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States with Highest Ranked Colleges: Top Colleges and Universities in USA | Education

States with Highest Ranked Colleges: Top Colleges and Universities in USA | Education
States with Highest Ranked Colleges: Top Colleges and Universities in USA 

As state education budgets fluctuate, so do collegiate rankings.  Stacker studied the niche's 2022 best colleges in America list to determine which states have the highest-ranked colleges

Every state looks at education differently.  Investing in K-12 and higher education is paramount for some states.  For others, there isn't enough tax money to fully fund the state's public education system and meet certain requirements for higher education—and how that appears to speak to a student's educational experience in that state.

New York, for example, has experienced a historic reshuffle of state-based college funding.  Since 2012, the state has been investing money in its higher education system, with total support estimated at $7.6 billion for the 2020 fiscal year.  Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, the Excelsior Scholarships allow New York State residents with a household income of $125,000 or less to enroll tuition-free at a New York State public university.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, California has some of the best post-secondary schools in the country.  Well-funded until the 1970s, the University of California and California State University systems defined international standards.  Although budget cuts over the past four decades have gradually raised the cost of tuition, state funding priorities are now directed toward California's community colleges rather than the state's public universities.  In recent years, the deficit has forced California to spend more on reinvestment than any other state.

But the situation in California is not unique.  As state education budgets fluctuate, so do collegiate rankings.  Stacker studied the Niche 2022 Best Colleges in America list, released on August 16, 2021, to determine which states have the highest-ranked colleges.  For this list, states are ranked in the top 250 of the Best Colleges in America rankings based on the number of schools they have.  The ties with the highest ranked school break.  Nine states—Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota and West Virginia—are not included because they had no colleges in the top 250.

Keep reading to find out where your state ranks.

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#41. New Hampshire

  • Schools in top 250: 1
  • Highest ranked school: Dartmouth College (#10 nationally ranked) 

Dartmouth College is an Ivy League institution in New Hampshire.  One of the oldest institutions of higher education in the United States, the school was founded seven full years before the United States Declaration of Independence.  According to U.S. News & World Report, Dartmouth Medical School, specifically,  One of the best in . 

#40. Delaware 

  • Schools in top 250: 1
  • Highest ranked school: University of Delaware (#144 national rank)

The small state of Delaware has eight colleges and universities, but the University of Delaware, located in Newark, is the oldest and largest university in the state.  U.S. News & World Report ranked the school's physical therapy graduate program as the best in the nation for 2020, and it was the 38th best public university in 2022.

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#39. Wyoming

  • Schools in top 250: 1
  • Highest ranked school: University of Wyoming (#207 national rank)

Wyoming is home to nine institutions of higher education.  Of these, the University of Wyoming is the only one that is a four-year degree-granting school.  The University of Wyoming has an acceptance rate of 94% and a graduation rate of 33%.

#38. Vermont

  • Schools in top 250: 1
  • Highest ranked school: Middlebury College (#32 nationally ranked)

Middlebury College has deep historical significance for America, one of the best liberal arts schools in America, the college was the first in the country to grant a black graduate, Alexander Twilight, a bachelor's degree.  Twilight will later become the country's first black state legislator.

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#37. Arizona

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Arizona State University (#150 national rank), University of Arizona (#174)

Arizona has a strong public university network, with more than 75 colleges and universities throughout the state.  Arizona State University, for example, is one of the largest public universities in the country by enrollment, and U.S. News & World Report named ASU the most innovative school in the country in 2021.

#36. Mississippi

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Mississippi State University (#154 national rank), University of Mississippi (#186)

Mississippi's schools are steeped in tradition and history, for better or worse.  Reflecting the part of the world they live in, state schools are grappling with issues of race and coming to terms with their separatist past.  In recent years, both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University have declared themselves to be "welcoming and inclusive."

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#35. Kansas

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Kansas State University (#172 national rank), University of Kansas (#204)

Like many of the colleges and universities on this list, the University of Kansas is known for its educational programs as well as athletics.  One of the top Division 1 schools, its men's basketball team regularly participates in March Madness.  Success on the court is one thing, but KU also has some impressive academics.  In 2019, US News & World Report ranked KU's city management and urban policy program the best in the country.

#34. Nebraska 

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Creighton University (#180 nationally rank), University of Nebraska - Lincoln (#188)

At 856 acres, the University of Nebraska - Lincoln boasts of a sprawling campus.  The school, which has a strong commitment to research, is also Warren Buffett's alma mater.  It is slightly below Creighton University, a private Jesuit university located in downtown Omaha.  Creighton has a 97% postgraduate success rate within six months and was one of the first schools to offer a fintech degree.

