What are Public Colleges and Universities?

Public Colleges and Universities continue to attract a large number of the student population in the United States. Discover their benefits, courses, drawbacks, and more

Updated by TCM Staff on 21st October 2020

A public school is a college or university primarily funded by a state government.

Every US state is required to have at least one public university, although some of the larger states may have many public universities. Such institutions, for example, Florida public colleges and universities will often offer discounted tuition for in-state students.

Let's read more about it now!

What are Public Colleges and Universities?

Public Colleges are those colleges and universities which are primarily funded by the state.

Though in many cases, the public taxpayers do not provide enough funding thus leading to certain drawbacks associated with these schools. 

These are institutions maintained by public funds and organizations. They purely work for public growth and improvisation, with lower education costs and other facilities. 

Public Colleges are popular for the courses they offer, for example, the University Of California - Los Angeles offers more than 3,000 courses.

 Public Colleges and Universities

source - pexels.com

Public colleges and universities in the US 2020-2021

These universities often offer discounted tuition to residents of their states. Public schools run the gamut from small liberal arts colleges to large research institutions. looking forward to joining a public college? These are the highest-ranked public colleges and universities in the 2019 Best Colleges rankings. 

Top 10 Public Colleges/University


University/College Name


University of California - Berkeley


University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Georgia Institute of Technology


Pennsylvania State University


University of Virginia


University of Ohio - Columbus


College of William and Mary


University of California - Los Angeles


University of North Carolina -  Chapel Hill


University of Florida

Features of Public Colleges and Universities 

Public universities collect a large portion of their operating funds from Federal and local State governments.

This allows them to make tuition costs more affordable to the average student. Public Colleges do not require any tuition fees to be paid as they receive funds from the state.

Some of the features of public colleges are given.

  • Size - The class size is much larger than that of private institutions. Public universities usually have a large infrastructure as compared to that of private colleges.

  • Division 1 Athletics - All the athlete courses offered in public colleges fall under division 1 athletics.

  • Low Cost - Since they receive direct funding from the state, the students are not required to pay tuition fees. Other academic expenses such as books or hostel fees are taken care of.

  • Commuter and part-time students - Public Universities were established keeping in mind the commute issues faced by the state students. A majority of the students belong to the state itself. 

Benefits of Public Colleges

Even though students prefer to choose Private Colleges, however, Public Colleges are the best when it comes to factors such as affordability and lower expenses.

Some of the benefits of going to a Public College are listed.

  • Public Universities/Colleges' costs are lower, including tuition fees and other academic fees.

  • Students can enjoy a diverse population of students with various talents.

  • The institutions offer various types of financial aid and college scholarships

  • They offer many program courses and sometimes, they are rare to find elsewhere.

  • You will get a chance to experience a large infrastructure.

  • Public institutions not only provide education, but they also focus on sports and co-circular activities. 

Public College Benefits

source - pexels.com

Drawbacks of Public Colleges

There are distinct differences between public and private universities. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Large public universities can be vibrant educational hubs, but for the wrong student, they can also spell disaster. 

Public Colleges do have certain benefits but it is not without downsides. Some of the drawbacks of these colleges are given. 

  • Low Graduation Rate - Due to a lack of quality education in a few public colleges, the graduation rate and quality of the academic outcome is going down.

  • Low-Quality education - Only the best public colleges offer good faculty and advanced education.

  • Higher student/faculty ratio - Due to lesser fees and financial aid, a lot of students who otherwise can’t afford the skyrocketing fees of private colleges choose public colleges, but the faculty or the teaching staff are scarce. 

    Public Colleges

source - third.org 

Courses offered by Public Institutions

Public Colleges offers traditional programs as well as online programs in almost all streams. Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate courses will be found in any Public College/University. 

The following tables will guide you more on the degree levels and certificate courses.

Courses offered by Public Colleges

Degree Levels

Certificate Programs

Associate degree 

Undergraduate Certificate

Bachelor's degree 

Graduate Certificate

Master's degree

Post Baccalaureate Certificate

Doctorate degree

Post-Master Certificate


The state’s best public universities are the only ones that offer education at par with their private counterparts. For in-state students who are not eligible for financial aid, public universities might be the most affordable option.

Around 50% of students join public colleges and reflect a great learning experience.

Blogs you might be interested in 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.What is considered a Public College?

    A Public College/University primarily receives funds from the state. In comparison with private colleges, public colleges have larger class sizes.

  • 2.What is the difference between Public University and State University?

    All state universities are public universities but all public universities might not be state universities. The biggest difference is that state universities belong to a system of schools and has numerous campuses.

  • 3.What is the best public college? 

    The University of California-Berkeley is considered as the best public college in the US.

  • 4.What are the 8 public Ivy League Schools?

    Some Public Ivy League schools are mentioned here. College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia) Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) University of California (nine campuses as of 1985) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The University of Texas at Austin University of Vermont (Burlington)

  • 5.Are public schools better than private schools?

    Nowadays, students prefer to choose private schools over public schools. However, public schools are the best when it comes to affordability as no tuition fee is required. 

  • 6.Are public universities free?

    Public universities are funded by the state and it is the government who pays the tuition fees and other education expenses of the students.

  • 7.Do private schools provide a better education?

    Private schools have a higher graduation rate and better academic outcomes as compared to public schools. 

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