What Are the Public Ivies and Why Should You Consider Adding Them to Your College List?

January 26, 2023
College Admissions

The Public Ivies are a group of public universities in the United States that are considered to provide an education on par with that of the Ivy League. Richard Moll, a higher education journalist, coined the term “Public Ivy” in his book The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities, in which he identified these eight institutions as Public Ivies:

  1. The University of California (system)
  2. The University of Michigan
  3. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  4. The University of Virginia
  5. The College of William & Mary
  6. Miami University in Ohio
  7. The University of Vermont
  8. The University of Texas at Austin

The concept of the Public Ivies has since been expanded to include a number of other public universities known for their strong academic programs, distinguished faculty, and outstanding resources. They are some of the most competitive and selective public universities in the United States. According to U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-2023 Best Colleges Rankings, these are the top fourteen public schools (many are tied for place so follow the link to see the official rankings):

  1. The University of California, Berkeley
  2. The University of California, Los Angeles
  3. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  4. The University of Virginia
  5. The University of Florida
  6. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  7. The University of California, Santa Barbara
  8. The University of California, Irvine
  9. The University of California, San Diego
  10. The University of California, Davis
  11. The University of Texas at Austin
  12. The University of Wisconsin, Madison
  13. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  14. The College of William & Mary

In contrast to Ivy League schools, which rely on donors, endowments, and high tuition, the Public Ivies are state-funded institutions that offer a high level of education at a lower cost, especially to in-state students. They tend to have a strong commitment to enrolling a diverse student body and providing financial aid to students who need it.

To be considered a Public Ivy, a university must possess certain attributes:

  • A rigorous curriculum offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a variety of fields, a stellar academic reputation, and recognition as a top-tier institution by respected organizations such as U.S. News & World Report
  • Strong research programs and distinguished faculty members who are experts in and recognized for their contribution to their fields, who often hold leadership positions in professional organizations and societies and who are actively engaged in research and teaching
  • Modern, well-equipped campuses that offer access to a wide range of top-notch resources, including libraries, laboratories, and other research facilities, as well as extracurricular activities, including athletics, clubs, and student organizations
  • High selectivity in its admissions processes

While such schools are widely acknowledged as some of the best public universities in the United States, some people take issue with the use of the term "Public Ivy" to describe them. They assert it is misleading given that the schools are not actually members of nor do they offer the same level of prestige and exclusivity as the private Ivies. Others claim that the Public Ivies are so focused on prestige and reputation that they prioritize the interests of their faculty and administrators over those of their students.

Despite these criticisms, the Public Ivies remain some of the most esteemed and sought-after higher education institutions in the United States. They offer a first-class education, distinguished faculty, and outstanding resources and are known for their commitment to accessibility and affordability. This is why they attract some of the brightest and most ambitious students from around the world, for many of whom attending a Public Ivy is the realization of a lifelong dream.