If there are countries in the world that can boast of a well-established education system, the United States of America is definitely one of them. Undeniable proof of this statement is the year-to-year inclusion of its state colleges in such prestigious college rankings as the annual QS World University Rankings. Quacquarelli Symonds is a recognized leader in providing statistical services for analyzing the quality of higher education globally. Honorable international organizations highly value the company’s opinions about the academic excellence of particular schools. Today, we will tell you how it chooses the best universities around the world and share the name of a top college in every state here in the USA.
Diverse Educational Opportunities Across the States
There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, including a top college in every state. Each of the state colleges offers students a range of specializations and educational opportunities for a successful career in the future. Here is a brief overview of the various academic offerings in higher education in the US:
- Research universities. Many states have a renowned research university selection with broad academic programs in a variety of disciplines. These institutions put cutting-edge research, innovation, and advanced study in the first place.
- Liberal arts colleges. There are many liberal arts state colleges in the country that focus on a well-rounded education. These institutions honor academic excellence and prioritize critical thinking and creativity. At least one top college in every state is a liberal arts college.
- Specialized colleges. Numerous states are home to specialized schools that focus on specific fields, such as technology, the arts, business, or healthcare. These institutions offer specialized educational opportunities and expertise in their respective fields.
- Community colleges. Across the country, community colleges are a surefire way to get a two-year associate’s degree. There, students can obtain vocational training. A major bonus of these state colleges is the opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree faster and cheaper in the future.
- Online and distance learning. Academic excellence can be fostered not only through face-to-face education but also through online training. It gives students the flexibility to pursue higher education from anywhere and advance college diversity.
How state colleges shape local education systems
State colleges serve as community engagement and regional development hubs, nurturing academic excellence within their walls. These institutions often collaborate with local industry, business, and government agencies to boost economic growth and innovation in their respective regions. A top university selection with high college rankings helps foster the workforce, often by tailoring its educational opportunities to local labor market needs.
The role of community and culture in state colleges
As a center of higher education for young people, the nation’s future, state colleges are naturally closely connected to the local communities and culture. They act as a safe platform for cultural exchange, allowing their attendees to learn from each other’s experiences and traditions. In addition, public universities often participate in community service activities. When students take part in such events, they have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to society and build the spirit of civic responsibility.
Top College in Every State: Criteria for Ranking the Best Universities
There are many companies that offer ratings of a top college in every state and around the world. They all have their own methodology for their college rankings. To tell you about the criteria for ranking the top colleges state by state, we chose Quacquarelli Symonds. It is a reputable organization known for its comprehensive analysis of universities and colleges’ educational opportunities globally. In its evaluation of various schools, it relies on nine key factors.
Top college in every state: Unique features of top colleges in college rankings:
- Academic reputation. Measures the academic excellence and authority of an educational institution among scientists and experts in the field.
- Employer reputation. Reflects how employers perceive and evaluate graduates in the labor market.
- Teacher-to-student ratio. Indicates the ratio of the number of teachers to the number of students, showing class sizes and individual attention to each student.
- Number of citations per faculty. Measures the impact of the university’s research activities and scholarly contributions in college rankings.
- Ratio of international faculty. Takes into account the percentage of faculty members from different countries, which adds to the college diversity of the faculty.
- International student ratio. Indicates the proportion of students from different international backgrounds enrolled at the university selection.
- International research network. Evaluates the institution’s global research, educational opportunities, and academic connections and collaborations.
- Employment outcomes. Addresses the success of graduates in finding employment after graduation.
- Sustainability. Represents a school’s commitment to environmental sustainability and responsible practices.
Does Location Have Any Impact on University Selection?
The college rankings are primarily based on such factors as academic excellence, faculty, research, and student outcomes rather than geographic position. However, for learners, the school location is beyond important. The reason for this is the difference in tuition between in-state and out-of-state students. State colleges offer lower tuition for in-state residents. According to CollegeBoard, in 2021-2022, the average annual cost of education at public four-year colleges was $10,740 for in-state learners and $27,560 for out-of-state residents. Thus, while the location of a university may not directly affect its college rankings, it can greatly affect a student’s choice toward a top college in every state.
Top College in Every State: State-by-State Analysis of Prime Schools
In the latest QS World College Rankings for 2024, the United States shines with 198 universities featured among the best globally. To simplify the selection process, we’ve crafted a comprehensive breakdown of the top college in every state.
Alabama – Auburn University
Auburn University was founded in 1856. It is a prominent educational institution known for its academic excellence and large student body, with over 30,000 students enrolled. The university is highly regarded for its vast educational opportunities and groundbreaking research in fields such as engineering, veterinary medicine, and agricultural sciences.
