Best Public Universities in the United States: A Comprehensive Guide

Public universities in USA are world famous citadels of learning; some of which have made some very important contributions to humanity and to the way we understand the world around us.

These institutions are sought after by students and researchers because they have solid reputations, great learning environments, and incredibly rich treasure vaults of knowledge – all of which combine to stand them out in the world.

If knowledge is a priority, then these institutions are part of our collective heritage. These are the stand out public universities in America in no particular order.

Best Public Universities in the United States: A Comprehensive Guide 1

Best Public Universities In USA

1. University Of California – Los Angeles

It will be difficult to find a list that does not put the University Of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) as its top pick among the public universities. This institution’s roots go back to 1881, back when it was the California State Normal School. However, it became the University Of California – Los Angeles in 1919.

This is one of the most sought after institutions of learning in the world; it received 174,914 undergraduate applications in a single year recently – showing just how popular the institution is.

Its popularity comes from several factors; discoveries made at UCLA include the first techniques for fetal monitoring. UCLA also has several discoveries in healthcare; including those pertaining to vaccination, cell and genetic work, and even medicines. UCLA also has several discoveries in Astronomy, for which reason the institution has become renowned.

However, students who apply to UCLA are not only looking for admission to study medicine or astronomy; there are 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs available at this institution. UCLA has produced notable politicians, sportsmen, actors, filmmakers, and writers – winning all kinds of prestigious awards in their various fields.

2. University Of California – Berkeley

The University Of California – Berkeley is the original University of California; it was established in 1868, long before other branches were incorporated into the University Of California system.

With such a long and rich history, it is no surprise that this institution has positioned itself ahead of others. It has produced 7 heads of state, 10 state governors, 34 Pulitzer Prize winners, 144 Members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 25 Turing Award winners.

Ambitious students and researchers therefore find themselves drawn to this hallowed institution; this is a place with a solid reputation, and the enabling environment to build achievers.

The achievers are not limited to the fields of work listed above; the university offers 107 bachelor’s degrees on a four year, full time basis.

3. University Of Michigan – Ann Arbor

This is a prestigious university; one that was established in 1817. The university is heavily inclined towards research, and it is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.

The research done at this university include the discovery of the gene responsible for ALS. An alumnus of this university discovered synthetic penicillin. The development of iodized salt to wipe out goiter was made in the University of Michigan. This was also where the discovery was made that defective genes cause sickle cell anemia.

It is therefore no surprise that the university has over 52,000 students, studying various disciplines. The institution is made up of nineteen colleges where students can get 250 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.

This university has a penchant for producing people who go on to excel in their careers; it is associated with 13 Nobel Laureates, and 8 Pulitzer Prize winners. It also has 30 members of the National Academy of Engineering, as well as 62 members of the National Academy of Medicine.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute Of Technology has been existence since 1885, making it a member of the senior class of universities. It has grown into a world renowned institution with branches in Singapore, France, and China. This university has a strong inclination towards research, and that has marked its identity.

Several technological improvements have been discovered at Georgia Tech; including extensive research work on harnessing solar energy, upgrading defense technology, and even improving efficiency of poultry farms.

Another interesting thing about this institution is the Venture Lab; which is designed to provide assistance to those with bright ideas which could potentially become viable companies adding value to the community, and creating employment. Many startups have started at Georgia Tech – many of them having patents, and other knowledge based privileges at their core.

5. University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is a public university which was established in 1819. It is strongly associated with research, and has become one of the most respected public universities in America.

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The University of Virginia has been associated with several US Presidents, Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize Winners, and many renowned researchers and scientists. 30 U.S Governors have attended this university, and many billionaire CEOs were also groomed here.

It is no surprise therefore that the institution received 56,538 applications in the past year. Presently, the UVA has 25,944 students pursuing various disciplines. This is one of the most selective public universities in the USA, and it has one of the largest endowments.

This is a solid place of learning with a very good reputation. The UVA also does quite well in sports; it has won all kinds of titles, and produced many notable sportsmen.

6. University Of Florida

The University Of Florida is a public research university. Its origins go back to 1853, but it has been in its present form, on its present campus since 1906. This is one of the most popular universities in the country; its student population of 57,841 is the fifth largest in the country in the single campus category.

The institution has produced 2 Nobel Laureates, 9 NASA Astronauts, 11 state governors, and more than 50 Federal Court Judges. In terms of sports, this institution has produced 50 Olympic Gold winners, as well as coaches and players for many different sports.

The University Of Florida is one of the most sought after institutions of learning; it has received 67,000 applications recently.

Some interesting discoveries have been made in this university; Gatorade was invented here. The Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination system was also invented here. There have many gene therapy discoveries also made at this university.

