10 Amazing “Public Ivies” As Good As the Actual Ivies

Attending a Public Ivy can be just as good as attending an Ivy-League school for many students.

Sure, going to an Ivy league comes with name familiarity, prestige, and an acknowledged sense of accomplishment from peers. 

However, what if we told you that many schools have programs just as good as those in the Ivies.

In fact, some public universities have specific majors that, by many accounts, are significantly better than all of the Ivy League colleges in the country.

What makes a school here considered as good as an Ivy?

First, all the colleges in this article are listed in one of two seminal texts on Public Ivies. 

The first is Howard and Matthew Greene’s classic text The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities. The second is Richard Moll’s 1985 book Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities. These are considered the two definitive texts for defining a Public Ivy.

Secondly, for this specific article, we sought to prioritize public universities that are not normally compared to the Ivy League schools, outside of the books listed above. To this end, all schools chosen for this list are outside the US News Top 50 national universities.

Third, we looked for specific programs inside these public universities that, by all indications, are equally strong – or in some cases, even better – than their Ivy League counterparts, in the opinion of College Gazette.

Finally, we looked at other quality of life factors these schools represent, as well as the overall campus and educational experience.

Also, we recently published a list of 10 Engineering Schools as Good as the Ivies, and all the schools here are unique from that list.

Here are 10 amazing Public Ivies just as good as the actual Ivies:

SUNY Binghamton (Binghamton, NY)

Binghamton University
public domain photo by Binghamton University via Wikimedia Commons

One of the nation’s most impressive public institutions, SUNY Binghamton is a campus comprised of 120 buildings.

The facilities at SUNY Binghamton are state-of-the-art; recent additions include a $60m building dedicated to health science, a constituent of their School of Pharmacy, as well as a $375m housing & dormitory complex.

Other facilities include the impressive Anderson Center for the Performing Arts, a complex with three dedicated performance spaces seating a total of over 2,000 people!

Binghamton is no stranger to praise; as recently as 2016, Business Insider called SUNY Binghamton one of the 10 best public universities in the country.

When you look into what makes SUNY Binghamton special, it is easy to see how it lives up to its reputation as a public ivy.

Its programs in Accounting, Nursing, and Chemistry are listed in the top 100 in the country by Niche.

Additionally, it is the most selective SUNY school; with about 30,000(!) applications each year, the school accepts only 40% of students.

SUNY Binghamton has a long list of successful alumni; they include ESPN star host Tony Kornheiser, father of Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (Joseph Buttigieg), and successful business people Bob Swan (Intel CEO) and Amy Dacey (CEO of Democratic National Committee). 

Michigan State University (Lansing, MI)

Michigan State University
Chris Lark Photography, Wharton Center for Performing Arts, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Spartans should consider themselves among the top Public Ivy league schools in the country.

MSU has one of the largest research expenditures of all universities in the country. In 2017 alone, MSU’s research fund was an amazing $695 million dollars! 

With their significant funding, Michigan State plans to create one of the most important scientific research centers in the world by 2022, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. This particular center will provide students, faculty, and visiting scientists a unique, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study nuclear science.

However, what makes Michigan State a Public Ivy is not only its dedication to science and technology; as a whole, the school is among the most impressive of all public universities nationwide.

International study and community engagement are at the heart of the Michigan State experience. Through MSU Extension, Michigan State faculty and students give back to all 83 counties in the state of Michigan, enriching the lives of the state’s residents.

Additionally, the school has 325 international partnerships. It’s no wonder then that MSU has an incredibly popular study-abroad program for students; nearly 3,000 students each year study abroad. Students have studied in 70 different countries, as well as Antarctica!

The College of Music is among the finest public music programs in the country; many significant names in classical and jazz performance call themselves faculty at Michigan State’s music program.

University of Maryland – College Park (College Park, MD)

Radhika Kshirsagar, Mckeldin Mall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Listed as a Tier One research university by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation, the College Park campus is the flagship institution of the entire University of Maryland system.