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#33. South Dakota

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Augustana University (#193 nationally ranked), South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (#199)

Augustana University is the largest private undergraduate university in South Dakota.  Sioux Falls School was ranked #10 on US News & World Report's list of Best Regional Universities in mid-2022.  Although affiliated with the Augustana Lutheran Church, it accepts students of all faiths and promotes academic integrity that is free from religious bias.

#32. Louisiana

  • Schools in the top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Tulane University (#73 nationally), Louisiana Tech University (#210)

Tulane University in New Orleans is arguably the most prestigious school in Louisiana.  Established in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana, Tulane's Medical and Law Colleges are the oldest in the country.

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#31. Rhode Island

  • Schools in the top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Brown University (#8 nationally ranked), Rhode Island School of Design (#122) 

Rhode Island is the smallest of the nation's states, but it is also the oldest and as such, it is the largest of the U.S. states.  holds an important place in history.  For example, Brown University, one of the oldest colleges in the country, was the first to admit students without considering religious affiliation. 

#30. Utah

  • Schools in top 250: 2
  • Highest ranked schools: Brigham Young University (#94 nationally ranked), University of Utah (#146)

Brigham Young University is one of the few religious schools in the niche's list of top colleges.  Owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the school has an honor code that forbids extramarital sex, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, and mandates Bible and LDS scripture study.  The school's foreign language and business programs are among the best in the country.

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#29. Oklahoma

  • Schools in Top 250: 3
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Tulsa (#118 national rank), Oklahoma State University (#136), University of Oklahoma (#156)

The University of Tulsa manages the Gilcrease Museum, which houses the world's largest collection of American Western art and Indigenous American artifacts.  Building on its tradition of conservatism, the private research university made headlines in 2018 for taking over the Bob Dylan Center.

#28. Arkansas

  • Schools in Top 250: 3
  • Highest ranked schools: Hendrix College (#151 nationally ranked), University of Arkansas (#179), Ouachita Baptist University (#213)

Arkansas is another state whose schools are known for both athletics and academics, as are the University of Arkansas and its Razorbacks.  The Agricultural University has also earned high ratings for its law and architecture programs.

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#27. Maryland

  • Schools in Top 250: 3
  • Highest ranked schools: Johns Hopkins University (#22 nationally ranked), University of Maryland - College Park (#109), Loyola University Maryland (#201)

Johns Hopkins University is not only the first center for research in the country, founded in 1876, but it is still considered one of the best today.  The university is named after its first for-profit—abolitionist and philanthropist Johns Hopkins—and its medical university is where the cardiac defibrillator was developed.

#26. Georgia

  • Schools in Top 250: 3
  • Highest ranked schools: Georgia Institute of Technology (#30 national rank), Emory University (#35), University of Georgia (#57)

Georgia's capital Atlanta is a university-dense metropolitan area.  In addition to Emory, Georgia Tech, and UGA, the city is home to Morehouse University—which is the alma mater of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.—as well as Spelman College, Clark Atlanta College, Georgia State University, Oglethorpe University, and many others. 

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#25. South Carolina 

  • Schools in Top 250: 4
  • Highest ranked schools: Clemson University (#100 national rank), Furman University (#129), University of South Carolina (#153)

South Carolina's top college, Clemson University, is ranked 30th in U.S. News & World Report's 2022 Top Public Schools rankings.  The top-tier public research university has also emerged as a football powerhouse.

#24. Alabama

  • Schools in Top 250: 4
  • Highest ranked schools: Auburn University (#140 national rank), University of Alabama - Birmingham (#191), University of Alabama (#192)

Yet another state that has colleges with strong athletics programs, Alabama is home to Auburn University and the University of Alabama.  Typically, both schools have roles in year-end bowl games.  But their soccer programs shouldn't overshadow the academic prowess of Alabama schools—Auburn University and the University of Alabama are both recognized as top public universities.

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#23. Maine

  • Schools in Top 250: 4
  • Highest ranked schools: Bowdoin College (#27 nationally ranked), Colby College (#58), Bates College (#62)

Maine is known for its liberal arts schools.  For example, Bowdoin College, which is technically 26 years older than the state, regularly ranks among the top liberal arts schools in the country.  The college has formed an athletic and library-exchange consortium with fellow Maine liberal arts schools Bates and Colby Colleges.

