Across the U.S., from Michigan and Virginia to Texas and California, these state schools offer a world-class education for a fraction of the list price at top private colleges.

By Rina Torchinsky, Contributor

Funded by taxpayer dollars, these public colleges offer residents of their home states an elite education for thousands of dollars less than they would pay at a comparable private college. These 25 public schools—pulled from Forbes’ 2023 ranking of the best 500 colleges, private and public, in the United States—earned high marks in our measures on return on investment, student success, student debt and alumni leadership and influence. You can read more about our rankings methodology here.

The group of 25 includes some of the oldest public universities in the United States with histories that date back to the 1700s, such as the University of Georgia in Athens and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some of the schools on this list are flagship universities—often the largest and typically the oldest schools in a given state—including the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the University of Florida; and the University of Maryland, College Park. But California alone has seven schools on this top 25 list.

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Each school on this list offers an expanse of undergraduate majors. At Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, students can major in nuclear engineering. North Carolina State University in Raleigh offers a paper engineering major, and UC Berkeley undergraduates can major in environmental design.

Explore the gallery below to learn more about America’s best public colleges.

Gallery: Forbes’ Top 25 Public Colleges

25 images


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