Top 20 U.S. Public Universities 2018: Features & Advice

February 07, 2018

With Ivy Leagues and Liberal Arts Colleges, private universities typically dominate the college search conversations. But, you would be missing out if you didn’t also consider these public universities offering top tier programs!

Public colleges and universities are typically founded and operated by state government entities. Each U.S. state has at least one public university, with some larger states boasting more than 30. Since public universities are partly funded by the state government, they offer discounted tuition to state residents, making it a lot more affordable for students to go to college within their home state.

While the more popular public universities are all large research universities, it’s important to know that there are also medium to small public colleges with an undergraduate enrollment of under 12,000 students.

Here are the top 20 public universities in the US:

List taken from U.S. News & World Report 2018 Top Public Schools Ranking. The ranking is evaluated based on graduation and retention rates, academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources, alumni giving rate and more.

1. (tie) UC Berkeley

In-State: $14,098

Out-of-State: $42,112

Undergraduate Enrollment: 29,311 (~7,321 per graduating class)

1. (tie) UCLA

In-State: $13,256

Out-of-State: $41,270

Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,873 (~7,718 per graduating class)

3. University of Virginia

In-State: $16,146

Out-of-State: $46,975

Undergraduate Enrollment: 16,331 (~4,082 per graduating class)

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

In-State: $14,826

Out-of-State: $47,476

Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,983 (~7,245 per graduating class)

5. University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

In-State: $9,005

Out-of-State: $34,588

Undergraduate Enrollment: 18,523 (~4,630 per graduating class)

6. College of William & Mary

In-State: $20,287

Out-of-State: $43,099

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,726 (~1,681 per graduating class)

7. Georgia Institute of Technology

In-State: $12,418

Out-of-State: $33,014

Undergraduate Enrollment: 15,489 (~3,872 per graduating class)

8. UC Santa Barbara

In-State: $14,409

Out-of-State: $42,423

Undergraduate Enrollment: 21,574 (~5,393 per graduating class)

9. (tie) UC Irvine

In-State: $15,516

Out-of-State: $43,530

Undergraduate Enrollment: 27,331 (~6,832 per graduating class)

9. (tie) UC San Diego

In-State: $16,183

Out-of-State: $44,197

Undergraduate Enrollment: 28,127 (~5,393 per graduating class)

9. (tie) University of Florida

In-State: $6,381

Out-of-State: $28,658

Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,554 (~8,636 per graduating class)

12. (tie) UC Davis

In-State: $14,382

Out-of-State: $42,396

Undergraduate Enrollment: 29,546 (~7,386 per graduating class)

12. (tie) University of Wisconsin - Madison

In-State: $10,533

Out-of-State: $34,782

Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,710 (~5,393 per graduating class)

14. (tie) Pennsylvania State University - University Park

In-State: $18,436

Out-of-State: $33,664

Undergraduate Enrollment: 41,359 (~10,339 per graduating class)

14. (tie) University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign

In-State: $15,868

Out-of-State: $31,988

Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,932 (~8,483 per graduating class)

Question: What I Like about My School’s Location & Culture?

Student Advice from Dziura2, Illinois ‘16:

“U of I was not my first choice in schools, but after I found a roommate that I clicked with online on a facebook group, I felt a little better about the school. Today, I can say that I do not regret coming to U of I because I have had some of the most amazing experiences of my life in school and have met some of the kindest and most amazing people. Although U of I isa gigantic school, it is certainly not difficult to find friends in classes or in clubs, or even just at the library. People are extremely friendly and are always willing to make conversation. What I like most about my school is the tremendous amount of opportunities available to students to further their personal and academic growth. There are several opportunities to do research, more clubs than I can even count, and so many majors to choose from. At U of I, you can count on finding a group of people that will share similar interests with you!” 

View her full UIUC application file to learn more about her application journey!

16. (tie) Ohio State University - Columbus

In-State: $10,591

Out-of-State: $29,659

Undergraduate Enrollment: 45,831 (~10,339 per graduating class)

16. (tie) University of Georgia

In-State: $11,818

Out-of-State: $30,392

Undergraduate Enrollment: 27,951 (~6,987 per graduating class)

18. (tie) Purdue University—West Lafayette

In-State: $10,002

Out-of-State: $28,804

Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,043 (~7,510 per graduating class)

18. (tie) University of Connecticut

In-State: $14,880

Out-of-State: $36,948

Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,324 (~4,831 per graduating class)

18. (tie) University of Texas - Austin

In-State: $10,136

Out-of-State: $35,766

Undergraduate Enrollment: 40,168 (~10,042 per graduating class)

Question: What I Like about My School’s Location & Culture?

Student Advice from UT Austin59805, UT Austin ‘17:

I love everything about my university, University of Texas at Austin. The location is very convenient - around local and chain restaurants, bus stops, shopping areas, and night life. The campus is beautiful and is very safe. Austin is a beautiful city with so much to do - let’s just say you will NEVER be bored. Whether it’s kayaking, partying, hiking, or just roaming around the city, there is always something to do when you aren’t studying. The Longhorn spirit at UT is overwhelming and extraordinary. I always look forward to football seasons because it’s the best time of the year! I love the support that the students show for all our athletic teams. UT is overall an exceptional choice for undergrad. Everyone falls in love with the culture and the burnt orange pride.”

View her full UT Austin59805 application file to learn more about her application journey!

18. (tie) University of Washington

In-State: $10,974

Out-of-State: $35,538

Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,933 (7,733 per graduating class)

Majority of the public universities on this list fit the stereotypical understanding of public schools: extremely large, big student-to-faculty ratio, and lots research opportunities. While there are proportionally large public research universities, there are also smaller public colleges like the College of William and Mary. Dive deep into your research in each school to see if the schools offer what you are looking for in college. Here’s a guide to help you narrow down your college list. We hope you find the school that is the best fit for you with AdmitSee’s database of successful college application files. 

Applying to college next year?
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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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UCLA ‘20

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