10 Amazing Public Universities You Have Never Heard Of

When it comes to public universities, we can all probably rattle off a list of like ten schools that everyone has heard of or attended.

While there are the very popular public universities in the country, there are also plenty of schools on the rise in the mix.

Many students are getting a stellar education and a degree from public universities that you may have never heard of.

From a small town in Michigan to a city in Tennessee we have never heard of, College Gazette has compiled a list of ten public universities that are so amazing you have to learn more about them.

So what qualifies a school as being one “you have never heard of?” While obviously many people have heard of these schools, these schools are rising in reputation outside of their region, gaining recognition across the country for their excellence as academic institutions.

Indiana Institute of Technology (Fort Wayne, IN)

Indiana Institute of Technology is better known as Indiana Tech to its students and faculty. It is a small four-year private college located in Fort Wayne, IN.

Indiana Tech is best known for a career-first approach to education. Perhaps their most notable programs are engineering and computer science. Interestingly, the school has a highly-rated criminal justice degree as well.

When you see technology in the school name, you probably aren’t thinking of athletes. However, an alumni of the Indiana Tech baseball team (Josh Judy) actually made it all the way to Major League Baseball and pitched for the Cleveland Indians during the 2011 season.

One of the most popular (and photographed) spots on campus has to be the Indiana Tech Water Wheel. The wheel is almost six feet in diameter and made of solid granite and weighs over 3,700 pounds.

The wheel rotates 255 days out of the year and once had a 23-pound ball that used to roll in the center track of the wheel. However, students were constantly removing the ball and taking random photos of it around campus, so it was removed.

University of Central Oklahoma (Edmond, OK)

University of Central Oklahoma
Houstonman6, Maxchambers1, CC BY-SA 3.0

This excellent public university located in Edmond, OK, happens to be the third largest university in Oklahoma.

One of UCO’s best known programs is in music. Their Jazz Lab in particular has won numerous awards and have been featured alongside major label artists, including Pat Metheny, Wynton Marsalis, and Kenny Werner.

Old North Tower is an icon on the UCO campus, as it was the first building in higher education in the state of Oklahoma. A new tradition started in the spring of 2008, as graduates would gather around Old North and start their “final walk” around campus.

The tradition includes each graduate touching the original bell that used to call students to class at the Territorial Normal School. To think, now students use their cell phone alarms to make it to class on time.

The bell is thought to bring good luck, so the graduates touch it before heading to the commencement ceremony and then off to their new adult lives.

University of West Georgia (Carrollton, GA)

The University of West Georgia is located in Carrollton, GA, and is a public research university.

One hallmark program of University West Georgia is in Psychology. Indeed, their doctoral program in Psychology is so well-renowned, graduates of Ivy League caliber schools have come to study in this program, which has a “humanistic and transpersonal focus” according to Wikipedia.

Fun Fact: During your orientation, students find out about the ghost of a student that passed away after falling from the third floor of the Humanities Building. The ghost story states she haunts that building and if you go into the building alone at night, the lights will flicker on and off.

The stories don’t stop with just this one student haunting the campus. You learn all about these other stories during your freshman orientation, which consists of babies and students haunting some of the residence halls. 

Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN)

MTSU – photo provided by MTSU

Less than an hour from Nashville, MTSU is a rising research university based in Murfreesboro.

MTSU is a premiere research institution, having partnered with the likes of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for cutting-edge research.

Other unusual top-tier programs at MTSU include Aviation and Audio Production, both of which are widely regarded in their respected fields.

The MTSU athletic teams are known as the Blue Raiders and you may recognize the name of the school from their big upset during March Madness in 2016.

At the time, they became just the eighth #15 seed to win a game in the tournament as they upset #2 seed Michigan State. They made it to the Round of 32, but lost the next game to Syracuse.

Their luck in the NCAA tournament continued in 2017, as they made it back and won in the first round again. It ended the same way though, as they were knocked out in the Round of 32, this time to Butler.

MTSU has some famous one-time students in the mix also, as Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott, rapper Isaiah Rashad and Major League Baseball pitcher Dewon Brazelton all attended at one point, but none of them finished.

Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, KY)

Eastern Kentucky University
Ktr101, Commonwealth Hall at Eastern Kentucky University, CC BY-SA 3.0

In recent years, EKU has won a number of prestigious awards, signifying the rising reputation of this excellent school.

