The USA is one of the most popular study destinations for students around the world. The country has several Ivy League universities and colleges that draw students globally. Even though these universities enjoy the majority of attention and popularity, the public universities in the USA too are great repositories of knowledge.
Each state in the USA has at least one public university which is run by the state. These public universities provide discounted tuition fees and thus have lower expenditures than the private universities in the USA. A few of the states in the USA have more than one public university because they are larger.
They are chaired by an esteemed panel of faculties picked from across the globe for their academic excellence. Besides, these public universities in the USA have prominent alumni members to boast of. Therefore, the students enjoy the dual advantage of being trained by the best minds from across the globe and networking with the alumni bodies of universities.
Top 10 Public Universities in the USA
1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Established in 1817 as the University of Michigania, the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is the oldest one in the state of Michigan. Two professors and seven students founded the university before Michigan’s territory became a state. After the university campus was moved to Ann Arbor, it now includes more than 584 buildings spread over 780 acres.
The university is famed to have started the Association of American Universities and is considered the best among the public universities in the USA. It is further classified as “R1: Doctoral University with very high research activity” and received an endowment in 2020 among all universities. In addition, the state university provides doctoral degrees in social sciences, humanities, and STEM streams (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Furthermore, the university has produced 26 Nobel Laureates, 53 MacArthur “genius award” recipients, eight heads of government or state, 38 cabinet officials and a President of the United States.
The University of Michigan offers professional courses in
- Social work
- Public health
- Public Policy
2. University of California, Los Angeles
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ranking a close second in the top public universities in the USA is the University of California in Los Angeles. With an acceptance rate of 12%, the university is one of the hardest to get admission. The university was founded in 1882 as the California State Normal School’s (presently San Jose State University) southern branch. In 1919, it became the second-oldest of the University of California system by becoming its southern branch.
As UCLA is one of the top-ranked universities globally, the University of California, commonly known as UCLA, is considered among the USA’s Public Ivies. UCLA is classified into six undergraduate colleges, four professional science schools dedicated to health and seven professional schools. It provides 337 degree programs for the graduate and undergraduate, including a wide range of study disciplines with an aggregate of 3500 undergraduates and 2800 graduates. The University received more than 168000 applications for the fall semester of 2021, making it the most applied-to university in the USA.
UCLA is considered among the best global colleges and universities. So far, the university has produced 25 Nobel prize winners, 5 Turing awardees, 3 Fields Medal winners and 2 U.S. Air Force Chief Scientists. Presently, the faculty members of UCLA are elected members of bodies such as the National Academy of Engineering, Sciences, and Medicine and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
UCLA is primarily famous for programs in
- Fine arts
- Library and information studies
- Public health
- Healthcare management
- Computer science
- Public affairs
- Social work
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Source: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chartered in 1789, the University of North Carolina is the oldest public university in the USA. It is famed to be the only public university to have conducted classes and graduated students in the eighteenth century. Because of its academic brilliance, the university is considered one of the Public Ivies, a public university offering education similar to those of the private Ivy League institutions. UNC is part of the Association of American Universities and is considered among “R1: Doctoral Universities”, which carry out the highest research activities.
The UNC provides more than 70 courses of study and is divided into three professional colleges and a primary unit called the College of Arts & Sciences. The National Science Foundation has ranked it 12th in the country for its 1.14 billion US dollars expenditure on research and development. The 729 acres campus includes faculty and alumni who are Nobel Prize winners, 5 Rhodes Scholars, a U.S. President, a U.S. Vice-President, 23 Pulitzer Prize recipients, 8 U.S. Congress members, 38 U.S. State governors, 9 U.S. cabinet members, etc.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is popular for the following courses:
- Social Sciences,
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences,
4. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California at Berkeley, commonly known as UC Berkeley, was established in 1868 as a public research university. The university is the state of California’s first land-grant university and also the very first university of the University of California system. It is organised into 14 schools and colleges which offer over 350 courses while enrolling close to 31000 undergraduate and 12000 graduate students. With an acceptance rate of 16%, UC Berkeley is considered one of the top public universities in the country.
UC Berkeley founded the Association of American Universities that hosts several research institutions like the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the Space Sciences Laboratory, etc. Furthermore, the university started three laboratories at Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos. It contributed to significant scientific advancements, including the discovery of 16 chemical elements, the Manhattan Project, inventions in computer science, and genomics.
Berkeley has produced more than 110 Nobel Prize winners, 25 Turing Award recipients, 103 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipients, 30 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 28 Wolf Prize recipients, 19 Academy Award recipients, seven heads of government or state, six chief justices of USA, 22 cabinet officials, 11 governors, etc. Besides these, the students and alumni of UC Berkeley have won 117 gold medals and 207 Olympic medals, making the university the 3rd highest recipient of Olympic medals among all universities.
The most preferred courses at the university include
- Computer and information sciences and support services
- Biological and biomedical sciences
- Multi/interdisciplinary studies,
- Business administration,
5. University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis is the northernmost campus of all the universities under the University of California system. UC Davis is considered to be one of the ‘Public Ivies’ for its sheer academic and research excellence. Established in 1905 as the agricultural school of the University of California system, it became the seventh campus of the university system in 1959. In addition, the university is accredited to be among the “R1: Doctoral Universities”.
The faculty members of UC Davis are esteemed members of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Law Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering. Additionally, the alumni and faculty have been recipients of 2 Nobel Prizes, 3 Pulitzer Prizes, 1 Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Medal of Science and 3 MacArthur Fellowships. Primarily founded as an agricultural school, UC Davis has grown in the last century to include professional and graduate programs in medicine, law, veterinary medicine, education, business management and nursing, along with 90 other research programs. The School of Veterinary Medicine of UC Davis is the largest among all public universities in the USA and has come first globally for five successive years.
