When many people think of the best universities in the US, they think of the Ivy League – a group of eight highly ranked private universities.
However, while the resources available to the country’s top private institutions can mean that they dominate the upper echelons of university and college rankings, the best public universities in the US should not be overlooked. Most public universities in the US are state universities, operated by the state government, and are often grouped into “systems”.
Every US state is required to have at least one public university, although some of the larger states may have many public universities. Such institutions will often offer discounted tuition for in-state students.
Based on data collected by The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings, we’ve put together a list of the top 100 public universities in the US.
The best public universities can be found across the US, but there are clusters of high-ranking institutions in California and New York. Just over 20 of the best public universities are present in the top 100 of the overall US College Rankings.
The WSJ/THE US College ranking is a more student-centred ranking because of its emphasis on student outcomes and student engagement. The results of the THE US Student Survey of more than 200,000 students are incorporated into the results. The full methodology can be found here.
Explore more top universities in the US
Best universities in the United States
Best liberal arts colleges in the United States
Best universities in California
Best universities in New York
Best universities in Washington DC
Best universities in Los Angeles
Top 5 public universities in the US
Located in the Westwood district of Los Angeles, the University of California, Los Angeles is part of the University of California system.
The university offers more than 125 majors and 80 minors for undergraduates and nearly 150 graduate degree programmes.
The most popular undergraduate majors are business, economics, biology, psychology, political science, economics and psychobiology.
The university is also affiliated with 13 Nobel laureates, 12 MacArthur fellows and 113 National Collegiate Athletic Association titles, while 261 Olympic medals have been won by alumni or students. Additionally, more than 140 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.
Notable alumni include NFL Super Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman; the first African American mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley; actor James Franco, and Taylor Wang, the first Chinese-born astronaut.
The University of Michigan was founded in 1817 with just seven students taught by two professors. By 1866, there were 1,205 students and the first women were admitted to the university in 1870.
The university was also the first in the US to hold seminars as a method of study.
Student-run newspaper The Michigan Daily was founded in 1890 and is published five days a week during the academic year.
Other student publications include The Michigan Review and the Michigan Independent. Students also run humour publications Gargoyle and The Every Three Weekly. Several academic journals are also published at the institution.
The University of California, Berkeley is one of 10 research universities affiliated with the University of California system.
Alumni, faculty and researchers include 94 Nobel laureates, 20 Academy Award winners, 14 Pulitzer winners, 117 Olympic gold medallists and 13 Fields Medal winners.
The university is split into 14 colleges and schools covering chemistry, engineering, business, natural resources and optometry, among others.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of 17 campuses that are part of the University of North Carolina system.
It was chartered in 1789 and the university first started enrolling students in 1795, meaning that it is one of the oldest public universities in the US.
The university offers 71 bachelor’s, 107 master’s and 74 doctoral degree programmes.
Students are able to participate in more than 550 student organisations and the student-run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, has won national awards for collegiate media.
The University of California, Davis is the third campus of the University of California system to feature in the top five of the US College Ranking.
It was founded primarily as an agricultural campus but has since expanded over the past century to cover medicine, law, education, nursing, veterinary medicine and business management.
The university is well known for its commitment to sustainability, with 29 per cent of the food bought for the dining rooms being sustainably grown and an on-campus biodigester, which was invented at the university, with the daily capacity to turn 50 tons of waste into energy for the campus.
Eight of the weirdest US college mascots
Brits in America: how easy is it to move to the US?
A day at a US graduation ceremony: what to expect
University of Nebraska Medical Center: learning in the lab and on the ward
UC Berkeley: self-motivating, thought-provoking and interactive
Top 100 public universities in the US
|Public university rank 2019||WSJ/THE US College Rank 2019||University||City||State|
|1||25||University of California, Los Angeles||Los Angeles||California|
|2||28||University of Michigan||Ann Arbor||Michigan|
|3||=33||University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley||California|
|4||=37||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill||North Carolina|
|5||=41||University of California, Davis||Davis||California|
|6||43||Purdue University||West Lafayette||Indiana|
|7||45||University of California, San Diego||La Jolla||California|
|8||=48||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign||Illinois|
