Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

by TBS Staff

Updated October 20, 2022

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For most people, a public college immediately comes to mind when considering value in higher education. The compensation for living in-state often proves a deciding factor on ROI. Public colleges and universities simply offer a great deal of education for the money. But with more than one public college in a state, finding the very best return for your college dollar may be more challenging than it first appears. That's why we're here to help.

Accredited Online Colleges

Accredited Public Colleges with the Best ROI

#1 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, Berkeley

  • Berkeley, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of California, Berkeley offers a flexible route to a college degree. Enrollees at the public institution participate in online and on-campus classes. The school offers 1% of its programs to distance learners.

At the graduate level, degree-seekers can choose from 104 master's programs, including two online programs. Both modalities offer rigorous but supportive learning environments. Faculty mentors and academic advisors work with degree-seekers to create an individualized course of study. The college offers strong career-planning resources, including career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. The school reports a 93% graduation rate for its undergraduate programs.

Prospective applicants can connect with the financial aid office to learn about internal and external funding opportunities. Currently, 63% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
43,185
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#2 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of California, Los Angeles provides flexible study to learners from all walks of life. Enrollees at the public institution participate in online and on-campus classes. 

At the graduate level, degree-seekers can choose from 107 master's degrees, with one online options. Enrollees can choose the learning format that best fits their needs and schedule. Degree-seekers work closely with faculty mentors to design an individualized course of study based on transfer credits, interests, and career goals. Learners prepare for the job market with resources like resume reviews, career workshops, and job fairs. Bachelor's degree-seekers can expect a graduation rate of 92%.

The financial aid office connects prospective applicants with internal and external funding opportunities. Typically, 61% receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
44,371
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus

  • Atlanta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus ranks among the top online colleges. Learners enrolled at the public institution participate in online and on-campus classes offered at the main campus in Atlanta. At the school, 9% of degree-granting programs offer an online option.

At the graduate level, the college offers 50 master's programs, including 11 online programs. In both modalities, enrollees benefit from rigorous coursework and supportive learning environments. Degree-seekers individualize their program by choosing concentrations, minors, and electives that match their personal and professional goals. Learners make progress toward their professional goals thanks to career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. Undergraduates report a 90% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants benefit from the financial aid office, which provides guidance on funding opportunities. According to the most recent data, 69% receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,258
Out-of-state
$31,370
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
21%
Students Enrolled
36,302
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, San Diego

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

University of California, San Diego prioritizes flexibility in its degree-granting programs. The public institution provides both on-campus and online programs from its La Jolla campus.

Both modalities provide rigorous academics and supportive learning communities. Degree-seekers can work with faculty members and their academic advisor to customize their degree path to suit their personal and professional goals. University of California, San Diego helps learners meet their professional goals through career services like workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. Undergraduate degree-seekers can expect an 87% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants can contact the financial aid office to learn about their eligibility for funding. Today, 63% of learners at the institution receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
31%
Students Enrolled
38,736
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#5 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers programs designed with busy students in mind. The public institution provides both on-campus and online programs from its Ann Arbor campus. At the school, 1% of degree-granting programs offer an online option.

Undergraduates can choose from 129 bachelor's degrees, with the option to earn an online degree in one field. The college also has 140 master's degrees, including four online options. Enrollees can choose the learning format that best fits their needs and schedule. Customization options such as electives, minors, and concentrations let degree-seekers create an individualized course of study. Career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs help learners reach their professional goals. Undergraduate degree-seekers can expect a 93% graduation rate.

The financial aid office connects enrollees with funding opportunities to help offset degree costs. Currently, 65% of enrollees receive a financial aid award.

Average Tuition
In-state
$16,212
Out-of-state
$52,669
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
48,090
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

  • San Luis Obispo, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo offers a flexible route to a college degree. From its main campus in San Luis Obispo, the public institution provides in-person and online programs. The school offers 2% of its programs to distance learners.

At the graduate level, the college offers 46 master's programs, including two online master's programs. In both modalities, the institution encourages rigorous coursework and supportive learning communities. Degree-seekers work closely with faculty mentors to customize their program based on unique interests and career goals. Learners make progress toward their professional goals thanks to career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. The school's undergraduate programs report a graduation rate of 82%.

Prospective applicants can explore their eligibility for funding opportunities to help offset degree costs. According to the most recent data, learners with financial aid make up 63% of the student body.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
28%
Students Enrolled
21,426
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#7 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

Purdue University-Main Campus

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Purdue University-Main Campus stands out for its exceptional programs. Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, the public institution grants degrees in person and online. Currently, 9% of programs offer online learning formats.

