Best value public colleges in America

Published 6:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

Charlie Nguyen // Flickr

Best value public colleges in America

There are many differences between public and private colleges. Public universities often have larger class sizes and more degree options while private universities are known for better access to professors and greater geographical diversity among students because in-state tuition isn’t a consideration. But the biggest difference for many? Cost.

Stacker looked at Niche’s 2021 list of the best value colleges in America. This ranking includes only public, four-year colleges and weighs the cost of tuition with each school’s acceptance rate, quality of professors, diversity, and the median earnings for alumni six years after graduation.

For in-state students, and even some out-of-state students, public universities are usually far less expensive than private institutions (though that doesn’t mean students at these schools graduate debt-free). The difference in price doesn’t mean that value is lost. On the contrary, some of the most prestigious schools in the United States, from the West Coast to the East Coast, are public universities, and many are conducting cutting-edge research that will fuel the technologies of tomorrow. And, in some cases, the return on investment is greater for those attending public programs. But which public colleges have proved their value the most?

Read on to see which public schools prospective students can apply to that will allow them to maximize their educational potential.

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Sadads // Wikimedia Commons

#50. South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

– Location: Rapid City, SD
– Undergraduate enrollment: 1,873
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 77%
– Graduation rate: 49%
– Tuition: $11,020 in-state; $15,400 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,500
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #159

SD Dirk // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Iowa State University

– Location: Ames, IA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 27,929
– Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
– Acceptance rate: 92%
– Graduation rate: 74%
– Tuition: $9,320 in-state; $24,508 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $50,700
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #158

Mds08011 // Wikimedia Commons

#48. University of Washington – Tacoma

– Location: Tacoma, WA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 4,005
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 87%
– Graduation rate: 56%
– Tuition: $11,639 in-state; $38,340 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $57,700
– Two-year employment rate: 91%
– Overall rank: #157

John9474 // Wikimedia Commons

#47. University of Connecticut – Stamford

– Location: Stamford, CT
– Undergraduate enrollment: 1,701
– Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
– Acceptance rate: 91%
– Graduation rate: 64%
– Tuition: $14,648 in-state; $37,316 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,400
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #152

CocoaBeachBoy // Wikimedia Commons

#46. Citadel Military College of South Carolina

– Location: Charleston, SC
– Undergraduate enrollment: 2,654
– Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
– Acceptance rate: 75%
– Graduation rate: 74%
– Tuition: $12,620 in-state; $35,876 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,800
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #149

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OregonTech // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Oregon Institute of Technology

– Location: Klamath Falls, OR
– Undergraduate enrollment: 2,311
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 97%
– Graduation rate: 46%
– Tuition: $10,485 in-state; $29,637 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,600
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #148

Beyond My Ken // Wikimedia Commons

#44. CUNY Baruch College

– Location: New York, NY
– Undergraduate enrollment: 11,495
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 43%
– Graduation rate: 70%
– Tuition: $7,462 in-state; $15,412 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $57,200
– Two-year employment rate: 89%
– Overall rank: #147

Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

#43. University of Washington – Bothell

– Location: Bothell, WA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 4,623
– Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
– Acceptance rate: 74%
– Graduation rate: 69%
– Tuition: $11,390 in-state; $38,091 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $57,700
– Two-year employment rate: 91%
– Overall rank: #144

AlexiusHoratius // Wikimedia Commons

#42. University of Minnesota Twin Cities

– Location: Minneapolis, MN
– Undergraduate enrollment: 30,001
– Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
– Acceptance rate: 57%
– Graduation rate: 83%
– Tuition: $15,027 in-state; $33,325 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $51,900
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #142

UCSB Library // Wikimedia Commons

#41. University of California – Santa Barbara

– Location: Santa Barbara, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 22,601
– Student to faculty ratio: 22:1
– Acceptance rate: 30%
– Graduation rate: 83%
– Tuition: $14,445 in-state; $42,199 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $55,300
– Two-year employment rate: 91%
– Overall rank: #137

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Pi.1415926535 // Wikimedia Commons

#40. University of Connecticut – Avery Point

– Location: Groton, CT
– Undergraduate enrollment: 502
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 94%
– Graduation rate: 61%
– Tuition: $14,638 in-state; $37,306 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,400
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #135

Tomwsulcer // Wikimedia Commons

#39. The College of New Jersey

– Location: Ewing, NJ
– Undergraduate enrollment: 6,823
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 49%
– Graduation rate: 86%
– Tuition: $16,942 in-state; $28,921 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,500
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #130

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#38. University of Connecticut – Waterbury

– Location: Waterbury, CT
– Undergraduate enrollment: 769
– Student to faculty ratio: 22:1
– Acceptance rate: 95%
– Graduation rate: 64%
– Tuition: $14,638 in-state; $37,306 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,400
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #128

Cargoudel // Wikimedia Commons

#37. University of Delaware

– Location: Newark, DE
– Undergraduate enrollment: 18,355
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 71%
– Graduation rate: 81%
– Tuition: $14,280 in-state; $35,710 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $57,000
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #126

