The Top 10 Public Universities On the Rise

For many students, the best choice in a college is to attend a high-quality public university.

Sure, we know many of the most famous public universities, schools like Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, UCLA, and more. 

However, a number of public universities in the US are rising significantly, making dramatic, positive changes to their curricula, facilities, faculty, and more. 

We have observed a number of schools making significant strides to their education, and have compiled a list of 10 public universities that are on the rise.

What makes a school “on the rise?”

One, the school cannot be placed in the top-150 of the US News national universities list as of this year, 2019.

Secondly, the school has to have made measurable strides over the past 20 years in its programs, student/alumni accomplishments, faculty accolades, research programs/expenditure, and other similar metrics.

Here are 10 amazing public universities on the rise.

10. New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM)

photo by Zereshk via Wikimedia Commons

Starting this list is New Mexico State University, one of the two flagship universities of New Mexico.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) was recently ranked by the Brookings Institution as the #2 school nationwide for social mobility. This index demonstrates a strong mission of NMSU: to help students of all economic backgrounds succeed tremendously through college and beyond. 

In recent years, NMSU’s research efforts have increased significantly. Total yearly expenditure for research has been approximately $150m. 

In 2010, the NMSU Physical Sciences Laboratory partnered with Reaction Engines Limited, a UK-based aerospace engineering company. With this contract, both NMSU and Reaction Engines Limited have worked on developing spacecraft vehicles. 

With its strong ties to space, the school also has a research partnership with NASA. In fact, it is the only school to have a platinum contract (the highest level) with NASA’s Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program.

However, what makes NMSU special is not just its extensive funding into space-related programs. 

NMSU is one of the best schools nationwide for championing diversity. A recent study done by the University of Southern California found that NMSU was a top-25 institution for increasing the number of Latino recipients of STEM degrees.


9. University of Memphis (Memphis, TN)

photo by BenSherman via Wikimedia Commons

Few schools in the south have grown as much as the University of Memphis over the last 15 years. 

Recently, U of M created one of the largest health-dedicated facilities in the country, the 200,000 square foot Community Health Building. This facility houses the prestigious Loewenberg College of Nursing, Memphis Speech and Hearing Center, and more.

Many other facilities and unique partnerships are present at the University of Memphis, including the FedEx Institute of Technology, an organization researching innovative technologies for use at the University of Memphis and beyond.

Interestingly, the University of Memphis has a popular student newspaper called The Daily Helmsman. Publishing 5,500 copies a day with 30 paid staff members, The Daily Helmsman has won accolades for its journalism from Columbia University as well as the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Past writers of this paper have found employment in The New York Times as well as Rolling Stone Magazine.


8. Lamar University (Beaumont, TX)

photo by Shellyvitanza via Wikimedia Commons

Like one other school later on this list, Lamar was recently noted as a top 20 “rising star” institution in the country by Firetail, a UK-based consulting firm. 

When looking at what makes Lamar a unique, special school, it is easy to see why it is on the rise. In 2015, Lamar scored in the top-75 in three of its specialty graduate programs, including Education, Nursing, and Justice. 

Intelligent.com, an online news source and research website, ranked 11 of Lamar’s programs in the top 35 nationwide

Outside of these rankings, a number of new, state-of-the-art campus facilities have been created or renovated in the last 15 years. These include the Setzer Student Center, a $28m facility opened just last year, as well as substantial expansions to their residence halls in 2013. 

One of Lamar’s most noted programs is its engineering school. Lamar’s College of Engineering recently ranked 11th in ROI for graduating students. 

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