At the graduate level, the college has 81 master's degrees, including 20 online programs. Enrollees in both modalities benefit from rigorous study and supportive learning communities. Degree-seekers can work with faculty members and their academic advisor to customize their degree path to suit their personal and professional goals. Career resources include workshops, resume feedback, mock interviews, and job fairs. Undergraduates report an 82% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants can contact the financial aid office to learn more about funding opportunities. Currently, 65% of enrollees receive a financial aid award.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,208
Out-of-state
$28,010
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
60%
Students Enrolled
45,500
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

Texas A&M University-College Station

  • College Station, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Texas A&M University-College Station provides flexible study to learners from all walks of life. The public institution enrolls learners on its College Station campus and in online programs. At the school, 14% of degree-granting programs offer an online option.

Undergraduates major in 112 subjects, with the option to earn two bachelor's degrees online. The college also has 121 master's degrees, with 38 master's programs offered online. Both modalities offer rigorous academics and supportive learning environments. Degree-seekers work with faculty members and academic advisors to customize the degree based on their personal and professional goals. Texas A&M University-College Station offers career services like job fairs and workshops to help learners reach their professional goals. Undergraduate degree-seekers hold an 82% graduation rate at the school.

Prospective applicants can connect with the financial aid office to learn more about internal and external funding opportunities. The school reports that 76% of the student body receives financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,941
Out-of-state
$34,190
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
68,726
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, Irvine

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of California, Irvine stands out for its commitment to higher education. The public institution enrolls learners online and on campus. 

At the graduate level, the school offers 105 master's programs, with one program offered online. In both modalities, enrollees take rigorous classes and benefit from a supportive learning community. Degree-seekers work with faculty members and academic advisors to customize the degree based on their personal and professional goals. University of California, Irvine helps learners reach their career goals with institutional resources such as career workshops and job fairs. The school reports an 84% graduation rate for its undergraduate programs.

Prospective applicants work with financial aid advisors to identify scholarship and grant opportunities. The school reports that 63% of learners receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
36,908
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#10 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

  • Seattle, WA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Washington-Seattle Campus stands out for its exceptional programs. Enrollees at the public institution take classes on the Seattle campus and online. The school's programs include 2% which offer an online option.

Undergraduate students can choose from 245 bachelor’s programs, with two programs supported online. At the graduate level, the college offers 273 master's programs, including 10 online master's programs. Both modalities prioritize academic rigor while providing a supportive learning community. The programs offer a great deal of flexibility for degree-seekers to customize their course of study based on career goals. Learners make progress toward their professional goals thanks to career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. Undergraduate degree-seekers can expect an 84% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants connect with financial aid advisors to learn more about scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. Learners receiving financial aid make up 57% of the student body.

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,370
Out-of-state
$37,071
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
52%
Students Enrolled
47,576
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#11 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

California State University, Long Beach

  • Long Beach, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California State University, Long Beach stands out for its commitment to higher education. The public institution offers both in-person and online programs. Currently, 2% of programs offer online learning formats.

At the graduate level, the school operates 70 master's programs, three of which are offered online. Enrollees in both modalities benefit from rigorous study and supportive learning communities. Degree-seekers individualize their program by choosing concentrations, minors, and electives that match their personal and professional goals. Learners hone their skills for the job market thanks to resources like career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. As a leader in education, the college reports a 74% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants may be eligible for internal and external funding opportunities to pay for their degree. Currently, 81% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
38,674
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#12 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, Santa Barbara

  • Santa Barbara, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

University of California, Santa Barbara stands out for its exceptional programs. The public institution provides both on-campus and online programs.

Both modalities provide rigorous academics and supportive learning communities. Degree-seekers work closely with faculty mentors to design an individualized course of study based on transfer credits, interests, and career goals. Career resources include workshops, resume feedback, mock interviews, and job fairs. A leader in student success, the college boasts an 83% graduation rate.

The financial aid office connects prospective applicants with internal and external funding opportunities. The school reports that 63% of learners receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
26,314
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#13 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The flexible programs at San Diego State University appeal to learners from all walks of life. From its main campus in San Diego, California, the public institution provides in-person and online programs. Of the school's total programs 4% provide an online learning option.

Undergraduates participate in 92 bachelor's programs, including two programs with online enrollment options. At the graduate level, the school has 82 master's programs, six of which offer online enrollment. Enrollees can choose the format that matches their learning style and schedule. Degree-seekers can work with faculty members and their academic advisor to customize their degree path to suit their personal and professional goals. San Diego State University offers strong career-planning resources, including career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. As a leader in education, the college reports a 73% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants may be eligible for internal and external funding opportunities to pay for their degree. Currently, 60% of enrollees receive a financial aid award.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
34%
Students Enrolled
35,544
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#14 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Maryland-College Park

  • College Park, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The flexible programs at University of Maryland-College Park offer a variety of options for degree-seekers. The public institution offers both in-person and online programs. At the school, 1% of programs provide online enrollment options.

