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    Top Public Universities in the US

    Written by Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Updated: December 11th, 2023

    Public universities offer a world-class education at a price point that is often much lower than private schools. Public schools, especially state schools, tend to be on the bigger side, and they offer substantial tuition discounts to in-state students. Some states also have tuition reciprocity agreements, which allow students to receive tuition discounts for out-of-state schools. Check out our list of public schools below and compare your options by size, cost, grad rate, admissions rate, and more:

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    502 colleges
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    G

    Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

    Atlanta, GA • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus is a public 4-year college located in Atlanta, Georgia. There are currently 17,379 undergraduates at Georgia Tech and the school’s acceptance rate is 17%. The…

    Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus is a public 4-year college…Read More

    17% acceptance
    93% graduation rate
    17,379 undergrads
    $0 net price
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    F

    University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of Florida is a public 4-year college located in Gainesville, Florida. There are currently 33,673 undergraduates at UF and the school’s acceptance rate is 23%. The tuition at UF…

    University of Florida is a public 4-year college located in…Read More

    23% acceptance
    90% graduation rate
    33,673 undergrads
    $0 net price
    B

    University of California-Berkeley

    Berkeley, CA • Public, City

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    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of California-Berkeley is a public 4-year college located in Berkeley, California. There are currently 32,475 undergraduates at UC Berkeley and the school’s acceptance rate is 11%. The tuition at…

    University of California-Berkeley is a public 4-year college located in…Read More

    11% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    32,475 undergrads
    $0 net price
    U

    University of California-Los Angeles

    Los Angeles, CA • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of California-Los Angeles is a public 4-year college located in Los Angeles, California. There are currently 32,423 undergraduates at UCLA and the school’s acceptance rate is 9%. The tuition…

    University of California-Los Angeles is a public 4-year college located…Read More

    9% acceptance
    92% graduation rate
    32,423 undergrads
    $0 net price
    M

    University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Ann Arbor, MI • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the University of Michigan is famous for its extensive research opportunities and strong athletic programs. The campus features iconic facilities like the Michigan Stadium ("The…Read More

    Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the University of Michigan is…Read More

    18% acceptance
    93% graduation rate
    32,448 undergrads
    $0 net price
    M

    United States Merchant Marine Academy

    Kings Point, NY • Public, Suburb

    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College

    United States Merchant Marine Academy is a public 4-year college located in Kings Point, New York. There are currently 931 undergraduates at USMMA and the school’s acceptance rate is 27%.…

    United States Merchant Marine Academy is a public 4-year college…Read More

    27% acceptance
    77% graduation rate
    931 undergrads
    $0 net price
    D

    University of California-San Diego

    La Jolla, CA • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    UC San Diego, located in La Jolla, is famous for its research in oceanography, engineering, and the life sciences. The campus is home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and…Read More

    UC San Diego, located in La Jolla, is famous for…Read More

    24% acceptance
    88% graduation rate
    33,092 undergrads
    $0 net price
    V

    University of Virginia-Main Campus

    Charlottesville, VA • Public, Suburb

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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA is known for its historic campus and strong programs in law, business, and the humanities. The Rotunda, designed by Jefferson, is a UNESCO World Heritage…Read More

    Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA is known for its historic…Read More

    19% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    17,103 undergrads
    $0 net price
    I

    University of California-Irvine

    Irvine, CA • Public, City

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    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of California-Irvine is a public 4-year college located in Irvine, California. There are currently 28,651 undergraduates at UC Irvine and the school’s acceptance rate is 21%. The tuition at…

    University of California-Irvine is a public 4-year college located in…Read More

    21% acceptance
    87% graduation rate
    28,651 undergrads
    $0 net price
    N

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC • Public, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public 4-year college located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. There are currently 19,921 undergraduates at UNC and the school’s acceptance rate…Read More

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public…Read More

    17% acceptance
    91% graduation rate
    19,921 undergrads
    $0 net price
    W

    University of Washington-Seattle Campus

    Seattle, WA • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of Washington-Seattle Campus is a public 4-year college located in Seattle, Washington. There are currently 30,931 undergraduates at Washington and the school’s acceptance rate is 48%. The tuition at…

    University of Washington-Seattle Campus is a public 4-year college located…Read More

    48% acceptance
    84% graduation rate
    30,931 undergrads
    $0 net price
    D

    University of California-Davis

    Davis, CA • Public, Suburb

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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of California-Davis is a public 4-year college located in Davis, California. There are currently 31,512 undergraduates at UC Davis and the school’s acceptance rate is 37%. The tuition at…

