31 of the Best Public Colleges in America

When it comes to picking a school the choices can be confusing. There are so many to choose from! While some people prefer the idea of attending a private school like Yale, some prefer the idea of a state school. And there are plenty of those to choose from. Here are some of the top state schools in the country.


1. Cornell University

Cornell is not just an Ivy League school, it is a public college too. Founded in 1865 in Ithaca, New York, the college was set up to explore all areas of study. The college is now divided into seven graduate and seven undergraduate schools. The average SAT score of students is an impressive 2130. Students are given support from an extensive faculty, some of who have received prizes in their respected fields. Students can then join the ranks of the respected alumni of the past. Past students have included Christopher Reeve and E.B. White who was author of the children’s novel “Charlotte’s Web”. Even if students don’t find fame and fortune when they leave they can still expect an average salary of $58,200.

2. University of California Berkeley

UC Berkeley is the flagship campus of the University of California system. It was once a private college but there was a lack of funding and it merged with the local state run college. The college motto is “Let there be Light” in English and with the average SAT score being 2035, it looks like the light comes from those bright spark students. In 2015 UC Berkeley was ranked as one of the top 3 universities in the world which isn’t surprising. There are 72 Nobel Laureates associated with the college. When the time comes for students to leave Oski the Bear, the school mascot, and join the world they can expect an average salary of $59,500.

3. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

The oldest university in Michigan is even older than the state. Michigan State was founded in 1817 in Detroit, 20 years before Michigan was officially declared a state. Freshman applications have exceeded 50,000 in recent years but around 15,000 were admitted each year. The average SAT score of the lucky 15,000 chosen was 2065. The Michigan Daily is the student run newspaper that independent from the college, good news for all those budding writers. But if you fancy yourself a star, you could always work on the student run radio station or the student run TV station. When graduates leave they can expect to see an average of $56,800 as a starting salary. Or maybe you will be lucky and get spotted while on the student TV shows and hit the big time!

4. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech has come a long way from just offering an engineering degree in 1885. There are now 31 different departments in the college with a main focus on science and technology. When students aren’t studying they can enjoy watching the Yellow Jackets football team or sing along to “The Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech”. The average SAT score of students is 2080 but even these smart cookies find it hard. Georgia Tech is ranked as one of the toughest colleges in the country. It’s not uncommon for students to sacrifice sleep or social lives to keep on top of the workload. When students graduate or “get out” of the college they can expect an average salary of $61,700.

5. United States Naval Academy

If you are looking for an excellent starting salary when you graduate then why not enlist with the United States Naval Academy? Graduates who make it through the 4 years of college here can expect an officer’s position in the Navy with an average starting salary of $80,700. But don’t think that it is plain sailing with these guys, they don’t just pick anyone. The average SAT score of students here is 1913. The entry requirements to get in are even tougher than you think. There is a college application, testing, personal references, and you need to have someone appoint you as a candidate, namely a Senator. It could all be worth it in the end, over 50 astronauts have graduated from the Academy, 6 of them have been to the moon.

6. University of Virginia

If you enjoy secrets and honor then the University of Virginia might be the place for you. Founded in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia, it has become known its secret societies and student run honor code. There are still 6 secret societies that active and over 100 years old. Over the last ten years there has been a steady increase in the amount of applications. And with the average SAT score of students being 2025 getting in keeps getting harder. If you are one of the lucky ones and make it through to graduation you can expect to see an average starting salary of around $54,100. Being a graduate from Virginia will make you alumni with Tina Fey and Edgar Allen Poe.

7. United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy at West Point is normally called The Point for short. Founded in 1802 and located in Orange County, The Point prepares men and women for a career in the army. Just like the Naval Academy, there is a strict admissions procedure that is as tough as the army itself. Candidates need a nomination from a member of Congress and need to pass of the testing before they set foot on campus. The Point only accepts around 9% of the applications it receives and the average SAT of the students selected is 1880. If you get in and can hack the pace for four years, you can look forward to a career with an average starting salary of $75,000.