|9||=51||University of Virginia||Charlottesville||Virginia|
|10||58||United States Military Academy||West Point||New York|
|=11||=60||Georgia Institute of Technology||Atlanta||Georgia|
|=11||=60||University of Washington||Seattle||Washington|
|13||=62||University of Texas at Austin||Austin||Texas|
|14||66||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison||Wisconsin|
|15||73||University of Florida||Gainesville||Florida|
|16||80||University of Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||Pennsylvania|
|17||81||University of Maryland, College Park||College Park||Maryland|
|18||=83||University of California, Santa Barbara||Santa Barbara||California|
|19||=87||William & Mary||Williamsburg||Virginia|
|20||=89||Michigan State University||East Lansing||Michigan|
|=21||=94||Ohio State University||Columbus||Ohio|
|=21||=94||Texas A&M University||College Station||Texas|
|23||97||University of Connecticut||Storrs||Connecticut|
|24||99||University of California, Irvine||Irvine||California|
|25||=104||Pennsylvania State University||University Park||Pennsylvania|
|26||=106||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Blacksburg||Virginia|
|27||=114||University of Minnesota Twin Cities||Minneapolis||Minnesota|
|28||=120||University at Buffalo||Buffalo||New York|
|29||=132||University of Illinois at Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|=30||=135||North Carolina State University||Raleigh||North Carolina|
|=30||=135||Stony Brook University||Stony Brook||New York|
|=32||=145||University of Delaware||Newark||Delware|
|=32||=145||Indiana University (Bloomington)||Bloomington||Indiana|
|34||155||University of Iowa||Iowa City||Iowa|
|35||158||Michigan Technological University||Houghton||Michigan|
|36||=162||Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey||New Brunswick||New Jersey|
|37||164||University of Massachusetts Amherst||Amherst||Massachusetts|
|=38||=168||Virginia Military Institute||Lexington||Virginia|
|40||=174||Binghamton University, State University of New York||Vestal||New York|
|41||=178||Colorado School of Mines||Golden||Colorado|
|42||=189||University of Utah||Salt Lake City||Utah|
|43||206||University of Oklahoma||Norman||Oklahoma|
|=44||=212||California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||San Luis Obispo||California|
|=44||=212||University of California, Riverside||Riverside||California|
|=46||=217||University of Arizona||Tucson||Arizona|
|=46||=217||Clemson University||Clemson||South Carolina|
|48||=223||Washington State University||Pullman||Washington|
|49||=226||Arizona State University||Tempe||Arizona|
|50||228||University of Colorado Boulder||Boulder||Colorado|
|=51||=231||George Mason University||Fairfax||Virginia|
|=51||=231||Rutgers University-Newark||Newark||New Jersey|
|53||=237||Missouri University of Science and Technology||Rolla||Missouri|
|54||=240||University of Georgia||Athens||Georgia|
|55||=248||University of Colorado Denver||Denver||Colorado|
|=56||=257||The College of New Jersey||Ewing||New Jersey|
|=56||=257||University of Washington Bothell||Bothell||Washington|
|58||=263||University of Washington-Tacoma||Tacoma||Washington|
|59||=266||Florida State University||Tallahassee||Florida|
|60||=268||State University of New York Albany||Albany||New York|
|61||=271||University of Oregon||Eugene||Oregon|
|62||=274||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham||Alabama|
|=63||=276||Iowa State University||Ames||Iowa|
|=63||=276||Oregon State University||Corvallis||Oregon|
|65||=285||University of California, Santa Cruz||Santa Cruz||California|
|66||=287||CUNY Bernard M Baruch College||New York||New York|
|67||=293||CUNY City College||New York||New York|
|=68||=297||University of Kansas||Lawrence||Kansa|
|70||=303||Rutgers University-Camden||Camden||New Jersey|
|71||305||University of South Carolina||Columbia||South Carolina|
|72||=306||University of Vermont||Burlington||Vermont|
|73||=313||University of Tennessee, Knoxville||Knoxville||Tennessee|
|74||=316||University of Wyoming||Laramie||Wyoming|
|75||=320||CUNY Hunter College||New York||New York|
|76||=324||San Diego State University||San Diego||California|
|77||=326||University of Maryland, Baltimore County||Baltimore||Maryland|
|=78||=328||James Madison University||Harrisonburg||Virginia|
|=78||=328||New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark||New Jersey|
|=81||=334||Rowan University||Glassboro||New Jersey|
|=81||=334||SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry||Syracuse||New York|
|83||=339||Wayne State University||Detroit||Michigan|
|84||=347||CUNY Queens College||Queens||New York|
|85||=352||Louisiana State University||Baton Rouge||Louisiana|
|=86||=358||University of Nevada-Reno||Reno||Nevada|
|=86||=358||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond||Virginia|
|88||=367||Oklahoma State University||Stillwater||Oklahoma|
|=89||=372||Illinois State University||Normal||Illinois|
|=89||=372||University of Kentucky||Lexington||Kentucky|
|91||=380||University of Hawai'i at Mānoa||Honolulu||Hawaii|
|92||389||Southern Illinois University Carbondale||Carbondale||Illinois|
|93||=390||University of Mississippi||University||Mississippi|
|94||=396||University of Houston||Houston||Texas|
|95||=403||University of Minnesota-Morris||Morris||Minnesota|
|96||=406||University of Cincinnati||Cincinnati||Ohio|
|97||=412||Massachusetts College of Art and Design||Boston||Massachusetts|
|98||=414||University of Missouri||Columbia||Missouri|
|=99||=418||University of Alabama in Huntsville||Huntsville||Alabama|
|=99||=418||University of Michigan-Dearborn||Dearborn||Michigan|
|=99||=418||SUNY New Paltz||New Paltz||New York|
|=99||=418||Stockton University||Galloway||New Jersey|
Read more: Best private universities in the US