#22. New Jersey

  • Schools in Top 250: 4
  • Highest ranked schools: Princeton University (#5 nationally ranked), Stevens Institute of Technology (#117), Rutgers University - New Brunswick (#137)

New Jersey has the highest concentration of colonial-era schools that are still in operation, among them Princeton University and Rutgers University, which was originally called Queens College.  New Jersey has invested a large amount of money in its higher education program.  While Princeton is a founding member of the Ivy League, Rutgers is considered a public Ivy, meaning it is a top school capable of providing students with an education comparable to that of the Ivy League.

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#21. Wisconsin

  • Schools in Top 250: 4
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Wisconsin (#65 nationally ranked), Milwaukee School of Engineering (#169), Lawrence University (#195)

Like Rutgers, the University of Wisconsin—Madison—or University of Wisconsin for short—is also considered a public ivy.  The oldest university in Wisconsin, the school receives high marks for research, receiving recipients of the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics.

#20. Oregon

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: Reed College (#108 national rank), Lewis & Clark College (#155), University of Portland (#184)

If you haven't heard of Reed College, it's worth a look.  The Portland-based school is small but prestigious—according to the National Science Foundation, it ranks third among graduates who receive doctorates in the physical and social sciences, and fourth in the humanities, arts, and all other subjects.

#19. Tennessee

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: Vanderbilt University (#13 nationally ranked), Rhodes College (#141), Union University (#205)

A heritage school, Nashville's Vanderbilt University was created with a $1 million endowment from railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, despite the billionaire never going south.  The university has emerged as one of the most prestigious private schools in the region, playing an important role in the intellectual heritage of the South.

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#18. Michigan

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (#25 nationally ranked), Michigan State University (#111), Michigan Technological University (#126)

It is true that the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor has the largest college football stadium in the country.  It is also the eighth best university in the world, per Scimago.  US  One of the best research universities in the U.S., UM is also one of the most well funded.  It had a budget of more than $10 billion for the 2021-2022 academic year.

#17. North Carolina

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: Duke University (#6 nationally ranked), Wake Forest University (#45), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#47)

Another legacy school, Duke University, was founded out of the Duke Endowment, funded by tobacco industrialist James Buchanan Duke.  From 1986 to 2015, Duke had the fifth largest number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Udall Scholars in the country. 

#16. Iowa

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: Grinnell College (#60 national rank), Iowa State University (#147), University of Iowa (#149)

Iowa is home to more than 50 colleges and universities, including Grinnell College, a liberal arts school known for its high endowment, academic rigor, pursuit of social justice, and diversity.

#15. Washington

  • Schools in Top 250: 5
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Washington (#99 national rank), Whitman College (#106), Washington State University (#164)

Sometimes, a university can help a city grow, such as Seattle's University of Washington, which played a key role in developing the city's tech industry.  Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft all chose the Seattle area for their main campuses because of its proximity to the University of Washington.

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#14. Missouri

  • Schools in the top 250: 6
  • Highest ranked schools: Washington University in St. Louis (#12 nationally ranked), University of St. Louis (#128), University of Missouri (#166)

One of the best medical schools for research in the country (according to U.S. News & World Report), Washington University in St. Louis is a world-renowned research university.  The school has been at the fore of modern political discussion, hosting more presidential and vice-presidential debates than any other institution.

#13. Indiana

  • Schools in the top 250: 6
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Notre Dame (#19 national rank), Purdue University (#77), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (#97)

Any college football fan is probably familiar with the schools in Indiana.  Whether it's the Fighting Irish at the University of Notre Dame or the boilermakers at Purdue, Indiana's football prowess helps highlight the academic excellence of these schools.  An example?  Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, was a graduate of Purdue, and tradition holds: at least one person on nearly a third of NASA space flights has been a Purdue alum.

#12. Connecticut

  • Schools in the top 250: 6
  • Highest ranked schools: Yale University (#4 nationally ranked), Wesleyan University (#53), University of Connecticut (#157)

Connecticut is one of the smaller states of the Union.  Its proximity to New York City, however, places it geographically as a strategic option for students.  Take, for example, the University of Connecticut.  The school's presence in the New York City media market helped athletics attract better talent, which is reflected in the success of the school's men's and women's basketball teams.  Yukon's athletic success is highlighted by the fact that the school is recognized as Public Ivy, one of the best public universities in the country.

