Although public colleges do not dominate the Forbes America’s Top Colleges List — only a quarter of schools in the top 100 are public and less than half of the overall list is made of public institutions — public schools provide some of the most accessible and high-quality education in the country.
More than 5 million students attend the public colleges that make America’s Top Colleges List. The average in-state cost of attendance for the public colleges on the America’s Top Colleges list is nearly $30,000 a year less than private colleges on the list: $25,759 compared to $57,128.
Unlike the top liberal arts schools, there is no central hub of prominent top public colleges; the most notable public schools are spread evenly across the country — there are nine in the West, seven in the South, five in the Northeast and four in the Midwest.
The top two spots are the same as last year, going to the University of California, Berkeley — one of the most selective universities in the state’s system — and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, which has the highest research expenditures among public universities.
Although many of the top public schools remain the same as the 2018 rankings, there is much movement within the list. The biggest jump comes from the Georgia Institute of Technology — known for its strong engineering programs — which moved up seven spots to No. 13 of the top public colleges.
All five of the nation’s military colleges remained on the list, but the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy switched spots to No. 3 and 4 respectively this year. The University of California, Los Angeles moved up two spots, bumping down the United States Air Force Academy one spot to No. 7. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, College Park and University of Wisconsin, Madison moved up one spot, while the University of Washington, Seattle moved up three spots. The College of William and Mary, the University of Georgia and the University of Texas, Austin dropped two spots each and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Florida dropped four spots each. The University of California, San Diego and Santa Barbara dropped one spot to No. 19 and 20 respectively, and the University of California, Irvine and Davis switched spots to become No. 21 and 22 respectively.
The newest arrival to the 2019 top public college list is the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO. Given the prominence of recruiting more students into STEM majors to prepare them for STEM-related occupations, the school is dedicated to ensuring that students are industry-ready; according to the Pew Research Center, one in three college-educated workers majored in a STEM field, but only about half of STEM majors have a STEM job after graduating. With specializations in engineering and applied sciences, students at the Colorado School of Mines have the opportunity to work with faculty on research during their undergraduate careers, and 88% of graduates have a job in the industry or go on to pursue graduate degrees.
The Forbes 2019 Public Top Colleges are:
25. University of Georgia (No. 99)
24. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (No. 98)
23. Colorado School of Mines (No. 94)
22. University of California, Davis (No. 88)
21. University of California, Irvine (No. 87)
20. University of California, Santa Barbara (No. 84)
19. University of California, San Diego (No. 79)
18. University of Texas, Austin (No. 76)
17. University of Florida (No. 70)
16. University of Wisconsin, Madison (No. 69)
15. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (No. 68)
14. United States Merchant Marine Academy (No. 66)
13. Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 65)
12. University of Washington, Seattle (No. 64)
11. University of Maryland, College Park (No. 63)
10. United States Coast Guard Academy (No. 53)
9. College of William and Mary (No. 47)
8. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (No. 45)
7. United States Air Force Academy (No. 43)
6. University of California, Los Angeles (No. 38)
5. University of Virginia (No. 33)
4. United States Military Academy (No. 32)
3. United States Naval Academy (No. 24)
2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (No. 20)
1. University of California, Berkeley (No. 13)