Maryland is listed as a member of the Association of American Universities. Only 65 schools throughout the US and Canada are admitted members, making this one of the most prestigious distinctions an American school can have.

UMD College Park is a selective institution; tens of thousands apply every year for enrollment, with less than half of all applicants gaining admission. Additionally, accepted students score well above national averages in terms of GPA, with a typical GPA of an incoming student about 4.2.

This public Ivy has one of the largest alumni bodies of any university worldwide; 360,000 people are within UMD’s alumni network.

Known as a school that gives back, UMD College Park is uniquely positioned in a ranking by the Peace Corps as one of the top volunteer-producing large universities nationwide.

University of Minnesota (Twin Cities, MN)

Ben Franske, UMN-NorthrupMall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Students and faculty at Minnesota are among the most accomplished in the nation. Awards for faculty & alumni include Guggenheims, MacArthur Genius grants, Pulitzer prizes, Nobel Laureates. 

Notably, a number of US Senators as well as Representatives have called Minnesota their Alma Mater.

This Public Ivy extends far beyond accolades and government positions, however; what makes this school truly great is the breadth of academic and student offerings, as well as the university’s significant impact in nearly every major field.

To this end, Minnesota is widely known as an innovator in research. Throughout its history, students and faculty at Minnesota are credited with performing the first bone marrow transplant, advances in the Green Revolution, the creation of the supercomputer industry, innovation in medical infusion pumps, and more.

Today, Minnesota is one of the most internationally diverse public schools in the country; over 130 countries are represented in their student body.

University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)

The next school on the list brings us into the desert in Tucson Arizona, home to one of the country’s largest universities. Over 45,000+ students call this Public Ivy their home.

When compared to all universities in the world, University of Arizona consistently stacks up against any Ivy League caliber institution. In 2017’s report by the Center for World University Rankings, Arizona was ranked the 52nd best university worldwide.

Arizona has many lauded programs, including their architecture program, ranked in the top 10 by Design Intelligence in 2015.

University of Arizona is actually, believe it or not, one of NASA’s favorite institutions. NASA has given more funding to the University of Arizona than any other public university in the country save three schools. 

The result of this funding are a number of facilities dedicated to space science and research, including a dedicated Lunar and Planetary Laboratory located within the campus of University of Arizona.

Although Arizona is a university attracting many state residents, the international diversity at the school is significant, with 150 countries represented by the student body.

University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)

Public domain photo by SilverWolf via Wikimedia Commons

Iowa has the distinction of holding a top-10 rating in a variety of their collegiate programs. These include top-10 rankings in Speech-Language Pathology, Social Psychology, Printmaking, Nursing Administration, and Physical Therapy. 

Outside of these programs, the University of Iowa has a bustling, well-rounded liberal arts curriculum satisfying nearly any interest a student could have.

What many east-coasters don’t know about U Iowa, however, is that Iowa City is an amazing college town. Complete with active arts, sports, and cultural traditions, Iowa City’s students and residents are privileged to have such a great city as their home.

What’s also amazing about the University of Iowa is the positive outcomes for graduating students. According to surveys, 95% of students either find work or attend graduate school within 6 months of completing their  education at Iowa. 

That’s astounding for a school that has, at any given time, over 32,000 students enrolled in their campus!

The Carver College of Medicine, College of Public Health, and College of Nursing are perhaps the very best in the entire state of Iowa; over 50% of all Iowa-based dentists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and physician assistants attended this amazing Public Ivy.

University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)

Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

One of the strongest public schools in New England, UConn is ranked as a top-25 public university in the US this year according to US News and World Report.

Classified as an R1 university by the Carnegie Foundation, a prestigious label denoting very high Doctoral research activity, UConn is one of the most storied universities in the nation.

Academically, many of the constituent schools at the University of Connecticut are among the best worldwide. These include their School of Law, frequently ranked a top-50 program in the nation. 

Recently, Niche.com ranked their Agricultural Sciences program among the top 50 in the country.

