The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Public Universities In the US

7. University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (Dartmouth, MA)

UMass Dartmouth
Ogandzyuk, Expanded UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, CC BY-SA 4.0

UMass Dartmouth is well-known for its tremendous impact on communities; the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awarded UMass Dartmouth received a top-20 rank four times for its commitment to Civic Engagement

Many tier-1 public university programs exist at this hidden gem of an institution. The Charlton School of Business, the business school at UMass Dartmouth, has a number of nationally ranked business programs. The Princeton Review named it one of the best business schools in America in a recent guide.

One unique designation the university has recently received is from US News for its excellence in Social Mobility. Ranked in the top 85 schools nationally, this ranking demonstrates UMass Dartmouth is a school empowering students of all economic and social backgrounds.

In 2016, the school was given the prestigious label as a higher-research activity university by the Carnegie Classification, a ranking given to only 5% of all schools in the nation.

6. Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, GA)

Unique to Georgia Southern is its one-of-a-kind Effingham Wetlands, a 1,400 acre outdoor nature preserve intended for use as a “living laboratory.” Acquired in 2017, students and faculty use the wetlands as a research opportunity for the study and preservation of biology and wildlife.

Rounding its robust natural environment offerings is the school’s Center for Wildlife Education, a program housing 86 species of birds, 67 species of reptiles, and 70 species of amphibians.

A university holding the prestigious R2 label from the Carnegie Classification, one particular area of research Georgia Southern is known for is renewable energy. Through their Renewable Energy and Engines Laboratory, students and faculty have made advancements with economic and energy consumption impacts within Georgia’s communities.

Due to their focus on renewable energy, The Princeton Review has named Georgia Southern a top eco-friendly college in its Guide to 399 Green Colleges

5. University of Colorado – Denver (Denver, CO)

University of Colorado at Denver
Nove1986, Tivoli Student Union on the CU Denver Auraria Campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

So what is the University of Colorado at Denver best known for? Perhaps for its remarkable Anschutz Medical Center, which serves over 500,000 patients per year through its medical system.

Widely considered a top-15 “best primary care” school in the country, the Anschutz campus provides an education equal to that of any Ivy League medical program. 

While their public health program is among the very best in the country, the University of Colorado at Denver has many lauded programs.

They are one of the few schools nationwide with a music program focusing on contemporary popular music. This hidden gem of a program, known as MEIS – Music Entertainment and Industry Studies – is an all-in-one music business, songwriting, and performance program designed to help the modern day musician.

So what makes this school a hidden gem? How about that it has the second-best ROI of all public universities in Colorado, coming in ahead of UC Boulder as well as Colorado State University. 

All of this adds up to one fact – not only is CU Denver a top hidden-gem institution, its stature and place in the public eye is rising.

4. West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

West Virginia University
Swimmerguy269, Woodburn hall wvu, CC BY-SA 3.0

If I told you about a school that has produced 25 Rhodes Scholars, 45 Goldwater Scholars, 24 Truman Scholars, and 64 Fulbright Scholars, you’d probably think I was talking about an Ivy-League school.

Actually, that school is West Virginia University, one of the very best “hidden gem” universities in the world. With its impressive track record of graduating the nation’s brightest and most accomplished students, we would personally rank West Virginia University a top-50 university – public or private – in the country.

A vibrant campus life is at the heart of the West Virginia University experience. Sure, the school has legendary football, a famous Greek Week where the various fraternities participate in good-fun competition, and programs encouraging students to take advantage of West Virginia wilderness, such as their Mountaineer Adventure Program.

However, what makes WVU truly special is the people. The students consistently note how close a connection they have with their professors, despite being in a major school with nearly 30,000 enrollees.

Alumni of West Virginia include former NBA player Jerry West, famous infomercial king Billy Mays, and US Senator Joe Manchin.

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