8. University of California at Los Angeles

UCLA can be found just 30 minutes from Hollywood Boulevard in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. With the enrollment of around 45,000 students each year but over 90,000 applications, UCLA is one of the most selective schools in the country. With the average student SAT score being 1975 and the average GPA increasing every year, its gets harder every year to get a place. UCLA is reported to be one of the most dangerous campuses in the country with nearly 1,000 crimes reported in 2011 according to Business Insider. If you can survive the studying the apparent crime wave then graduates can expect a average starting salary of $50,300.

9. University of Texas at Austin

UT Austin has one of the largest campuses in the country with seven museums and seventeen libraries. The first mention of the University was in the 1827 Mexican constitution, before Texas became the 28th state. It wasn’t until 1858 that the plans for a state university were discussed again and it was finally opened in 1883. Today the university offers over 100 undergraduate degrees and 170 graduate degrees. Around 50,000 students join the Longhorns every year and the average SAT score is 1900. Because of the standard of education that is delivered at the school, UT Austin is considered one of the Public Ivies and graduates can expect an average starting salary of $52,200.

10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

If you have an average SAT score of 2030 and want to study in the second biggest college library in the country, then come on and try U of I, short for University of Illinois. The most recent school to be added to the University was the veterinary school in 1948. The university has a high level of research activity and there is even a research park on part of the campus. When students aren’t researching or in the library, there is an active student activity program including Greek life with 59 fatalities and 36 sororities to choose from. When the toga parties are over and the graduates have to go into the big world, they can expect to see an average starting salary of $55,000.

11. Purdue University

A Lafayette business man called John Purdue wanted and university to be established in his name and in 1869 Purdue University was founded. There are 15 different resident halls for students to live in if they choose too. If living in the halls isn’t for you then maybe you could try for one of the Greek houses. 16% of the students live within the Greek community and Purdue hosts the third largest Greek community in the country. With average starting salaries of around $55,400 and over 85% of graduates filling full-time employment or in graduate school, it looks like it might be time to hit the student average SAT score of 1780 to join the ranks of Purdue.

12. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill is one of the original eight public Ivies and one of the three oldest schools in the country. Students there can take part in over 550 officially recognized student organizations. Among the landmark achievements are the student radio station which broadcasted the world’s first internet radio broadcast. If helping others is more your cup of tea, there is the university hospital which specializes in cancer care. The university has a long standing honor code to deal with any problems in the student body. As well as an average starting salary of $46,100 and an average SAT score of 1950, the students and the facility have founded over 150 businesses and many have went on to become CEOs of international companies.

13. Pennsylvania State University

Penn State started out as a humble farming school and now is one of the biggest research schools in the country. An advanced communication network has made sure that former students of the school can stay in contact and make new contacts. Many use the network to make professional contacts and hire new graduates from the school. With an average SAT score of 1780, it’s not surprising that the Penn State family wants to take advantage of each other’s big brains. Even if you don’t get handpicked by a fellow alumni for a job, the average starting salary for a graduate is $51,500. The biggest student run charity event takes place every year so you will need you dancing shoes to take part in the dance a thon which raises money to help combat children’s cancer.

14. University of Wisconsin at Madison

Madison is classed as a high research facility and offers over 4,500 courses. But what else did you expect from the oldest school in Wisconsin? The school has seen its share of drama and was shook to the core when a series of student protests lead to the authorities using force to calm the situation. In 1970 a bomb explosion killed a researcher when radicals tried to blow up the Army Math Research Centre. The school has shed most of the radical ideas and trends now but is still home to some progressive politics. Now students can expect to excel in their studies and with an average SAT Score of 1935, there are some smart cookies doing research. Once you finish and graduate from one of the programs, you can expect to see a starting salary of $48,500.

15. College of William and Mary

The college of William and Mary was founded by the Monarchs of England in 1693. That makes it the second oldest university in the US. Since the opening of the college it has played a great part in educating the leaders who helped to shape America. The campus has been named as one of the most beautiful in America as it spans over 1,200 acres with stunning architecture and tree-lined streets. Graduates of this public Ivy can expect to see starting salaries of around $44,600 and will join the ranks of the alumni which includes three former Presidents. The average SAT score of the students is around 2040 making them some of the biggest brains in the country. King Billy would be proud to see his students today.