Alaska – University of Alaska Fairbanks
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is the top college in the state. Among other important indicators in the top college rankings, it has the best faculty-to-student ratio and is even ranked 30th in the world by this metric. The school offers a variety of educational opportunities to its enrollees in more than 150 programs.
Arizona – Arizona State University
With a 138-year history, Arizona State University is the state’s leading university. It is known for offering quality higher education to more than 100,000 students from around the world. In addition, the college stands out for its innovative online learning programs and major research contributions in areas such as space exploration and solar energy.
Arkansas – University of Arkansas Fayetteville
In the university selection of Arkansas, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville takes the honorable first place. It offers a wide range of popular majors, including business, engineering, life sciences, health, and social sciences. Among its alumni are such prominent figures as J. William Fulbright, former US Senator, and Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State.
California – Stanford University
The top college in every state has its own strong points. For the best school in the state of California, Stanford University, this means academic excellence. This outstanding institution of higher education is ranked fifth in the world overall, third in the world for employer reputation, and second for job placement outcomes.
Colorado – University of Colorado Boulder
One of the standout features of the number one ranked university in the state of Colorado, the University of Colorado Boulder, is its exceptional research programs, particularly in aerospace engineering, environmental science, and astrophysics. The school also received high marks in the QS college rankings for its commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives.
Connecticut – Yale University
Yale University is ranked first in Connecticut for its exceptional educational opportunities and longstanding, perfect academic reputation. In addition, the school received excellent scores for employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, job placement, and sustainability.
Delaware – University of Delaware
The winner from the state of Delaware is the University of Delaware, based in Newark. It is an excellent higher education institution with more than 24,000 enrolled students. In the college rankings, its strong position in sustainability was a distinguishing characteristic.
Florida – University of Florida
One of the best public colleges in America and number one in the state of Florida is the University of Florida. The educational institution has been recognized for its international research network, which provides extensive educational opportunities for its students.
Georgia – Georgia Institute of Technology
In the university selection of the state of Georgia, Georgia Institute of Technology won. Quacquarelli Symonds particularly singled it out for its employer reputation. Among the school’s prominent alumni are such legends as former US President Jimmy Carter, astronaut John Young, and inventor Ray Tomlinson (who invented email).
Hawaii – University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
In Hawaii, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa was recognized for its outstanding educational opportunities and commitment to environmental protection.
Idaho – University of Idaho
The University of Idaho is well known for its strong programs in agriculture, natural resources, engineering, and related fields. In the college rankings 2024, it is the number one school in the state of Idaho.
Illinois – University of Chicago
With perfect scores in the academic excellence indicator, the University of Chicago took first place among all educational institutions in the state of Illinois.
Indiana – Purdue University
The top college in every state received this status for a reason. Purdue University also received the title of the #1 school in Indiana for a reason. The university is known for its strong emphasis on engineering, management, education, and pharmacy programs.
Iowa – Iowa State University
Iowa State University, a university with a 165-year history, has been named the best school in the state of Iowa in the QS college rankings.
Kansas – University of Kansas
The University of Kansas was named first among schools in the state of Kansas. QS noted its teacher-to-student ratio and international-student ratio for its college rankings.
Kentucky – University of Kentucky
In the university selection of the state of Kentucky, the University of Kentucky took first place. The school received the highest scores for the educational opportunities provided by its international research network.
Louisiana – Tulane University
Tulane University has more than 14,500 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in various academic programs. It holds the first place in the college rankings of the best schools in the state of Louisiana.
Maryland – Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University received excellent scores for the faculty-student ratio. QS also noted its commitment to academic excellence and citations per faculty.
Massachusetts – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
The winner of the ranking of the best schools in Massachusetts is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Moreover, this outstanding higher education facility is the first in the world. It received excellent scores in all indicators.
Michigan – University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
In 2024, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is the first among Michigan schools. The institution was recognized for its excellent academic and employer reputation and its strong environmental stance.
Minnesota – University of Minnesota Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is the first among the state colleges in Minnesota. The school received high marks for its international research network and sustainability.
Mississippi – Mississippi State University
As an alma mater for about 22,000 students, Mississippi State University has consistently worked to provide broad educational opportunities to all of its students. According to the QS college rankings 2024, it is the first among schools in its home state.
Missouri – Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis is the first among the schools in Missouri. The university, with a long and successful history, received high marks for its consistently strong position on environmental issues and faculty-student ratio.
Montana – University of Montana Missoula
In its 2024 college rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds named the University of Montana Missoula the best higher education institution in the state.