At the graduate level, the college offers 132 master's programs, including three online master's programs. Both modalities prioritize academic rigor while providing a supportive learning community. The programs prioritize customization to let degree-seekers design a course of study that matches their personal and professional goals. Learners hone their skills for the job market with institutional resources, including resume reviews, career counseling, and job fairs. As a leader in education, the college reports an 87% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants can contact the financial aid office to learn more about funding opportunities. Currently, 66% of enrollees use financial aid to pay for school.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,824
Out-of-state
$34,936
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
40,743
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#15 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of California, Davis

  • Davis, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The flexible programs at University of California, Davis appeal to learners from all walks of life. The public institution grants degrees in person and online.

Both modalities offer rigorous but supportive learning environments. Degree-seekers customize the program based on their personal or professional goals by coordinating with faculty mentors and academic advisors. Learners prepare for the job market with resources like resume reviews, career workshops, and job fairs. Undergraduate degree-seekers can expect an 87% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants can explore their eligibility for funding opportunities to help offset degree costs. The school reports that 66% of the student body receives financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
38,634
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#16 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Florida-Online

  • Gainesville, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online

The flexible programs at University of Florida-Online offer a variety of options for degree-seekers. From its campus in Gainesville, the public institution enrolls learners in person and online. Of the school's total programs, 100% provide an online learning option.

Undergraduates can choose from 21 bachelor's degrees. Enrollees benefit from several learning formats that fit their schedule and needs. Degree-seekers customize the program based on their personal or professional goals by coordinating with faculty mentors and academic advisors. University of Florida-Online offers career services like job fairs and workshops to help learners reach their professional goals.

Interested enrollees can connect with financial aid advisors to learn more about scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. Learners receiving financial aid make up 90% of the student body.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,358
Out-of-state
$15,000
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
3,926
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#17 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

San Jose State University

  • San Jose, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

San Jose State University appeals to students with a variety of needs. The public institution welcomes degree-seekers to its California campus while also offering online programs. Currently, 2% of programs offer online learning formats.

The college also provides 71 master’s programs, four of which are available online. Both modalities offer rigorous but supportive learning environments. The programs provide customization options such as electives and concentrations so degree-seekers can meet their personal and professional goals. San Jose State University offers career services like job fairs and workshops to help learners reach their professional goals. The school reports a 64% graduation rate for its undergraduate programs.

Prospective applicants can explore their eligibility for funding opportunities to help offset degree costs. Today, 73% of learners at the institution receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
36,085
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
35% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#18 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College stands out for its exceptional programs. Learners enrolled at the public institution take classes on the New York campus and online.

Both modalities prioritize academic rigor while providing a supportive learning community. Faculty mentors and academic advisors help degree-seekers customize the course of study based on their interests and goals. Career resources include workshops, resume feedback, mock interviews, and job fairs. At the school, the graduation rate is 70%.

The financial aid office connects enrollees with funding opportunities to help offset degree costs. The school reports that 77% of learners receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,930
Out-of-state
$14,880
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
43%
Students Enrolled
18,679
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#19 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Virginia-Main Campus

  • Charlottesville, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Virginia-Main Campus provides diverse enrollment options for degree-seekers. Learners enrolled at the public institution participate in online and on-campus classes offered at the main campus in Charlottesville. At the school, 12% of programs are available online.

Undergraduates major in 51 fields, including two online options. The college also has 72 master's degrees, including eight online options. Both modalities offer rigorous but supportive learning environments. Degree-seekers customize the program based on their personal or professional goals by coordinating with faculty mentors and academic advisors. University of Virginia-Main Campus offers career services like job fairs and workshops to help learners reach their professional goals. Bachelor's degree-seekers hold a 95% graduation rate.

Prospective applicants work with the financial aid office to create a package of aid to cover degree costs. The school reports that 57% of learners receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,970
Out-of-state
$47,833
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
24%
Students Enrolled
25,012
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#20 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

  • Minneapolis, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The flexible programs at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities appeal to learners from all walks of life. Located in Minneapolis, the public institution grants degrees in person and online. At the school, 1% of programs are available online.

The college also has 171 master's degrees, including three online options. Both modalities offer rigorous but supportive learning environments. Faculty mentors and academic advisors work with degree-seekers to create an individualized course of study. Learners benefit from institutional resources such as career workshops, mock interviews, and job fairs. The school reports a graduation rate of 83% for its undergraduate programs.

Prospective applicants can connect with the financial aid office to learn more about internal and external funding opportunities. The school reports that 81% of the student body receives financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,318
Out-of-state
$31,616
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
57%
Students Enrolled
51,327
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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