16. University of California at San Diego

The average SAT score of a UC San Diego student is around 2018 and they need all the brainpower they can muster when dealing with a school that turn out 20 Nobel Prizes. On top of that, the school has secured over $1 billion in funding for 2015. The campus has over 700 buildings that are spread over 1,152 acres in the La Jolla neighborhood. Over the last few years the university has received so many applications that it was only able to give places to a third of people that applied. If you don’t get the chance to take part in one of the many start-ups that appear from the school, you can still expect to see a starting salary of $50,600 on average.

17. Ohio State University

Ohio State has become more difficult to get into in recent years. Now only half of the people who apply will get a place in the school. But once you get in there is a mountain of help from different councils to help you get through your studies. The Student Life Program has over 1,000 student organizations and three student governments. The average SAT score is 1885 and there are over 200 different majors to choose from to exercise your grey matter. Once you leave the school as a graduate you can expect to see an average starting salary of $48,000 but if you are really lucky you could be on the cover of TIME magazine and be the 13th alumni get that honor.

18. Clemson University

Located in South Carolina with a proud military history, Clemson University has been ranked as one of the top universities for career based programs. In the university there are 6 different colleges that cover a vast amount of subjects. Since 2006 the university has been ranked as one of the more selective schools as they could only admit around 55% of the applications that they received. The average SAT score is 1875 and the school attracts some of the smartest people in the state to study with them. The average starting salary is around $51,400 and an active career center that runs a cooperative education program, is it any wonder that they receive over 15,000 applications a year.

19. University of Florida

The University of Florida or UF is home to the Florida Gators and the only Association of American Universities member in the state. The starting salary for graduates is $48,800 and graduates can look forward to a hands on career service. In recent years companies have headed down to visit the students at UF and some of the Gators found new homes with companies like General Electric and Ernst & Young. It was probably those high SAT scores that got the company’s attention. That average SAT score of a Gator is 1890. The school offers several different scholarship programs and has a nationally recognized honors program that offers the chance to study abroad.

20. University of Washington

University of Washington is one of the oldest universities on the West Coast and has some of the most beautiful grounds for students to admire. The research budget for the university is one of the biggest in the country and it had a $2.83 billion endowment in 2014. The university runs the Research Channel, this is the only channel in the country that deals with research from 36 universities and 15 research facilities. To get the chance to join the gang with their research you better be smart. The average SAT score is 1810. All of that research pays off in the end and graduates can expect to see a starting salary of around $52,400 when they finally left the lab.

21. University of California at Santa Barbara

If you are looking for a school that is very active in their research then why not look at the University of California at Santa Barbara. There are 12 different research center and this includes the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. The faculty has 6 Nobel Prize laureates on staff to help build the big brains of tomorrow. It does help if you have a big brain now, the average SAT score is 1880. They won’t just work your mind, the school has an extensive biking system to help students get around. Over half of the students use bikes and cycle around campus. Good for the mind, good for the body. When graduates leave and decide they want a car instead they can expect a starting salary of $47,000 to help make that first payment.

22. University of California at Davis

UC Davis is another university that has its roots set in farming. When it was founded in 1905 it was simply known as University Farm. Now it has grown into a major research university with graduate and professional programs. It still has one foot in the past, as the university has the biggest veterinary school in the country. You need to have your head in the present to be a student here, the average SAT score is 1815. There have been some incidents in the school over the years, most recently in 2011 when a campus security officer pepper sprayed a student during a sit-down protest. But don’t let that put you off because graduates can expect to see a starting salary of around $50,800.

23. University of California at Irvine

If a small school with more time with your teachers is what you are after then maybe you should consider the University of California at Irvine. The student to faculty ratio is around 19:1 so it can be nice and cozy with your lecturer. Some of the classes have less than 20 students in them so there is no chance of being lost in the crowd if you are struggling. WE doubt that you would because the average SAT score of students here is 1740. There is a big focus on sports at this university and many of the past students have gone on to compete at national and international levels. Over 50 former students have gone on to compete in the Olympics. If that isn’t for you then at least you can expect an average starting salary of $49,300 when you finish.