However, the heart and soul of UConn is in its excellent liberal arts undergraduate liberal arts curriculum. Nearly 24,000 undergraduate starts participate in the school’s renowned curriculum. 

Athletically, the Huskies are the winningest female basketball NCAA team in America with a total of 11 championships. Additionally, UConn is one of the most accomplished collegiate male basketball teams in America.

Some of the most accomplished UConn alumni include singer Moby, actress Meg Ryan, co-founder of Bob’s Discount Furniture Bob Kaufman, and NBA Champion Ray Allen. Additionally, many prominent executives, journalists, CEOs, entertainers, and more call UConn their alma mater.

Miami University of Ohio (Oxford, OH)

Miami University of Ohio
EEJCC, MacCracken Hall at dusk, CC BY-SA 4.0

It’s hard to beat Miami University of Ohio if you’re looking for a top public school in the US.

Miami is widely considered one of the best schools for an undergraduate education; in a recent US News ranking, Miami was ranked the 8th best school for undergraduate teaching in the United States. Also in the top 10 were actual Ivy League programs, including Brown and Dartmouth.

It’s easy to see why Miami has such a strong rating in this category; with a student:teacher ratio of just 17:1, students get significant 1-on-1 time with professors. 

Also, Miami has one of the highest retention rates of all public universities in the US; over 90% of students stay at Miami of Ohio after their Freshman year.

Although lauded for undergraduate education, Miami has a number of highly competitive graduate programs as well with excellent job placement outcomes.

Sure, Miami is well known for having excellent campus life, including active fraternities and sororities. 

However, what we find especially appealing about Miami is its Tuition Promise program; unlike most other schools, whose colleges rise in cost by about 3% each year, the cost of attendance remains the same for every year for first-time undergraduate students.

All of this, in combination with the top-tier academic programs at Miami, make it one of the top Public Ivy league schools in the country.

The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)

Analogue Kid, Scott Lab OSU, CC BY-SA 3.0

One thing is certain about Ohio State; their student life is just as good, if not better, than many of the Ivy league schools.

Ohio State is home to over 1,000(!) student organizations, Division I sports, numerous student media publications, and more. Their football team is a perennial favorite to win the biggest college games.

The Buckeyes certainly know how to win; alumni have won a combined 104 Olympic medals!

However, what makes Ohio State truly worthy of a “Public Ivy” label is its overall excellence as an educational institution.

Ohio State has perhaps the very best public business school in the country. The Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University has over 83,000 alumni, many of which are now Fortune 500 CEOs as well as executives for the world’s largest companies.

Ohio State has some of the most accomplished faculty & alumni of any public school. They include 7 Pulitzer winners, 4 Nobel Laureates, and former US President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Almost ½ million living people call Ohio State their alma mater.

Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

Indiana University
Kzollman (Kevin J.S. Zollman)., IU Art Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0

For some majors, Indiana University offers an education perhaps superior to that of the Ivy leagues.

Let’s begin with one of Indiana’s most noted offerings, the Jacobs School of Music.

Widely considered to be among the top university-based music programs in the country, Indiana University consistently produces graduates ascending to the highest ranks of performance, including landing jobs in top symphony orchestras. In recent years, Jacobs has also earned a reputation among the top dance performance schools worldwide.

Graduates of Jacobs include violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, conductor Leonard Slatkin, and many more.

Outside of music, Indiana has one of the strongest undergraduate business schools in the country in the Kelley School of Business. 

Having produced a number of business titans, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as well as Wikipedia Co-Founder Jimmy Wales, Indiana’s Kelley School of Business graduates students with impressively high starting salaries.

Although Jacobs and Kelley are of significant renown, many other schools at Indiana have significant stature and reputation. These include the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the largest public policy & environmental studies school in the entire country. O’Neill consistently ranks at #1 on the US News top schools list.

For students who want to have an Ivy-League caliber education at one of the best public universities in the country, Indiana is one of the very best options worldwide.