Nebraska – University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Just like any top college in every state, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln from Nebraska has a lot to be proud of. Founded in the 19th century, this school has faithfully provided great educational opportunities to its students for many years.
New Hampshire – Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is a top-ranked school in the state of New Hampshire. In addition to a decent academic reputation, the institution of higher education also prides itself on good employment outcomes.
New Jersey – Princeton University
An honorary member of the Ivy League, Princeton has earned the position of the top school in the state of New Jersey. It earns a perfect score for citations per faculty and near-perfect scores for the reputation of academic excellence.
New Mexico – University of New Mexico
The QS Commission ranked the University of New Mexico first among schools in the state. They recognized it for its strong commitment to research and innovation across various fields, such as medicine, environmental sciences, engineering, and others.
New York – Cornell University
Cornell University is rightfully ranked first among schools in its home state and 13th in the global 2024 college rankings, with excellent scores on all indicators.
North Carolina – Duke University
With excellent scores on indicators of academic excellence, employment outcomes, and an international research network, Duke University holds the honorable first place among schools in the state of North Carolina.
Ohio – The Ohio State University
A university with one of the greatest student bodies in the country, the Ohio State University is the best college in the state.
Oklahoma – University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma, a prominent research university, topped all competitors and took the honorable first place among Oklahoma schools for its broad educational opportunities.
Oregon – Oregon State University
Thanks to tireless work on self-improvement, Oregon State University rose from second to first place in the 2024 college rankings of the best schools in its home state.
Pennsylvania – University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania has repeatedly topped the list of the best colleges in its state, and its position has not changed this time. Moreover, for its excellent reputation for academic excellence, the school is also ranked 12th in the world among all higher education institutions.
Rhode Island – Brown University
With excellent results in terms of citations per faculty, Brown University came out on top among all schools in the state of Rhode Island.
South Carolina – University of South Carolina
In the college rankings of 2024 among South Carolina colleges, the University of South Carolina took first place. The commission recognized its outstanding educational opportunities.
Tennessee – Vanderbilt University
Established back in 1873, Vanderbilt University has continuously provided quality education to all its students. For all its merits, as a world-class institution of higher education, it has been ranked first among the colleges in the state of Tennessee.
Texas – University of Texas at Austin
A school with an excellent reputation for academic excellence, the University of Texas at Austin holds the first place among all the colleges of its home state.
Utah – University of Utah
Having received the highest scores for its consistently strong position in environmental protection and international research network, the University of Utah outperformed all other higher education institutions. It took first place in the state of Utah.
Vermont – University of Vermont
One of the oldest colleges in America, the University of Vermont was named the best school in the entire state. Each year, it provides extensive educational opportunities for more than 11,000 students.
Virginia – University of Virginia
The faculty-student ratio and international research network are the indicators in which the University of Virginia received the highest scores. QS gave it first place among Virginia schools.
Washington – University of Washington
In Washington State, the University of Washington was named the best school among all higher education institutions.
Washington DC – Georgetown University
In Washington, DC, Georgetown University took the top spot in the college rankings of the best schools. The college scores highest in international research networks and impressive employment outcomes.
West Virginia – West Virginia University
West Virginia University, the state’s flagship institution, expectedly took the top position in the ranking of the best higher education institutions in its home region.
Wisconsin – University of Wisconsin-Madison
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has won the Wisconsin best schools competition. It received a high score for its international research network and sustainability.
Wyoming – University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming ranks at the top of the list of best schools in the state. The college was especially distinguished in the categories of faculty-student ratio and citations per faculty.
Top College in Every State: Top 3 FAQs
1. What factors contribute to a college being considered the top in its state? Organizations such as Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) evaluate colleges based on several key factors. These factors include academic reputation, employer perceptions of graduates, faculty-student ratios, which affect class size and individual attention, citations per faculty member, which demonstrate research impact, diversity of faculty and students from different countries, global academic connections through research networks, graduate employment outcomes, and the institution’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.
2. How do academic programs vary across top state colleges? State colleges in the United States offer a variety of educational opportunities. Research universities prioritize innovation and in-depth study of various disciplines. Liberal arts colleges emphasize critical thinking and a well-rounded education. Specialized colleges focus on specific fields, such as technology, the arts, business, or healthcare. Community colleges offer two-year degrees and vocational training. Online and distance learning provides flexible opportunities for higher education.
3. What role does location play in the quality of state colleges? Geographical location largely does not affect the ranking of colleges based on academic factors. However, location plays a key role for students because of the difference in tuition costs for in-state and out-of-state students.