    University of California-Davis is a public 4-year college located in…Read More

    37% acceptance
    86% graduation rate
    31,512 undergrads
    $0 net price
    M

    University of Maryland-College Park

    College Park, MD • Public, Suburb

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of Maryland-College Park is a public 4-year college located in College Park, Maryland. There are currently 29,982 undergraduates at Maryland-College Park and the school’s acceptance rate is 45%. The…

    University of Maryland-College Park is a public 4-year college located…Read More

    45% acceptance
    89% graduation rate
    29,982 undergrads
    $0 net price
    P

    Purdue University-Main Campus

    West Lafayette, IN • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue is known for its strong engineering and aviation programs. It's the alma mater of several astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk…Read More

    Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, Purdue is known for its…Read More

    53% acceptance
    83% graduation rate
    38,438 undergrads
    $0 net price
    I

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL • Public, City

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    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a public 4-year college located in Champaign, Illinois. There are currently 34,031 undergraduates at UIUC and the school’s acceptance rate is 45%. The tuition at…

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a public 4-year college located…Read More

    45% acceptance
    85% graduation rate
    34,031 undergrads
    $0 net price
    W

    University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI • Public, City

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    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public 4-year college located in Madison, Wisconsin. There are currently 35,184 undergraduates at Wisconsin-Madison and the school’s acceptance rate is 49%. The tuition at Wisconsin-Madison…

    University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public 4-year college located in…Read More

    49% acceptance
    89% graduation rate
    35,184 undergrads
    $0 net price
    B

    CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

    New York, NY • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    CUNY Bernard M Baruch College is a public 4-year college located in New York, New York. There are currently 15,554 undergraduates at Baruch and the school’s acceptance rate is 50%.…

    CUNY Bernard M Baruch College is a public 4-year college…Read More

    50% acceptance
    74% graduation rate
    15,554 undergrads
    $0 net price
    C

    William & Mary

    Williamsburg, VA • Public, Suburb

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    William & Mary is a public 4-year college located in Williamsburg, Virginia. There are currently 6,778 undergraduates at William & Mary and the school’s acceptance rate is 34%. The tuition…

    William & Mary is a public 4-year college located in…

    34% acceptance
    91% graduation rate
    6,778 undergrads
    $0 net price
    C

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

    San Luis Obispo, CA • Public, Suburb

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo is a public 4-year college located in San Luis Obispo, California. There are currently 20,976 undergraduates at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the…

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo is a public 4-year…Read More

    30% acceptance
    85% graduation rate
    20,976 undergrads
    $0 net price
    T

    The University of Texas at Austin

    Austin, TX • Public, City

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    The University of Texas at Austin is a public 4-year college located in Austin, Texas. There are currently 40,980 undergraduates at UT Austin and the school’s acceptance rate is 31%.…

    The University of Texas at Austin is a public 4-year…Read More

    31% acceptance
    88% graduation rate
    40,980 undergrads
    $0 net price
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    About the Data

    We sort colleges on our lists according to their Scholarships360 Top Colleges Index Score. This score is calculated using up-to-date information taken directly from the College Scorecard. Additional information is sourced from the colleges themselves, as well as other publicly available information. If you see an error, feel free to contact us.

    What you should know about public universities

    Public universities are funded by the federal government, which allows them to charge lower tuition, especially to in-state students. They typically have student populations on the larger side, and oftentimes have larger enrollment in each class as well.

    The larger size of public universities comes with advantages and disadvantages. Students may receive less of a personalized education at public schools. However, they often have more resources at their disposal, especially if they are doing research or anything that involves collaboration, laboratories, or other infrastructure.

    Apply to private schools too!

    Many students see the tuition cost at private colleges and write them off as too expensive. While it’s true that private schools do tend to charge more for tuition than public schools do, it’s important to remember they also tend to be more generous with financial aid. The only way to know the true cost of a private school is to gain admission and read through your financial aid award letter.

    Related: Differences between public and private schools

    Other college lists to explore

    Frequently asked questions about public universities

    What's the hardest public university to get into?

    UCLA and UC-Berkeley have the two lowest acceptance rates of any public schools as of 2023, with UCLA at 11% and UC-Berkeley at 14%. These are two of the most prestigious public schools in the country, but there are many other quality public universities for students to consider.

    Are public schools cheaper than private schools?

    Public schools tend to charge lower tuition than private schools. Especially for in-state students, they often end up being the cheapest option. However, the price difference is not as big as it looks on paper. Private schools tend to be more generous with financial aid, so many students end up only paying a portion of the sticker price you see listed on private colleges’ websites.

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