Yb20061462 // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Binghamton University, SUNY

– Location: Vestal, NY
– Undergraduate enrollment: 13,630
– Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
– Acceptance rate: 41%
– Graduation rate: 82%
– Tuition: $10,201 in-state; $27,791 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $61,600
– Two-year employment rate: 92%
– Overall rank: #124

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John Phelan // Wikimedia Commons

#35. University of Connecticut

– Location: Storrs, CT
– Undergraduate enrollment: 18,478
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 49%
– Graduation rate: 84%
– Tuition: $17,226 in-state; $39,894 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,400
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #122

DXR // Wikimedia Commons

#34. University of Georgia

– Location: Athens, GA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 27,947
– Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
– Acceptance rate: 45%
– Graduation rate: 87%
– Tuition: $12,080 in-state; $31,120 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $50,500
– Two-year employment rate: 92%
– Overall rank: #117

Ryan Kosmides // Wikimedia Commons

#33. University of Maryland – College Park

– Location: College Park, MD
– Undergraduate enrollment: 28,501
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 44%
– Graduation rate: 87%
– Tuition: $10,779 in-state; $36,891 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $62,900
– Two-year employment rate: 93%
– Overall rank: #115

Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

#32. University of Washington

– Location: Seattle, WA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,496
– Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
– Acceptance rate: 52%
– Graduation rate: 84%
– Tuition: $11,465 in-state; $38,166 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $57,700
– Two-year employment rate: 91%
– Overall rank: #105

Yousef Abdul-Husein // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Clemson University

– Location: Clemson, SC
– Undergraduate enrollment: 18,971
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 51%
– Graduation rate: 84%
– Tuition: $15,558 in-state; $38,550 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $52,400
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #103

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imwilliam // Flickr

#30. California State University Maritime Academy

– Location: Vallejo, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 975
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 76%
– Graduation rate: 67%
– Tuition: $7,160 in-state; $19,040 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $82,900
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #102

jedhakuro // Flickr

#29. New Jersey Institute of Technology

– Location: Newark, NJ
– Undergraduate enrollment: 6,827
– Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
– Acceptance rate: 73%
– Graduation rate: 67%
– Tuition: $17,674 in-state; $33,386 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $68,500
– Two-year employment rate: 92%
– Overall rank: #101

Allyunion // Wikimedia Commons

#28. University of California – Irvine

– Location: Irvine, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,251
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 27%
– Graduation rate: 84%
– Tuition: $13,727 in-state; $43,481 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,400
– Two-year employment rate: 90%
– Overall rank: #99

Cbg628 // Wikimedia Commons

#27. North Carolina State University

– Location: Raleigh, NC
– Undergraduate enrollment: 22,317
– Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
– Acceptance rate: 45%
– Graduation rate: 82%
– Tuition: $9,100 in-state; $29,220 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $52,500
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #97

loustejskal // Flickr

#26. University of California – San Diego

– Location: La Jolla, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,491
– Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
– Acceptance rate: 31%
– Graduation rate: 87%
– Tuition: $14,415 in-state; $44,169 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $59,900
– Two-year employment rate: 89%
– Overall rank: #96

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Bev Sykes // Wikimedia Commons

#25. University of California – Davis

– Location: Davis, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,967
– Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
– Acceptance rate: 39%
– Graduation rate: 87%
– Tuition: $14,495 in-state; $44,249 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,200
– Two-year employment rate: 91%
– Overall rank: #94

James Madison University Creative Media // Wikimedia Commons

#24. James Madison University

– Location: Harrisonurg, VA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 18,881
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 77%
– Graduation rate: 84%
– Tuition: $12,330 in-state; $29,230 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,600
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #91

Caroline Culler // Wikimedia Commons

#23. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

– Location: Chapel Hill, NC
– Undergraduate enrollment: 18,526
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 23%
– Graduation rate: 91%
– Tuition: $8,980 in-state; $36,159 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $55,600
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #84

Bogdan Migulski // Flickr

#22. University of California – Los Angeles

– Location: Los Angeles, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 31,009
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 12%
– Graduation rate: 92%
– Tuition: $13,240 in-state; $42,994 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $60,700
– Two-year employment rate: 89%
– Overall rank: #79

Jon Kees // Wikimedia Commons

#21. University of Wisconsin

– Location: Madison, WI
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,375
– Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
– Acceptance rate: 54%
– Graduation rate: 88%
– Tuition: $10,725 in-state; $37,785 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,200
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #76

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adam_jones // Flickr

#20. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

– Location: Champaign, IL
– Undergraduate enrollment: 32,757
– Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
– Acceptance rate: 59%
– Graduation rate: 85%
– Tuition: $15,122 in-state; $32,264 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $61,500
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #74

Utexas // Wikimedia Commons

#19. University of Texas – Austin

– Location: Austin, TX
– Undergraduate enrollment: 38,097
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 32%
– Graduation rate: 86%
– Tuition: $10,824 in-state; $38,326 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,200
– Two-year employment rate: 93%
– Overall rank: #73

Stu Seeger // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Texas A&M University

