These Are the 10 Best Public Universities in the US

Too often, people believe they must attend an Ivy league school to be successful.

We all know the Ivies are fine schools, but they are also expensive and situated entirely in one geographic region of the country, the northeast.

Public universities, on the other hand, are all over the country and are significantly less expensive – especially for in-state students of a particular university. 

Best of all, public universities offer an education that, in many ways, can be superior to that of an ivy league school for some students.

However, with literally hundreds of public universities to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which schools are the very best in the country to choose from.

Today, we present you with our list of the top 10 public universities in the US.


10. University of Connecticut (Mansfield, CT)

photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

A mere 20 minutes from the capital of Hartford and a 90-minute drive from Boston, The University of Connecticut’s flagship campus was founded in 1881 in Storrs, Connecticut – a vibrant section of the town of Mansfield (population 25,817).

With almost 20,000 undergraduates at the main campus (and 32,000+ total students across 8 campuses) there is no shortage of activities, academic clubs, athletics and social opportunities to engage in.

You better have good grades if you want to go to school here, though, as it is quite selective in the students it admits.

UConn is deemed a “Public Ivy,” as its robust research and high-quality academics make it comparable to the Ivy League, according to a book by Richard Moll written in 1985 titled Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities.

Moll believes that universities in this group can give students an Ivy League-like experience at a much more affordable price as they are public, state institutions but often provide rigorous academic standards, attract “superstar” faculty and students as well as having exceptional facilities.

If you like basketball, “Go Huskies!” will become a familiar sound as you walk to class as they have won 21 NCAA national championships.


9. University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)

photo by Karen Blaha via Wikimedia Commons

Anything founded by a renowned American president and founding father of the USA adds a powerful boost of credibility and honor, and that is the case with the University of Virginia (UVA).

Started in 1819 by a brilliant renaissance man, primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and 3rd president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1846), UVA is an iconic public university with a very historic ethos but modern purpose and positive reputation.

Named one of the top five public universities in the country in 2020 by US News and World Report, UVA’s original structures were designed by Jefferson as well as the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monticello.

Originally built as Jefferson’s 5,000-acre plantation made possible by slave labor, it is famous for its neoclassical style inspired by Jefferson’s love of Italy and classical culture.

If you’ve looked on the back of a U.S. nickel, you will notice an image of Monticello (meaning “little mountain”) and the reverse side of the U.S. two-dollar bill.

UVA has something for almost every student and includes a law, medical and architecture school along with a large undergraduate population that flood the streets of Charlottesville on the weekends to enjoy its lively music and nightlife scene.

Dave Matthews Band, a rock group that has sold millions of albums and packs football stadium concerts, got their start here in the 90’s playing in small student dive bars.


8. University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

photo by Crazypaco via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is a large urban research university founded in 1787 originally as a private college and sits in the Oakland section of the city and hosts 28,391 students from all over the globe on its sprawling campus that abuts Carnegie Mellon University a few miles from downtown.

These two institutes of learning actually share some buildings and libraries. From a distance, it’s hard not to see and be amazed at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story building of the late Gothic style that acts as the center of the main campus.

It is 535 feet tall and is the tallest educational building in the Western world and the second-tallest university structure devoted to learning on the planet.

The building was completed in 1934, but classes were being held there as early as 1931.

With several regional campuses, Pitt has 23,466 undergraduates and 7280 graduate/ doctoral students. Its research has led to many achievements and scientific contributions, the most famous of which is probably the development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the university’s Virus Research Lab in 1955.

As a result of Salk’s vaccine, 95 percent of this horrible pandemic in the United States was eradicated by 1962!

For professional football fans, Dan Marino got his start playing for Pitt’s Panthers from 1979-82.

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