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

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

photo by Ogandzyuk via Wikimedia Commons

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)

photo by Richardelainechambers via Wikimedia Commons

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)

photo by Nove1986 via Wikimedia Commons

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)

photo by Swimmerguy269 via Wikimedia Commons

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.


  1. I have three degrees from WMU. I had an opportunity to teach in the WMU College of Business (Principles of Management and Business Statistics). I also served as an assistant coach for the Men’s Track & Field team – a world renown program that has produced Olympians and over 50 All Americans throughout a 30 year span. I have alwasy been, and forever shall be grateful for the career preparation I receid at Western Michigan University.

    • As a CMU grad, happy to see Wayne State and our rival, Western Michigan make the list. Many great schools in our fine state. Glad to see a couple not named U of M or MSU getting recognized.

  2. As an alumni, Georgia Southern University is a great school located in Statesboro and Savannah with its outstanding Parker College of Business and the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and the College of Health Professions.

  3. Have two degrees from WMU and truly enjoyed the experience in and outside the classroom.
    I returned to WMU after five years in the Army after receiving my commission and was particularly impressed with the small class sizes in the Business School.

  4. As someone with a B.S. from Western Michigan University (#1) and a Ph.D. from Wayne State University (#10), I’m very pleasantly surprised. I guess you could say that my entire career has been a bit of a hidden gem. 🙂


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