Top 20 Public Universities for STEM Education and Research

Every student has aspirations about applying and studying at an Ivy League university but there are a number of other universities, especially large public universities in the US and Canada, that provide high-quality education in many areas and maybe better in areas of engineering and sciences. In this post, we will look at the top public universities for STEM that every student (and parent) should consider for higher studies and research in the US.

Public Universities in the USA

These universities were created in the 19th century as preparatory schools and are funded by the states from the taxpayers of the state. Many of these universities have excellent and top-ranked programs across many disciplines but they are in the top 10-20 ranked in some of the engineering and sciences programs.

Why Consider the Public Universities?

  • If you are an international student applying to these colleges for Undergraduate studies, they may not have aid for you given some of the limitations put by the state rules on how the taxpayer-funded grants are used.
  • These universities also have varying policies around what percentage of student class will be out of state or International. However, if you are applying for graduate studies, some of these rules and policies may not be applicable.
  • Another factor every student should look at is their preference for class and school size. If you are a student who likes small classes, public universities may not be for you. Some of the classes in these public universities in the core curriculum can be a few hundred students.
  • However, if you are a student who likes large schools, can drive yourself into focus, and set your own schedule, like sports, etc., public colleges can be a great option for you. If you do not get into one of the top public universities, there are hundreds of others that can be an option for you.

Top Public Universities for STEM in US

Top US Public Universities (Not a comprehensive list or a list in the order of ranking, and the US has more than 100+ excellent public colleges across the country with many of them offering a good, strong education platform) for every student to research while preparing their college list are:

University of California at Berkeley

Close to San Francisco and part of silicon valley, Cal Berkeley has been one of the top public universities for decades for its competitiveness, selective admission statistics, and opportunities for research and education. The university is large and tends to take about 70-75% of students from California with the majority of them from the high schools in the bay area and surrounding counties. The student population is diverse and studious.

The surrounding area around UCB is not great in terms of security but students can spend most of their time on campus. To get into UCB, you need to be at the top of your class and also take rigorous courses in your school or UG. 

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The University of California at Los Angeles

Another higher competitive and world-class university is UCLA. This university is not only known for its education, research but well known for sports and many other areas. Located in Los Angeles, it offers students a wonderful setting to experience life, culture, and activities, including the beach, of southern California.

The admit rate for this university has been going down over the years as it has often become a favorite destination for more than a hundred thousand students in UG and a few thousand for Graduate studies.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

One of my favorite universities in the midwest that is known for its research, education, well known global programs in engineering, sciences, and business. Many programs are well known around the world, including Michigan’s Ross School of Business, but if you are applying for mechanical and industrial engineering, this university may be one of the top ones to have in your college list given the closeness to many of the auto companies and industrial product companies.

The university has a large body of international students and a good diversity of US students. The alumni network is significant and the brand is well regarded all over the world. The only drawback to the university is the high cost among public university options and the cold weather in winters. The job market after graduation is anywhere within the US, with many students looking at Detroit and Chicago as two options.

Georgia Tech

A favorite among International students, Georgia Tech has always been one of the top colleges for anyone looking to study engineering. Their Industrial Engineering program is ranked #1 worldwide and so are other programs such as Aerospace, Mechanical engineering. Most of their engineering programs are ranked among the top 10.

The location of the university is in downtown Atlanta, not a suburban setting. Atlanta is a growing city for many technologies, especially fintech companies, in the south. The weather is also warm and suits many students.

Univ of Illinois at Urbana Champagne

Another public university gem among the midwest colleges. This is the sought-after university for engineering, especially for students studying computer science, data science, and computer engineering. Urbana Champagne also has good sciences programs and maybe a little bit less competitive and expensive for out-of-state students, including International students.

Similar to other midwest universities like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, winters can be tough to get through given the cold weather. However, as students, you can always have fun if you are busy and have a good set of friends to spend time with.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison, Purdue University, and the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis

These are two other universities for every engineering and sciences student to apply to for higher studies. Again, like Illinois Urbana, these two universities may be a little easier to get into compared to some of the west coast UC universities or the high competitive Ivy League and top national private colleges. Education and studies are very well regarded and the cost may be lower than the private colleges too.

Madison, Wisconsin is a beautiful campus and located next to a lake. The city itself is small but has enough things to keep students busy. University of Minnesota is situated in Minneapolis and has a large city location. All the colleges have good placement and are well regarded in the US. 

The University of Texas at Austin

This is my alma mater and a favorite destination for the top high school and college students in Texas and the surrounding states. The seats for non-Texas students are limited. The university has top engineering and sciences programs, especially Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Astronomy, Finance, and Accounting.

Austin is a wonderful city with natural beauty, a live music environment, diversity, and good food. If you are a sports lover, this is another university you will enjoy attending and becoming part of the strong sports tradition as a Longhorn. The cost of attending is lower than some of the UC universities and private national colleges.

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Univ of North Carolina at Chapell Hill

Similar to UT Austin, UNC-Chapel Hill is the destination for the top 5% of the students in North Carolina schools and colleges. The seats are limited for out-of-state students as the college focuses on providing preference to in-state students. Top engineering, sciences, arts, and business programs. You cannot go wrong with this university, similar to many other top universities.

The University of Washington at Seattle

One of the upcoming universities in the pacific northwest and a favorite hunting ground for college placements by the big tech companies such as Amazon and Microsoft. The university campus is beautiful with students having the option to get to Seattle downtown in 10-15 minutes over the weekend.

The college is well known for its computer science, data science, and medicine programs. These programs are not easy to get into but worth attending for top students of various high schools and colleges. The cost of public education is a little bit less than what UCs or Univ of Michigan have.

Other Top Public Universities for STEM in US

A few other universities that would be ranked in the top 20-25 and have a good value to offer to any student in terms of quality of education and experience are:

  • Virginia Tech: Beautiful compass, good value, and strong engineering, sciences programs.
  • Indiana University: Very well known for its top business school program. 
  • Texas A&M: Overall, good program, value and an easier admission process than the top public colleges. However, no less in offering a top level education, placement and experience for students.
  • Penn State Univ: Another good value college with an excellent option where one may not be competing with the highly selective programs.
  • A few other colleges to review and consider are: SUNY Stony Brook: UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Davis, University of Maryland at College Park.

Interested in learning more about how to prepare your college shortlist, contact us at 

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