7. University Of Texas – Austin

The University Of Texas – Austin is Research University in Texas. It is one of the most prestigious in the country – it is considered to be Public Ivy. This university was established in 1883, and over the years has built a solid physical and psychological structure. It houses 7 museums and 17 libraries.

This university has 13 Nobel Laureates, 25 Pulitzer Prize Winners, and 3 Turing Award winners. The university also has 3 Primetime Emmy Winners, and 155 Olympic Medals.

This university has been an important bedrock of research and technology; 3D printing was developed here. There have also been several discoveries in the area of astronomy and in medical science.

That explains why the institution is immensely popular. It has 52,384 students in the past year, and received 73,000 undergraduate applications.

8. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

The University Of North Carolina is one of the oldest public universities in America – it was established in 1789. The University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is part of an extensive educational structure encompassing 17 institutions in North Carolina.

The University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a place of serious research activity – it is ranked 13th by the National Science Foundation for its research and development expenditures.

The university has recently seen two of its professors receive Nobel Prizes; one in Medicine, and the other in Chemistry. There is an extensive structure which supports research at this university – making it attractive to those who wish to become discoverers and creators in the future.

The University has a student body numbering some 31,704, despite being one of the most selective universities in America. The institution received around 52,219 applications in the past year.

9. University of Georgia

The University of Georgia was founded in 1785, it is a public university with a strong culture of research and development. This university is mainly located at Athens, Georgia, but it also has several campuses. Despite its famous name, and strong research activity, this university is not as selective as other universities in its category.

The university has produced several Rhodes Scholars, as well as Grammy Award winners, Emmy Award winners, Super Bowl champions, and a United States Poet Laureate. Numerous animal vaccines and medicines have been developed at the University of Georgia. Astronomy is another strong fort of this university new planets have been discovered at UGA. The electrostatic spraying system was also developed at this university.

This is a great place for those who have something to offer; future creators in engineering, medicine, and technology will find this a great place to develop.

The university has 40,118 students, and received 39,229 applications for undergraduate studies.

10. University Of Illinois Urbana – Champaign

The University Of Illinois Urbana – Champaign was established in 1867. It has a strong leaning towards research – not just research, but the kind that drives the creation of products, and the establishment of enterprises. The University Of Illinois Urbana – Champaign has a solid structure in place; it has the fourth largest university library in the United States, and also has a Research Park which is home to the innovation centers of various companies and startups.

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This university has produced 30 Nobel Laureates, 27 Pulitzer Prize winners, 2 Fields Medal winners, and 2 Turing Award winners. Athletes from this university have also won 29 Olympic medals.

Furthermore, the university has seen over 500 companies take root from its Research Park. Some of them are Amber Agriculture, Deepwalk, and Loom. Some companies established by alumni of the university include PayPal, YouTube, and Yelp.

With such a distinguished background, it is no surprise that this is the go to university for those with entrepreneurship in their hearts. The university has 53,000 students, and received 43,473 applications in a recent year.

12. Florida State University

Florida State University is an age old institution in Tallahassee, Florida. It is a public, research university, and was established in 1851. It is ranked as having very high research activity – very recently, its expenditure on research and development exceeded $350 million. The university is the birthplace of important discoveries in astronomy, chemistry, and space travel.

Florida State has a student body of about 45,493, and the received 76,700 applications in the past year, thus confirming its status as one of the best public universities in the USA. The university is one of the most popular – and that popularity can be partially attributed to its school environment, which is rich in activity such as political activism, sports, and cultural events.

Florida State University has produced many notable politicians; including senator, representatives, and governors. This is without doubt a great place to discover oneself politically.

13. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is a public university that leans very strongly towards research and development. The university was established in 1872, and has now become one of the most sought after universities in the US.

It has produced 3 Nobel Laureates, 2 Mac Arthur Fellows, and 131 Fulbright Scholars. The university is very well connected to the military, which is why it has 97 Generals and Admirals, and 8 Medal of Honor recipients.

The university pursues research in agriculture, biotechnology, human health, information and communication technology, transportation, energy, sustainability, and so much more.

The institution has 36,383 students, and received 52,365 new applications for undergraduate studies. Without doubt, this is one of the institutions where students would rather go to.

14. University Of California – Irvine

The University Of California – Irvine is a public university based in Irvine, California. It is considered one of the Public Ivies due to its high standards, and solid reputation over the years. The university is known for research, medicine and space travel being some of its core areas of focus.

The university has produced 5 Nobel Laureates, 6 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, 7 Pulitzer Prize winners, 1 Turing Award winner, 37 Guggenheim Fellows, and 33 Olympic Medals. This shows that excellence is a tradition at this institution, from the laboratory to the sports ground.