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#11. Minnesota

  • Schools in the top 250: 6
  • Highest ranked schools: Carleton College (#41 nationally ranked), McAllister College (#63), University of Minnesota Twin Cities (#95)

Similar to Reed College in Oregon, Carleton College in Minnesota offers a Ph.D.  Is.  factory.  The school, per 100 students, has one of the highest graduation rates for those who go on to earn a doctorate.  The top school for undergraduate teaching in 2021, Carleton College, is recognized as one of the best liberal arts schools in the country.

#10. Colorado

  • Schools in the top 250: 6
  • Highest ranked schools: Colorado School of Mines (#93 nationally ranked), Colorado College (#113), University of Denver (#198)

Colorado is a highly prosperous state that draws its wealth from both mineral extraction and its technological affiliation with the federal government.  State schools reflect this paradigm.  For example, Colorado College is a top-ranking liberal arts school, while Colorado School of Mines is one of the best regional technical schools.

#9. Illinois

  • Schools in Top 250: 8
  • Highest ranked schools: Northwestern University (#14 nationally ranked), University of Chicago (#15), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (#71)

The universities of Illinois have the distinction of being advanced in the field of learning.  The University of Chicago has created new schools of thought in architecture, sociology, economics and mathematics, while Northwestern University is a world-acclaimed research university with an endowment of $10.456 billion by 2021.

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#8. Virginia

  • Schools in Top 250: 8
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Washington & Lee (#28 nationally ranked), University of Virginia (#29), William & Mary (#56)

Virginia is known for the University of Virginia, which is considered one of the most prestigious public universities in the United States. The school, founded and designed by Thomas Jefferson, has become a template for universities around the world.

#7. Florida

  • Schools in Top 250: 11
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Florida (#48 nationally ranked), University of Miami (#61), Florida State University (#81)

U.S. News & World Report found the University of Florida to be the fifth best public university in the nation in 2022. With some of the largest single-campus universities in the country, Florida's public schools have distinguished themselves for their research and academic rigor.

#6. Ohio

  • Schools in Top 250: 11
  • Highest ranked schools: Case Western Reserve University (#72 nationally ranked), Kenyon College (#78), Ohio State University (#89)

During the United States of America, "frontier" referred to anything west of the Appalachians, including the Ohio River Valley, the Tennessee River Valley, and what we now call the Midwest. As settlers in these areas, ministers, teachers and other professionals needed to be trained. The resulting institutions would become the most prestigious schools in these states. For example, Ohio's Kenyon College and Case Western Reserve both began as ministry training facilities.

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#5. Texas

  • Schools in Top 250: 12
  • Highest ranked schools: Rice University (#7 nationally ranked), University of Texas - Austin (#52), Texas A&M University (#80)

Texas, one of the largest states in the Union by physical size, had many acres of land to provide as land grants to its universities. This allowed schools to quickly establish endowments by selling land. Many of the state's land-grant universities, such as the University of Texas, have since emerged as national research centers.

#4. Massachusetts 

  • Schools in Top 250: 18
  • Highest ranked schools: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (#1 nationally ranked), Harvard University (#2), Tufts University (#26)

Boston, Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of universities in the country. Its metropolitan area houses Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Harvard University, Tufts University and many others. A colonial city, many of these institutions are closely related to the history of the city and the country at large. 

#3. Pennsylvania

  • Schools in Top 250: 18
  • Highest ranked schools: University of Pennsylvania (#9 national rank), Carnegie Mellon University (#21), Haverford College (#34)

Home of the nation's first capital, Pennsylvania is a state steeped in history. Like, this is the U.S. Hosts some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S., such as the University of Pennsylvania, the state's contribution to the Ivy League. Due to the concentration of funds in Pennsylvania, several local endowment schools were created, such as Carnegie-Mellon University. 

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#2. New York

  • Schools in Top 250: 22
  • Highest ranked schools: Columbia University (#11 national rank), Cornell University (#17), United States Military Academy at West Point (#37)

New York is the only state to host two Ivy League schools: Cornell and Columbia University. New York is also home to the United States Military Academy at West Point, the highly acclaimed State University of the New York System, Cooper Union, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Colgate University, Syracuse University, and many other well-ranked schools. 

#1. California

  • Schools in Top 250: 27 
  • Highest ranked schools: Stanford University (#3 nationally ranked), University of Southern California (#16), Pomona College (#18)

California is a highly affluent state that pays a significant amount towards educational expenses. This is reflected in the University of California and California State University systems, which make up a significant portion of the niche's list. Other schools on the list include the University of Southern California, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, and Claremont McKenna College.

Source: Frederick Reese, Gwinnett Daily Post, Stacker, Direct News 99