Money Magazine Names 14 Most Improved Public Colleges in the United States

The University of Georgia, San Diego State University and California State University-Long Beach are the top three in the list of most improved public colleges in the U.S. according to Money, a magazine published by Time Inc. that covers a wide range of personal and family finance topics, including investing, saving, retirement, taxes, credit, career, home improvement, and college choices.

Using data from a recent study by Education Trust, a Washington, D.C., think-tank, Money found that overall, 14 public colleges stand out as the most rapidly improving high-value colleges in the nation. According to the magazine, these colleges all currently have above-average graduation rates, have raised their graduation rates for all students by at least 10% since 2003, and have reduced the achievement gap disparities among races over that time frame.

Applying a combination of such factors as educational quality, affordability, and the financial success of graduates, Money ranks the colleges as follows:

College Money Rank Graduation Rate
1. University of Georgia 68 83%
2. San Diego State University 116 66%
3. California State University-Long Beach 121 60%
4. Ohio State University-Main Campus 134 83%
5. University at Buffalo 147 72%
6. University of Central Florida 367 67%
7. Temple University 399 66%
8. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 437 63%
9. Grand Valley State University 473 70%
10. Georgia State University 483 53%
11. Ferris State University 509 43%
12. SUNY Oneonta 525 70%
13. University of Minnesota-Morris 566 63%
14. Virginia Commonwealth University 659 57%

The Education Trust study itself found that most colleges have raised their graduation rates during the last decade, with public colleges having improved the most. According to the report, 58% of freshmen at today’s public colleges earn bachelor’s degrees within six years, almost 5-percentage points higher than the rate from a decade ago. Additionally, colleges are also generally a doing a better job of helping minority students graduate, with the graduation rates for Latino students having risen more than 7%, and for African-American students having risen more than 4%.

In the United States, most public colleges and universities are founded and operated by state governments. Currently every state has at least one public university to its name, with the largest states having thirty or more.

Public colleges and universities typically rely on state subsidies for the operating expenses although recently, more and more are turning to the private sector funding. States also generally charge higher tuition to out-of-state students at their state-run colleges and universities. For in-state students, state-run public colleges and universities are usually the most affordable option.

Money has come up with a separate list of the best public colleges and universities in the country. Using a range of factors including graduation rate, net price of a degree, average early career earnings, and “value-added graduation rate,” which it defines as the difference between a school’s “actual graduation rate and its expected rate, based on the economic and academic profile of the student body,” the Time publication has come up with its “50 Best Public Colleges” list. Here are the top 18 public schools:

College Value Added Grade Graduation Rate Net Price of a Degree
1. Maine Maritime Academy A 74% $107,422
2. University of California-Berkely A- 91% $133,549
3. University of California-Irvine A 86% $122,445
4. University of Virginia-Main Campus B+ 93% $97,028
5. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor B 90% $95,088
6. Texas A&M University B+ 79% $84,732
7. University of California-Los Angeles A- 90% $127,664
8. University of Florida B+ 85% $79,686
9. Georgia Institute of Technology-MainCampus B- 82% $111,093
10. University of California-San Diego A 86% $125,593
11. University of Washington-Bothell Campus A 64% $126,983
12. University of North Carolina School of the Arts A- 60% $90,971
13. University of California-Davis A 81% $138,499
14. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill B- 90% $85,955
14. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University B+ 83% $116,759
15. Virginia Military Institute B- 71% $93,957
16. University of Maryland-College Park B- 84% $98,685
16. University of Washington-Seattle Campus B+ 82% $117,203
17. Massachusetts Maritime Academy B+ 71% $96,870
18. James Madison University B+ 81% $100,385

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