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

3. University of Nevada, Reno (Reno, Nevada)

photo by Dmiat via Wikimedia Commons

University of Nevada, Reno is at the forefront of contemporary research in civil engineering due to its amazing Large-Scale Structure Laboratory, a 9,000 square-foot facility utilized for testing unusually huge models as well as earthquake patterns. 

However, engineering is just one of the specialties of the University of Nevada at Reno. Their Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism, founded in 1984, has produced 6 Pulitzer-prize winners in its 35 years of existence. 

The world is taking note of this school’s rising excellence; Washington Monthly, in its most recent 2019 rankings, listed the University of Nevada, Reno as a top-100 university nationwide

One of the highest-rated student newspapers in all of higher education is The Nevada Sagebrush, a publication that has existed for over 125 years employing over 40 people. 

This newspaper won Associated College Press (ACP) journalism award four times between 2007 and 2015, perhaps the highest student newspaper award in all of academia. One of their former editors is business titan Sig Rogich who acted as a political advisor to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

In 2019, the University of Nevada-Reno achieved one of the highest honors in academia, an R1 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, given to only 130 schools nationwide for significant research activity.


2. Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL)

photo by Kmgcoolguy4 via Wikimedia Commons

Throughout the last decade, Florida Atlantic University has risen significantly. In the latest US News Social Mobility index, Florida Atlantic scored in the top-50, making it one of the best universities nationwide for helping students of all economic backgrounds find success in college and beyond.

FAU is one of the most diverse schools in the country; ever since the school upped its enrollment totals to 30,000 students, the university has been home to students from over 140 countries! Additionally, residents of all 50 states as well as Washington DC study here. It is the most ethnically diverse campus of all Florida public universities.

So what makes Florida Atlantic a top-tier hidden gem university? We note two major aspects of the FAU experience.

One, the learning and employment outcomes. The significant majority of all graduating students find employment or graduate school admission within 1 year of graduating Florida Atlantic.

Secondly, the environment. Students consistently rate Florida Atlantic as having one of the best environments for 1-on-1 student and faculty interactions. For this list, we dived into the Unigo.com students ratings for FAU and noted one common theme among almost all the reviews: easy access to professors as well as a focused academic environment.

Over 150,000 people call themselves alumni of this institution, and many of them have risen to the top of their fields. Notable alumni include Jimmy Clidaras, a distinguished engineer who serves as a senior director at Google, NFL Pro-Bowler Alfred Morris, comedian and television personality Carrot Top, and dozens more CEOs, government officials, entrepreneurs, and entertainers.


1. Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)

photo by TheKuLeR via Wikimedia Commons

An impressive institution, Western Michigan makes the top of our list for best hidden gem public universities.

Several of the programs at Western Michigan are frequently listed among the very best in the country. Perhaps the most noted program at Western Michigan is its aviation curriculum, widely considered a top-5 program nationwide. With over 30 aircraft vehicles available for their students, Western Michigan provides hands-on, experiential training to future pilots and technicians.

Interestingly, Western Michigan has one of the most prestigious jazz performance programs in the country. In 2018, two students placed in the top 10 nationally in a Downbeat Music Awards competition, the most comprehensive competition in the country for collegiate jazz musicians.

Fine Arts are integral to the Western Michigan experience; an impressive 1,400 performances each year in music, theatre, and dance are staged at this university.

Although the student life at Western Michigan is quite active, what makes Western Michigan special is the learning outcomes for all of its students. An impressive 91% find employment, military service, or full-time volunteering within three months of graduation; 85% of these say they find their work satisfying. 

Western Michigan also has a significant alumni body with 250,000 graduates impacting dozens of fields. 

Community-building is at the heart of the Western Michigan experience. To this end, Western Michigan is home to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, a unique annual event attracting over 3,000 registrants. 

Additionally, Western Michigan also hosts the annual International Festival, a popular event attracting thousands of participants where attendees immerse themselves in international food, fashion, and culture.


Featured Image by TheKuLeR via Wikimedia Commons

7 COMMENTS

  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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