Research at this institution have led to breakthroughs in hair growth, Nano particles, and organic synthesis. This university has also been the birthplace of several startup companies such as Aracari Bio, Greentech California, and Thrust Aeronautics.

With such a solid history it is no surprise that this is one of the popular institutions – a first choice for many students. There are 36,500 students in UC – Irvine, and around 143,000 applications in the last year.

15. University Of Wisconsin

The University Of Wisconsin is a public university in Madison, Wisconsin. It was established in 1848. It is the oldest and largest university in the state of Wisconsin, and remains the most prestigious in the state.

The prestige comes from its achievements; the university has produced 20 Nobel Laureates, 41 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 1 Turing Award recipient. The institution also several Fulbright Scholars and MacArthur Fellows. The university has also produced 13 Olympic gold medals.

The University Of Wisconsin has been the birthplace of several important discoveries including human embryonic stem cells. Today, this university is home to several startups; including A-Alpha Bio, Acucela, and 5D Realities.

The university is certainly attractive to those who have the desire to be researchers, or to startups contributing to the development of humanity. The student body presently numbers 49,886 and the university received 63,547 applications in the past year.

16. University of Washington

The University Of Washington is a large, public university in Washington, USA. It was founded in 1861, and has now grown into a large institution encompassing 500 buildings. This institution deals with research at its core, and it is known for building champions in that field.

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This university has 22 libraries, including art centers, museums, laboratories, and stadiums. The university is known for research, and it focuses primarily on medical and engineering research, spending huge amounts every year.

The University of Washington has been involved in many groundbreaking research works. The university was involved in the research for the first flight that broke the sound barrier. A crucial step towards stamping out Hepatitis B was discovered and advocated by a professor associated with the university. The Dopler Ultrasound was devised at this university – and it was a huge step for cardiovascular research

With such an outstanding record of research and development, it is no surprise that this is the first choice university for many people. It has 49,025 students, and had 69,000 applications in the past year.

17. Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University is a public university in college station, Texas. The university was established in 1876, and the A&M stands for agricultural and mechanical. From its founding, the university is designed to make crucial research, leading to improvements in the way things are done.

Some of the research work that has been done at this university include biology; the first domestic animal to be cloned was done at this university – It was a cat called CC. The university has done more research in underwater caves than anyone else in the world.

Texas A and M is a breeding ground for ideas – several startups have come out from this university. The university also provides support as well as funding for startups so as to help make them successful.

With such a great history, and with all the research going on there, it is no surprise that the university is very popular. It received 59,000 applications in the past year. The institution currently has about 72,982 students.

18. University of California – San Diego

University Of California – San Diego was established in 1960. The university is one of those considered to be public ivy; it is heavily invested in research, especially in the areas of medicine, engineering, oceanography and space.

The institution has produced 27 Nobel Prizes, 8 National Medals Of Science, 3 Pulitzer Prizes, 8 MacArthur Fellowships, and 3 Fields Medals. The academy has 29 members who have been inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, and 70 have been inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. 45 have been inducted into the Institute of Medicine, and 100 members of this institution’s academy have been inducted to the American Academy of Arts.

Several discoveries have been made in this university; some milestones include the first computer generated evidence of Global Warming, a new area of medicine – pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE) was pioneered here, and this university was important in discovering anti-retroviral drugs for HIV positive people.

This is a great place for young people with dreams of achieving laudable feats for humanity; the institution received around 100,000 applications in the past year. It has around 43,381 students.

19. William And Mary

The college of William and Mary is a public university which was founded in 1693 by royal charter of King William and Queen Mary; the reigning monarchs in England at the time. The charter states that it was to be a place of learning for both the native people and the colonists. This is a research university; it is one of those considered to be Public Ivy.

This university has produced several presidents of America, and educated many key figures involved in the founding of America’s democracy. For a long time, its chancellors continued to be the Bishops of London or Canterbury.

This institution has made groundbreaking discoveries in the area of physics (such as superconductivity and continuous beam accelerator). This school has also discovered a new kind of bacteria.

William and Mary has 9517 students, and its campus environment is a vibrant community of learning and unlearning.


Top ranked public universities in the USA are usually identified by the tag “Public Ivy.” This shows that the quality of education they offer is comparable to what is obtainable at the Ivy League schools. While those tags may be impressive, the best factors that make institutions attractive to students include the most recent achievements in research and development.

These days, students want institutions that can help bring their ideas to life. Universities therefore need to invest more in helping to nurture and support startups – ideas that can bring positive change to the world.