– Location: College Station, TX
– Undergraduate enrollment: 47,399
– Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
– Acceptance rate: 58%
– Graduation rate: 82%
– Tuition: $12,153 in-state; $38,602 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,000
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #70

Diego Delso // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Purdue University

– Location: West Lafayette, IN
– Undergraduate enrollment: 31,849
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 60%
– Graduation rate: 82%
– Tuition: $9,992 in-state; $28,794 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $55,100
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #67

Spohpatuf // Wikimedia Commons

#16. University of Florida

– Location: Gainesville, FL
– Undergraduate enrollment: 32,209
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 37%
– Graduation rate: 88%
– Tuition: $6,381 in-state; $28,659 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $56,000
– Two-year employment rate: 92%
– Overall rank: #66

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Creative Commons // Wikimedia Commons

#15. University of California – Berkeley

– Location: Berkeley, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,570
– Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
– Acceptance rate: 16%
– Graduation rate: 93%
– Tuition: $14,253 in-state; $44,007 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $64,700
– Two-year employment rate: 88%
– Overall rank: #61

Steveewatkins // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Missouri University of Science & Technology

– Location: Rolla, MO
– Undergraduate enrollment: 6,065
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 79%
– Graduation rate: 66%
– Tuition: $8,568 in-state; $26,660 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $71,200
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #60

Jcvertin // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Michigan Technological University

– Location: Houghton, MI
– Undergraduate enrollment: 5,465
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 74%
– Graduation rate: 70%
– Tuition: $15,660 in-state; $34,896 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $66,400
– Two-year employment rate: 97%
– Overall rank: #58

Rob Bulmahn // Wikimedia Commons

#12. California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo

– Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 20,333
– Student to faculty ratio: 21:1
– Acceptance rate: 28%
– Graduation rate: 82%
– Tuition: $9,943 in-state; $23,833 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $66,900
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #56

Jrcla2 // Wikimedia Commons

#11. College of William & Mary

– Location: Williamsburg, VA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 6,300
– Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
– Acceptance rate: 38%
– Graduation rate: 90%
– Tuition: $17,434 in-state; $40,089 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $58,500
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #55

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Jimmy and Sasha Reede // Flickr

#10. Virginia Tech

– Location: Blacksburg, VA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 27,180
– Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
– Acceptance rate: 70%
– Graduation rate: 86%
– Tuition: $13,691 in-state; $32,835 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $62,500
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #54

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#9. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

– Location: Ann Arbor, MI
– Undergraduate enrollment: 29,245
– Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
– Acceptance rate: 23%
– Graduation rate: 93%
– Tuition: $15,558 in-state; $51,200 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $63,400
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #47

Billy Hathorn // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Maine Maritime Academy

– Location: Castine, ME
– Undergraduate enrollment: 958
– Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
– Acceptance rate: 45%
– Graduation rate: 71%
– Tuition: $13,792 in-state; $27,820 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $95,600
– Two-year employment rate: 96%
– Overall rank: #43

Ben Lunsford // Wikimedia Commons

#7. University of Virginia

– Location: Charlottesville, VA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 15,990
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 24%
– Graduation rate: 95%
– Tuition: $17,798 in-state; $50,900 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $61,200
– Two-year employment rate: 94%
– Overall rank: #42

Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#6. SUNY Maritime College

– Location: Throggs Neck, NY
– Undergraduate enrollment: 1,542
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 74%
– Graduation rate: 75%
– Tuition: $7,070 in-state; $16,980 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $82,800
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #29

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massmaritime // Flickr

#5. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

– Location: Buzzards Bay, MA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 1,614
– Student to faculty ratio: 16:1
– Acceptance rate: 91%
– Graduation rate: 76%
– Tuition: $10,018 in-state; $25,752 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $86,600
– Two-year employment rate: 97%
– Overall rank: #24

cogdogblog // Flickr

#4. Colorado School of Mines

– Location: Golden, CO
– Undergraduate enrollment: 4,709
– Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
– Acceptance rate: 53%
– Graduation rate: 83%
– Tuition: $19,062 in-state; $39,762 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $84,900
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #22

koocbur // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Virginia Military Institute

– Location: Lexington, VA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 1,685
– Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
– Acceptance rate: 60%
– Graduation rate: 79%
– Tuition: $19,118 in-state; $45,962 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $65,700
– Two-year employment rate: 97%
– Overall rank: #21

JJohahJackalope // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Georgia Institute of Technology

– Location: Atlanta, GA
– Undergraduate enrollment: 14,318
– Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
– Acceptance rate: 21%
– Graduation rate: 90%
– Tuition: $12,682 in-state; $33,794 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $79,100
– Two-year employment rate: 95%
– Overall rank: #13

Jim.henderson // Wikimedia Commons

#1. United States Merchant Marine Academy

– Location: Kings Point, NY
– Undergraduate enrollment: 996
– Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
– Acceptance rate: 25%
– Graduation rate: 80%
– Tuition: $1,050 in-state; $1,050 out-of-state
– Six-year median earnings: $88,100
– Two-year employment rate: 97%
– Overall rank: #1

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