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Forbes’ Top 20 Public Colleges of 2024

    Forbes’ Top 20 Public Colleges of 2024 represent the pinnacle of higher education in the United States. These institutions have been meticulously ranked and recognized for their commitment to academic excellence, cutting-edge research, and diverse learning environments. From the bustling campuses of flagship universities to the intimate settings of liberal arts colleges, this list showcases the best that public education has to offer.

    Forbes’ rigorous evaluation criteria encompass factors like graduation rates, financial health, and alumni success, ensuring that these colleges continue to set the gold standard for accessible and high-quality education in America.

    Here are listed top 20 Public Colleges of 2024

    1. University of California – Berkeley

    In Forbes’ 2024 rankings, the University of California, Berkeley, located in the Bay Area, holds the top spot among U.S. public colleges. This renowned public research university provides a wide array of over 300 degree programs, covering subjects like sustainable environmental design, aerospace engineering, and Chicanx Latinx Studies. Established in 1868, the university’s founding was inspired by the state’s constitution, aiming to contribute significantly to the betterment of future generations, even beyond the riches of California’s gold rush era.

    2. University of California – San Diego

    In the top three of Forbes’ rankings for public colleges, we find another institution from the University of California system. The University of California, San Diego, is a public research university with a diverse range of over 100 undergraduate majors, encompassing fields like bioengineering, NanoEngineering, pharmacological chemistry, and theater. Notably, in fiscal year 2023, the university invested heavily in research, with expenditures exceeding a staggering $1.7 billion.

    3. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

    The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is a big public research university with over 30,000 undergraduate students as of Fall 2021. They have a variety of majors like astronomy and astrophysics, public health, and mechanical engineering. Students come from all across the United States and over 100 countries.

    4. University of Washington – Seattle Campus

    The University of Washington’s Seattle campus is a large hub for solving problems and coming up with new ideas, spread out over hundreds of acres. Students have a wide selection of over 180 majors to choose from and can join more than 100 clubs. Additionally, the university hosts nearly 300 research centers, including important ones like the Center for AIDS and STD and the Center for Human Rights.

    5. University of Florida

    The University of Florida, situated in Gainesville, is a public research university. In Fall 2021, it had over 30,000 undergraduate students. The university offers a diverse range of majors, including media production, management and technology, microbiology and cell science, and soil, water, and ecosystem sciences. Additionally, the university is bustling with thousands of ongoing research projects.

    6. University of Virginia

    Established in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, is a renowned public university. It offers a wide array of majors such as architecture, commerce, nursing, and computer science, and it boasts an undergraduate student body of over 17,000.

    7. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, founded in 1867, is a public university with over 30,000 undergraduate students. It’s located in east-central Illinois, around 125 miles from Indianapolis and 140 miles from Chicago. The university is committed to accessibility, offering wheelchair sports programs and a convenient accessible bus system to create an inclusive campus community.

    8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    The University of North Carolina, one of the country’s oldest public universities, has a history dating back to the 1700s. With over 70 majors and minors, including unique options like Peace, War, and Defense, archaeology, dental hygiene, and radiologic science, it provides a wide range of academic choices. In Fall 2021, the university had a student body of over 19,000 undergraduates.

    9. The University of Texas at Austin

    The University of Texas at Austin boasts a vibrant community of over 40,000 undergraduate students. With a diverse selection of over 150 undergraduate degree programs and a multitude of study abroad opportunities, it caters to a wide range of academic interests. Its sprawling main campus spans across 431 acres and features over a dozen libraries, providing students with ample resources and spaces for learning, research, and exploration. This rich combination of academic offerings and campus amenities makes UT Austin a dynamic hub for higher education.

    10. Georgia Institute of Technology

    The Georgia Institute of Technology, situated in Atlanta on an expansive wooded main campus, is a prominent public university. It’s renowned for its outstanding programs in computing, engineering, and business. Impressively, Georgia Tech secures nearly $1.3 billion in research awards every year, solidifying its reputation as a hub of innovation and academic excellence.


