Looking at the New Rankings of Best Public Colleges

Check out the lists to find the top public colleges in the country.

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Many public colleges have seen big increases in the number of applications as students and their parents are becoming more attracted to the lower sticker prices they find at the publics in their own states.

For many students, public colleges can be a far more affordable choice than a private college, with in-state tuition being the best bargain. Public colleges also can be the low-cost pick for many out-of-state students, because even out-of-state tuitions typically don't approach the prices at private colleges. However, some publics have been heavily impacted by budget cuts and have had to sharply raise tuitions or make other program cuts that may impact the ability to graduate in four years, which will affect the cost comparison between publics and privates.

If you are interested in which public colleges and universities are the best, U.S. News has recently posted the top ranked public schools from the 2011 edition of the Best Colleges rankings. The public schools are ranked within the 10 U.S. News ranking categories. Some officials at American public research universities believe the Top Public National Universities ranking is the most important measure U.S. News offers.

For the top public rankings, the public colleges must be in the top 75 percent of the rankings in their U.S. News Best Colleges ranking category, in which they are ranked against all of the schools eligible for that list, public and private. Then, U.S. News re-ranks just the publics that were in the top 75 percent of each category so that each public maintains its original rank order in the overall rankings. For example, since the University of California–Berkeley was the highest ranked public in the National Universities 2011 edition of the Best Colleges rankings, it ranked No. 1 in the Top Public National Universities ranking. The University of California–Los Angeles and the University of Virginia were the next highest-ranked publics and also tied in the National Universities ranking, so they were both ranked No. 2 in the Top Public National Universities ranking.

Top public colleges and universities, by ranking category:

National Universities

National Liberal Arts Colleges

Regional Universities—North

Regional Universities—South

Regional Universities—Midwest

Regional Universities—West

Regional Colleges—North

Regional Colleges—South

Regional Colleges—Midwest

Regional Colleges—West

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.