Some of these awards include Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2016 “Best Colleges to Work for,” an Advancement of Teaching accolade from the Carnegie Foundation, and two US News top-40 rankings, one for an online nursing degree and another for a graduate program in Occupational Therapy.

Located in Richmond, KY, Eastern Kentucky University has The Colonel as their official school mascot. However, there happened to be an unofficial mascot roaming the campus during the 1950s and 1960s.

That unofficial mascot was Mozart, a dog that would be hanging out around campus, sit in on classes and even attended concerts at the James E. Van Peursem Music Pavilion in the Ravine.

Mozart was looked after and cared for by the entire student body and lived to be 17 years old. He passed away in 1964, but his spirit remains in his portrait and collar displayed at EKU Special Collections and Archives and at his grave in the Ravine.

Arkansas Tech University (Russellville, AR)

Arkansas Tech
Zscout370, University Commons at Arkansas Tech, CC BY-SA 3.0

Arkansas Tech University is a public university located in Russellville, AR. While the school is known for their agricultural and engineering programs, there also seems to be a tradition surrounding the athletic teams.

The school has dual nicknames for their athletic teams: men’s teams are known as the Wonder Boys and the women’s teams are known as the Golden Suns. 

The nickname started back in 1919 after a big upset win for the football team. In a newspaper story the next day, the team was referred to as the Wonder Boys and it has stuck ever since.

However, the female athletes weren’t too keen on the idea of being called the Wonder Girls or Wonderettes. They held a contest in 1975 to determine their new mascot and Golden Suns was selected as the winner.

Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI)

Ferris State University
Michael Barera, Ferris State University August 2010 14 (FLITE), CC BY-SA 4.0

Big Rapids, MI, is the home to Ferris State University, a public research university.

Many of Ferris State’s programs are among the best in the midwest. These include their Kendall College of Art and Design, a premiere design school located in Grand Rapids.

Ferris State has a strong sports program; their Men’s Hockey team competes in the NCAA Division I program. The Bulldogs have a strong tradition of winning – in 2018, their basketball team won the NCAA Division II national championship.

Uniquely, Ferris State is the only public university in all of Michigan founded by an individual.

Idaho State University (Pocatello, ID)

Idaho State University
Staplegunther, Idaho State University, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

Idaho State university is home to some of the nation’s most compelling academic programs.

One such program is CPI, an abbreviation of Career Path Internship. What makes CPI compelling is not only do students get professional-level experience while in college, they are also all paid to do it! Over 1,000 paid internship opportunities are available at Idaho State.

Compare this to most other schools, which may offer internships that are frequently not paid.

Additionally, Idaho State has received a top designation in nuclear training, and has been awarded the title of “Regional Center for Excellence.”

Idaho State’s Division of Health Sciences is among the Northwest’s top health-related programs, with the large majority of their alumni landing jobs in public health nationwide.

Western Washington University (Bellevue, WA)

Western Washington University
Evanseric15, Chemistry Building, public domain, details on Wikimedia Commons

Western Washington is a school highly beloved not only by its students and alumni, but also the greater community of Bellevue.

Western Washington is home to many of the nation’s most unique facilities. These include a fully-outfitted electronic music studio, a motor vehicle research lab, and even a wind tunnel.

Its Vehicle Research Institute is so prestigious, Automobile Magazine named it the best school for car design.

In 1969, Western Washington established the Huxley College of Environment. While environmental policy programs are now the norm at most major universities, WWU was actually the first in the country to have a dedicated College to studying this important subject.

Other major accomplishments include being named a top philosophy program by the Philosophical Gourmet Report.

Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)

Northern Arizona University
Joshbiggs, NAU Campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Based in beautiful Flagstaff, AZ, Northern Arizona University is a true hidden gem, boasting a number of premiere top-tier programs at a cost significantly less than equivalent private universities.

NAU has one of the Southwest’s premiere Business schools, the W.A. Franke College of Business. Named after an NAU benefactor who donated a sizable $25m endowment to the school, the Business school’s primary facility is a 110,000 LEED-certified building.

NAU has risen in recent years in many premiere publications’ ranking lists. The Washington Times recently called it a top-250 university in the country, placing it in the top 10% of all higher education institutions.

Additionally, ARWU, which stands for the Academic Ranking of World Universities, placed NAU in the top 600 internationally, ranking it in the top 2% of universities worldwide.