    11. University of Maryland – College Park

    The University of Maryland, College Park, is a public university just a quick ride away from Washington, D.C. In Fall 2021, it had over 30,000 undergraduates. The university provides a wide variety of over 100 undergraduate majors, including options like bioengineering, finance, computer science, and the study of religions in the Ancient Middle East.

    12. University of Wisconsin – Madison

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison, a public research university founded in the 1800s, offers a wide array of choices for undergraduate students with over 140 majors, including fields like agronomy, biochemistry, computer engineering, and conservation biology. The university is deeply committed to “The Wisconsin Idea,” which focuses on extending its educational mission to serve the broader community and society beyond the classroom.

    13. San Diego State University

    San Diego State University, established in 1897, is a public research university and holds the designation of being a Hispanic-serving institution. It proudly stands as San Diego’s oldest higher education establishment and is situated just half an hour away from the United States’ border with Mexico.

    14. Rutgers University – New Brunswick

    Rutgers University, New Brunswick, is a distinguished public research university with a thriving community of over 30,000 undergraduate students. It stands out with an impressive selection of over 120 majors, ranging from applied sciences engineering and art to biomathematics, entomology, and filmmaking, providing diverse academic opportunities for its students.

    Moreover, Rutgers-New Brunswick is an active member of the Big Ten and competes in NCAA Division I athletics, adding an exciting dimension to campus life. This university offers a rich blend of academic excellence and a vibrant sports culture, creating a well-rounded college experience.

    15. Texas A & M University – College Station

    Texas A&M in College Station provides a wealth of educational options with over 130 undergraduate programs. Students have the opportunity to pursue majors in fields like agribusiness, horticulture, spatial sciences, and turfgrass science, among others, catering to a diverse range of interests.

    Beyond the main campus in College Station, Texas A&M extends its reach with branch campuses in Galveston and Qatar, offering students a global perspective and diverse learning environments.

    16. Purdue University

    Purdue University, a public institution with its flagship campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, offers a wide array of undergraduate majors to choose from. Students at Purdue can explore diverse fields, including genetics, financial counseling and planning, motorsports engineering, and fermentation science.

    Notably, Purdue has earned the nickname “cradle of astronauts” as it has proudly produced over two dozen astronauts who have graduated from the university. This heritage of space exploration adds a unique dimension to the university’s rich history and academic offerings.

    17. Binghamton University

    Binghamton University, a public university in upstate New York, is conveniently situated an hour away from Ithaca and approximately three hours from New York City. For undergraduate students at Binghamton, there’s a wide range of majors to explore, including psychology, linguistics, nursing, economics, and accounting, among many others. Plus, the campus is just a short hop to downtown Binghamton, making it accessible and offering diverse experiences for students.

    18. Florida State University

    Florida State University, a public university with its primary campus in Tallahassee, offers students a wide range of exciting majors to choose from, including cyber criminology, entrepreneurship, and music.

    In addition to its main campus, Florida State University extends its global reach with study centers in prominent international locations such as London, Florence, Panama City, and Valencia. This provides students with unique opportunities to gain a global perspective and enrich their academic experiences.

    19. Michigan State University

    Michigan State University, a public institution located in East Lansing, offers students a diverse selection of majors to explore, including nursing, neuroscience, microbiology, and marketing.

    Spanning over an expansive 5,000 acres, the campus is designed with student comfort in mind, featuring dormitories divided into five distinct neighborhoods. This thoughtful layout fosters a sense of community and belonging among students, contributing to a well-rounded university experience.

    20. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

    North Carolina State University at Raleigh, a public university, provides a wealth of academic options with over 100 majors to choose from, including business administration, biological engineering, forest management, and paper science and engineering.

    In addition to its extensive academic offerings, the university boasts a vibrant campus life with over 600 student organizations, ensuring that students have ample opportunities to engage in extracurricular activities and pursue their interests beyond the classroom.