The best public colleges best-colleges

Public colleges and universities rely primarily on public funds, whereas private schools are mainly funded by tuition, donations, and endowment investment. Public schools are much cheaper for in-state residents, and educational investment is, as a rule, repaid quicker than at private universities.  Lower cost does not mean lower quality or earning potential - many of the top earning schools are public. 

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Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.

Earnings: The median earnings of all bachelor-level students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.

Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.

Degree premium: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state. This is called “Vs. state average” in school profiles below.

Ranking: The payback rate is divided by the degree premium (set as a percentage), the lower the number the higher the rank. (i.e. payback=1, degree premium 20% higher than state school median: 1/120% = .883.

Net cost
Earnings
Payback
Degree premium
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#3 in National University

CUNY City College

New York, New York

Admission rate: 51%

Grad rate: 54%

Net cost: $2,385

Payback: Under 6 months

Earnings: $55,741

Vs. state average: + $51

Economic score: 0.37

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#4 in National University

University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Admission rate: 32%

Grad rate: 88%

Net cost: $6,302

Payback: Under a year

Earnings: $64,463

Vs. state average: + $19,742

Economic score: 0.45

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#5 in National University

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

Atlanta, Georgia

Admission rate: 22%

Grad rate: 90%

Net cost: $14,739

Payback: 1.0 Years

Earnings: $88,196

Vs. state average: + $46,303

Economic score: 0.49

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#8 in National University

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Admission rate: 27%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $15,336

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $75,842

Vs. state average: + $31,796

Economic score: 0.70

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#11 in National University

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Admission rate: 18%

Grad rate: 93%

Net cost: $15,329

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $80,364

Vs. state average: + $29,685

Economic score: 0.74

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#12 in National University

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Missouri

Admission rate: 82%

Grad rate: 68%

Net cost: $14,262

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $80,289

Vs. state average: + $32,969

Economic score: 0.74

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#16 in National University

University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Admission rate: 15%

Grad rate: 92%

Net cost: $14,279

Payback: 1.2 Years

Earnings: $73,744

Vs. state average: + $23,065

Economic score: 0.83

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#17 in National University

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, California

Admission rate: 37%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $14,232

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $74,771

Vs. state average: + $24,092

Economic score: 0.85

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#18 in National University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Admission rate: 26%

Grad rate: 90%

Net cost: $12,352

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $61,915

Vs. state average: + $19,844

Economic score: 0.86

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#19 in National University

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Seattle, Washington

Admission rate: 56%

Grad rate: 84%

Net cost: $13,297

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $68,925

Vs. state average: + $23,966

Economic score: 0.88

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#21 in National University

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Charlottesville, Virginia

Admission rate: 23%

Grad rate: 94%

Net cost: $20,397

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $77,048

Vs. state average: + $34,064

Economic score: 0.89

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#22 in National University

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois

Admission rate: 64%

Grad rate: 85%

Net cost: $15,880

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $71,539

Vs. state average: + $26,702

Economic score: 0.90

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#23 in National University

Florida International University

Miami, Florida

Admission rate: 58%

Grad rate: 66%

Net cost: $7,296

Payback: 1.1 Years

Earnings: $54,501

Vs. state average: + $9,780

Economic score: 0.91

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#26 in National University

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado

Admission rate: 55%

Grad rate: 80%

Net cost: $26,750

Payback: 1.8 Years

Earnings: $90,060

Vs. state average: + $44,139

Economic score: 0.92

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#27 in National University

Michigan Technological University

Houghton, Michigan

Admission rate: 71%

Grad rate: 71%

Net cost: $16,463

Payback: 1.5 Years

Earnings: $73,541

Vs. state average: + $29,495

Economic score: 0.92

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#28 in National University

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Newark, New Jersey

Admission rate: 67%

Grad rate: 81%

Net cost: $19,706

Payback: 1.6 Years

Earnings: $80,043

Vs. state average: + $34,420

Economic score: 0.93

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#29 in National University

University of California-Irvine

Irvine, California

Admission rate: 30%

Grad rate: 86%

Net cost: $14,783

Payback: 1.3 Years

Earnings: $71,961

Vs. state average: + $21,282

Economic score: 0.93

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#32 in National University

California State University-Fresno

Fresno, California

Admission rate: 91%

Grad rate: 68%

Net cost: $5,464

Payback: 1.0 Years

Earnings: $52,201

Vs. state average: + $1,522

Economic score: 1.01

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#33 in National University

University of California-Davis

Davis, California

Admission rate: 47%

Grad rate: 89%

Net cost: $14,669

Payback: 1.4 Years

Earnings: $69,766

Vs. state average: + $19,087

Economic score: 1.03

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#37 in National University

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Edinburg, Texas

Admission rate: 83%

Grad rate: 60%

Net cost: $4,514

Payback: 1.1 Years

Earnings: $45,895

Vs. state average: + $948

Economic score: 1.06

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