset loss the previous year knocked them out of the tournament in the first round.

  • #3. Texas
    49/ Guðsþegn // Wikimedia Commons

    #3. Texas

    - Points: 115.6
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 2
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 5
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 17
    - Top public universities in the state: University of Texas - Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University

    If you're looking for a school with a great business or communications program combined with rich student life, look no further than UT Austin. The easily-recognizable burnt orange and white of the Longhorns represent the big and bold spirit of the school. Additionally, Texas passed a law in 1997 that guarantees students in the top 10% of their class admission into any public university, a plan to ensure that Texas colleges remained diverse after their previous affirmative action policy was ruled unconstitutional.

  • #2. California
    50/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #2. California

    - Points: 173.8
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 3
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 10
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 20
    - Top public universities in the state: University of California - Los Angeles, University of California - Berkeley, University of California - Santa Barbara

    As California is one of the largest states in the country, it's no surprise that the state is home to such a strong educational system as the University of California. Niche ranks seven of these schools in their top 50 and three in their top 25, with UCLA and UC Berkeley topping the list. The UC system, composed of nine campuses with undergraduate and graduate programs, is currently facing a lawsuit arguing that race continues to be a factor in their admissions decisions, despite affirmative action based on race being illegal in California.

  • #1. New York
    51/ USMA Public Affairs Office // Wikimedia Commons

    #1. New York

    - Points: 179.4
    - Number of public colleges in the top 25: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 50: 1
    - Number of public colleges in the top 100: 7
    - Number of public colleges in the top 300: 23
    - Top public universities in the state: United States Military Academy at West Point, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Binghamton University, SUNY

    The strength of the SUNY system should not be underestimated; there are 64 total campuses around New York State, including the College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Binghamton. As of 2018, New York residents making less than $125,000 annually receive free tuition at SUNY schools through the Excelsior Scholarship. West Point, the famed military academy known for past graduates including Dwight D. Eisenhower and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, has a mere 10% acceptance rate.

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