24. University of Connecticut

The average starting salary for a graduate of UConn is around $51,700 but if that isn’t exciting enough then maybe the recruitment help from the college will do the trick. The career services are on campus and online to help students find work or internships with companies. There is over 100 majors to choose from and the average SAT score of 1885, so there is plenty to keep the brain going. In 2001 it was listed as a public Ivy in Greene’s Guides “The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Universities”. It has also been listed as the most sustainable campus out of 215 other schools worldwide. There is a lot happening here to help keep the future generations going to a better future.

25. University of Maryland

This school is often just called Maryland and it has over 35,000 students within its walls. As a research university it has a strong partnership with the US government and receives several grants as part of its funding. Since 2012 the research budget for the school has gone as high as $950 million, most of this came from private donations. As the school has grown it has become harder to get in. In recent years the school was only able to admit around 45% of the applicants who applied. The school has also moved up the ranks as a top school in recent years, it must be all that luck that students get from rubbing the mascots belly!

26. Temple University

Temple University might be a public school now but this wasn’t always the case, when it was founded in 1884 it was originally a private school. There are over 400 different degree programs and 5 professional schools for students to expand their minds in. The university is home to the Tyler School of Art and the Fox School of Business as well as 15 other different schools. There are around 14,000 students that live on campus and the university actively encourages students to live nearby or on campus to help them safe. Students have the choice of over 350 different organizations to take part in. The student union has worked hard to ensure that there are groups for everyone either professionally or for fun.

27. Binghamton University

One of the lesser known school in New York, Binghamton started off as a small liberal arts college and has grown into a large doctoral university. Since it was founded in the 1940’s it has become one of the public Ivies and now ranks in the top 100 universities. There are several libraries to be found on the campus and a performing arts center. The Fine Arts Building is home to the university art collection and student artwork is shown on a regular basis. No such thing as a starving artist in these halls from the sounds of things. The Student Union plays an active role in the welfare of the students and is even home to a food market place.

28. Texas A&M University

If you are looking for the largest university in Texas then Texas A&M is the place for you. It isn’t just the largest in Texas, it is the fourth largest in the country. The main campus spans over 5,200 acres and included the George Bush Presidential Library in its grounds. There are over 1,000 official student organizations that students can take part in. That doesn’t include the Cadet Corps that study alongside the rest of the student body. The university enrolls around 56,000 students and has ranked in the top ten universities in many different polls. The university has also taken part in over 500 different research projects around world in 80 different countries. This place has a lot to offer its students.

29. Indiana University

Indiana University probably doesn’t get as much credit as it should. It was founded in 1820 and has has grown into a massive student body of 110,000 students. The university rewards students and there are three different prize medals that the students can receive. But it’s not just the students, the faculty are also rewarded for their hard work too. The university is also filled with symbolism and ceremony. The symbol for the school is the mace which dates back to medieval times. When there is a ceremony, the university president wears a handcrafted gold and jewel Chain of Office. We bet that you don’t see that at the local community college! Among the different schools there is a medicine school, a school of music, and a school of business.

30. North Carolina State University

UC State forms one of the corners of the Research Triangle along with The University of North Carolina and Duke University. It is the largest school in the Carolina area with the enrollment of over 34,000 students. As well as offering 106 bachelor degrees, the graduate schools offer 104 masters degrees, 61 doctoral degrees and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. That’s plenty of different courses to choose from. Despite the high enrollment UC State only offers places to half of the applicants that apply. If financials are a problem for you advancing your education then it is worth looking at some of the scholarship programs that the university offers. But it’s not all studying while you are there, there are plenty of charity events that students do for fun including the Krispy Kreme Challenge that raises money for NC Children’s Hospital.

31. Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Virginia Tech and the success of its students and graduates has been overshadowed in recent years after the 2007 shooting. Seung-Hui Cho opened fire and killed 32 people, injured 17 and committed suicide after his gun rampage became the deadliest shooting incident in US history by a single gunman. This hasn’t put people off applying to study there and the school has seen a gradual increase in applications in recent years. Over 9,000 students live on campus and all freshmen are required to live on campus for that year. The college is one of three public schools that has an active cadet corps program in the country. Within the cadet community there is 1,000 cadets that live in the oldest part of the campus on the Upper Quad.