The university is known for its degree programs in:
- Biological and agricultural sciences,
- Social sciences,
- Physical sciences,
Furthermore, the university also provides courses and certificates and online classes to non-traditional learners and adults.
6. University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Source: The University of Virginia
Founded in 1819 by USA’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia is the Flagship University of the American State of Virginia. Commonly referred to as the UVA, it is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Academical Village. The university is famous for its student-run honour code, secret societies and historical foundations. The original architecture and UVA courses were conceived by earlier presidents of the USA, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who were also the initial rectors of the university.
UVA offers 121 majors courses in its eight undergraduate and three professional degree schools. Its alumni include noted members, including the founders of the companies Reddit and CNET. Both the companies have employed close to 2.3 million people and produced more than 1.6 trillion US dollars in yearly revenue. With an acceptance rate of 24%, the university is considered critical about its applications from different countries worldwide. The university campus sits on a sprawling area of 1682 acres and runs on a semester-based academic routine.
UVA is ranked 26th place in the 2021 list of National Universities and 10th place as a college for veterans. The University of Virginia is considered one of the prestigious public universities in the USA.
It is world-renowned for courses in
- Biology/Biological Sciences,
- International Relations and Affairs.
7. University of Florida, Gainesville
Founded in 1853, the University of Florida, Gainesville is one of the well-revered public universities of the USA. This land-grant research university is one of the oldest members of the University of Florida system and has continually functioned on the Gainesville campus since 1906. In 2021, the University of Florida was ranked the sixth-best public U.S. University by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, the university was given the status of one of the three prominent universities among the twelve of the State University of Florida system.
The University of Florida became the eighth largest single-campus U.S. University in the fall 2018 semester with 54,906 students. It is classified into six academic colleges and over 50 research centres and institutions, offering multiple degree programs like engineering, law, business administration, dentistry, pharmacy, medicine, veterinary medicine, etc. The university offers 23 master’s programs and 76 doctoral courses in eighty-seven departments and schools. The university is given the classification of being one of the “R1: Doctoral Universities” with very high research activity. Moreover, its faculty and alumni include two Nobel Prize and several Pulitzer Prize winners.
The most popular degree courses offered by University of Florida, Gainesville are:
- Social Sciences,
- Biomedical and biological sciences,
- Health Sciences.
8. University of California, Santa Barbara
Established in 1891 as a self-supporting teachers’ college, it joined the University system of California in 1944. The University of California, Santa Barbara, is the third-oldest undergraduate college among all the system’s universities. University of California, Santa Barbara is divided into three undergraduate colleges and two graduate colleges that offer over 200 degrees and courses. Located in Isla Vista, California, it has ten national research institutes, making it one of the most sought-after public universities in the USA.
UC Santa Barbara has different ORUs (Organised Research Units) for students studying neuroscience, marine science, evolutionary psychology, etc. Furthermore, this public land-grant university spent 235 million U.S. dollars on R&D in 2018, as per the National Science Foundation, ranking UCSB the 100th in the USA. Presently, the university has six Nobel Prize winners, one Fields Medalist, thirty-nine National Academy of Sciences members and 34 American Academy of Arts and Sciences members as faculty. Besides, U.C. Santa Barbara has been given the classification of “R1: Doctoral Universities”, making it one of the Public Ivy Universities in the USA.
UC Santa Barbara is world-renowned for the following courses:
- Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies,
- Biomedical and Biological Sciences,
9. University of California, Irvine
The University of California, Irvine was established in 1965 and is one of the ten universities of the system of the University of California. Offering 87 undergraduate courses and 29 professional and graduate degrees, the university won the accolade of being one of the “Public Ivies” in the year 1985. UC Irvine enrolled approximately 30,000 undergraduate students and 6,000 graduates in the fall of 2019 with an acceptance rate of 27%. The university had an expenditure of 437 million U.S. dollars in R&D in 2018 and is given the classification among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research activity”.
UCI is renowned for establishing the first Earth System Science Department in the country and administers several institutions such as the UC Irvine Medical Center, University of California, Irvine, Arboretum, a part of the UCI Natural Reserve System, etc. The academic brilliance of the university has made its academia comparable to an Ivy League college. UCI’s name is associated with seven Nobel Prize and seven Pulitzer Prize winners.
UC Irvine is known for
- Data Science,
- Business Administration,
- Pharmaceutical Sciences,
- Computer Science.
10. University of Texas, Austin
Source: The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas, popularly known as UT Austin, is one of the top public universities in the USA. Established in 1883, the university comprises more than 50,000 graduate and undergraduate students and close to 24,000 faculty members and staff. UT Austin had an expenditure of 680 million U.S. dollars in 2018 for research, making it a primary research centre of Texas.
UT Austin has seven museums and seventeen libraries and operates other auxiliary research facilities. UT Austin boasts of thirteen Nobel Prize, four Pulitzer Prize, two Turing Award, two Wolf Prize, two Abel prize recipients and two Fields medalists as alumni or faculty members. In addition, it has an association with 43 Olympic medalists and three Primetime Emmy award winners as of November 2020.
UT Austin’s popular courses include:
- Social Sciences,
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
The public universities in the USA are premium universities and stand out because of their sheer brilliance in academia and research. Many of them are part of the “Public Ivies”, which offer education on par with the private Ivy League universities. With their relatively rigid acceptance rate, getting admission in one of these public universities is quite a feat.
So, if you have been planning to study in the USA, drop your applications to these public universities to receive a world-class education and increase your chances of learning in the USA.
To know about the Top 10 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses offered in the USA, read: