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Top 52 Colleges with Campus Free Speech Zones

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Great Value Colleges - Top Free Speech Zones-01Gabrielle Kratsas
April 2018

The issue of colleges and universities having free speech zones on their campuses has bubbled to the surface in today’s tumultuous political environment, especially after incidents like right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos costing the famously liberal UC Berkeley way too much money in security to offer its students a substance-lacking speech. And then there’s all of the stirring Richard Spencer has attributed to by asserting his own campus speech ‘tour’ through the University of Florida and soon Michigan State University, which is scheduled for this March.

In its January 2018 “Policy Matters” higher education brief, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities included campus free speech as No. 9 out of its “Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2018.” It explains how public college and university budgets are dependent on this shaky political climate. The upcoming midterm elections aren’t promising as far as opportunities for investing in state services. As college campuses remain “political hotbeds,” many conservatives argue that university leaders aren’t doing enough to protect free speech. They say that campuses with “zones” where public speaking must be contained are violating our right to freedom of speech.

One may wonder, “Shouldn’t the entire campus be a free speech zone?” But that depends on who you ask.

In the name of education, colleges implement free speech zones and policies with the goal of keeping the campus environment stable and focused on education. Many of these restrictive codes date back to the Vietnam era protests. Over the years, many universities have updated their policies. Some students might agree that they are spending a lot of money on college and they’d prefer to have the choice of not allowing public upheaval disrupt their education. Others might argue that the unhindered voices of both our comrades and opponents add to the rounded educational experience.They have the First Amendment as their foundation.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) believes that “too many universities — in policy and in practice — chill, censor, and punish students’ and faculty members’ expressive activity” through their campus speech policies. FIRE examined “the state of free speech on our nation’s campuses” by surveying the campus speech codes of the 461 colleges and universities in its Spotlight database.  The research focused primarily on public institutions because “public universities are legally bound to protect students’ right to free speech and can be successfully sued in court when they do not.”

We chose to highlight the 52 colleges that FIRE found to still have free speech zones on their campuses. We ranked them according to features that, in our opinion, make them more desirable as a college or university. These include:

  • Student Retention
  • Net Cost
  • The Number of Academic Areas Offered
  • Overall Graduation Rate
  • Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid
  • The Student-Faculty Ratio
  • Admissions Rate

We also included the retention rate amongst those utilizing military/veteran benefits, only because we expect military members to lean a little more right than the average student.

The methodology for our point system is explained below. In the case of schools earning the same number of points, those with the lower net costs earned the better rank. We used the numbers each school reported to the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database when considering our ranking. However, if a school offered more up-to-date numbers on its website, we included those in our scoring process. The number of academic areas was gathered from each school’s website.

The point system we used in our ranking works as follows:

  • Affordability: Net Cost is less than $10,000 (3 points), less than $15,000 (2 points), less than $20,000 (1 point)
  • Student Retention Rate: 90-100% (3 points), 80-89% (2 points), 70-79% (1 point)
  • Military/Veteran Student Retention Rate: 90-100% (3 points), 80-89% (2 points), 70-79% (1 point)
  • Admissions Rate: 90-100% (3 points), 80-89% (2 points), 70-79% (1 point)
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 10:1 or less (3 points), 11:1 to 15:1 (2 points), 16:1 to 19:1 (1 point)
  • Overall Graduation Rate: 80-100% (3 points), 70-79% (2 points), 60-69% (1 point)
  • Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 95-100% (3 points), 90-94% (2 points), 85-89% (1 point)
  • Number of Available Academic Areas 200+ (3 points), 150-199 (2 points), 100-149 (1 point)

52. University of West Georgia in Carrollton, GA

At the University of West Georgia, students can choose from 88 different fields of study.
Points: 5
Net Cost: $14,285

Founded in 1906, the University of West Georgia is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research university 45 miles west of Atlanta. The rural 645-acre campus has more than 13,500 students and a 20:1 student-faculty ratio. It’s  accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. UWG awards financial aid to 94 percent of its students.  Its most popular undergraduate majors are biology, psychology, management, early childhood education and mass communications.
Neat Things On Campus: More than 150 student organizations; plans for a new, state-of-the-art student health center; a 50-foot rock climbing wall; an apartment-style living complex with an indoor gym for upperclassmen; Food Truck Wednesdays; Starbucks and Chick-fil-A; and a game room that features air hockey, billiards, table tennis, foosball,  video games for XBOX ONE, PS4, Wii U, and numerous cards and board games.

51. Valdosta State University in Valdosta, GA

Valdosta State University is comprised of students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and more than 60 countries.
Points: 6
Net Cost: $14,573

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Valdosta State University is a public institution in the University System of Georgia. It’s in the heart of South Georgia on a campus with palm trees, oaks and fountains. Opened in 1913, VSU has about 11,200 students, 91 percent of whom receive financial aid. Students can choose from 100+ majors and degree programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.
Neat Things On Campus: In-state tuition for undergraduate students who reside in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama; a 15-minute distance from the Florida state line; 200+ student organizations and activities; nine residence halls; a rock climbing wall and new functional training room; the VSU Planetarium; a trail to and through Drexel Park that starts near the Fine Arts Gallery; 12 dining options.

50. Bemidji State University in Bemidji, MN

Bemidji State University ranks lower in the numbers, but the lakeside location and underground tunnel system of this beautiful campus, make it unique.
Points: 6
Net Cost: $14,334

Opened in 1919, Bemidji State University is a public state university where its 5,300+ students enjoy a picturesque location along the western shore of Lake Bemidji. They have the choice of over 65 undergraduate majors and pre-professional programs. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Bemidji offers NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey, as well as unique degree programs like creative and electronic writing, aquatic biology and Indian studies.
Neat Things On Campus: An American Indian Resource Center; rentable kayaks, canoes, pontoons, sailboats, mountain bikes, camping equipment, snowshoes, ice fishing gear and cross country skis; a 240-acre forest and marshland serving as an outdoor laboratory; and a tunnel system that connects the major campus facilities, allowing students to walk to class in t-shirts and flip flops year round.

49. University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL

The University of West Florida prides itself on being one of the most military friendly colleges. Its military/veteran student retention rate is 89 percent.
Points: 6
Net Cost: $11,175

Established in 1963, the University of West Florida is a mid-sized public university with a 1,600-acre campus in the panhandle of Florida. It has almost 13,000 students, and more than  70 degree programs. UWF students can work toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as specialist degrees and a doctorate in education.
Neat Things On Campus: A special tuition rate for Alabama residents; close proximity to some of America’s most beautiful beaches along the Gulf and less than four hours from New Orleans; two additional campuses, UWF Emerald Coast and Historic Pensacola, which includes properties like museums, centers, monuments and sites, all serving as living laboratories; and 25 miles of nature trails.

48. California State University, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA

Cal State LA is one of the cheapest colleges on this list with a net cost under $4,000.
Points: 6
Net Cost: $3,933

Founded in 1947, California State University, Los Angeles is a public comprehensive university in the heart of LA. It recently converted from the quarter calendar to semesters in 2016. The National Science Foundation named CSULA the No. 1 supplier of Latino science and engineering Ph.D. recipients in the continental U.S.
Neat Things On Campus: Fewer than 50 students in 90 percent of its classes; more than 5,000 trees around campus and 140+ types of plants in the Biological Sciences building greenhouses; 100 outdoor benches and almost 7,500 parking spaces; the only college campus Metrolink rail station in Southern California (and one of the busiest); and the West Coast’s first Center for Environmental Analysis (CEA-CREST), funded by the National Science Foundation.

47. Salem State University in Salem, MA

The five most popular majors at Salem State University are business, nursing, psychology, biology and criminal justice.
Points: 7
Net Cost: $16,556

Established in 1854, Salem State University is a four-year public university offering bachelor’s and master’s degree programs on a waterfront campus just 15 miles north of Boston. More than 34 percent of the Salem State freshman class in 2016 were students of color. The student/faculty ratio is 15:1 and the overall graduation rate is 52 percent.
Neat Things On Campus: An on-campus elementary school that education students can utilize within their degree program; six residence halls on three of the five campuses; 16 different dual degree programs that allow undergraduates to get their master’s degree in less time; the most diversity on a campus within the Commonwealth; and almost 760,000 square feet of new construction and renovations including the Berry library, that has more than 1,000 study seats and 150+ computer workstations.

46. Auburn University at Montgomery in Montgomery, AL

The Princeton Review named Auburn University at Montgomery one of the best colleges in the Southeast.
Points: 7
Net Cost: $14,518

Founded in 1967, Auburn University at Montgomery is a smaller public university  accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It offers small class sizes in more than 90 different fields of study. About 10-15 percent of students live on campus, which is a short drive to the Montgomery Zoo and iconic Riverwalk.
Neat Things On Campus: Fun annual events with free food and activities like SpringFest and AUMFest; an indoor rock wall; and free parking.

45. California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, CA

California State University Channel Islands offers students more than 30 innovative academic programs, like Chicana/o studies, at the undergraduate, graduate and certificate levels.
Points: 7
Net Cost: $14,461

The youngest of the 23 schools in the CSU system, California State University, Channel Islands opened in 2002. It’s accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is just 10 minutes from the beach and one hour from Los Angeles. About 59 percent of the 7,000+ students at CSUCI are first-generation college students. Eighty-one percent of the first-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees enjoy campus enough to return the following year.
Neat Things On Campus: A scenic location in the Long Grade Canyon; an iconic Bell Tower consisting of 1930s Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival buildings with tiled fountains and courtyards; a rooftop garden terrace; a newly expanded Islands Cafe residence dining with fresh farm-to-table food stations; and the Channel Islands Boating Center that offers free water sport classes.

44. California State University San Marcos in San Marcos, CA

Cal State San Marcos is a smaller campus that offers a variety of degree programs, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from San Diego.
Points: 7
Net Cost: $8,985

Located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city, California State University San Marcos is a public comprehensive university offering 60+ degree and credential programs.These include the arts and music, humanities, natural and applied natural sciences, education, business and health professions. CSUSM enrolls over 14,000 students. It’s fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and offers one joint doctoral program with UC San Diego. The average financial aid package is $10, 488.
Neat Things On Campus: Deluxe on-campus housing complete with full kitchens, bathrooms, a resort-style pool and cycling studio (the campus-affiliated housing comes with flat-screen TVs in each room); a Starbucks and Jamba Juice; over 130 students organizations; and a 20-minute proximity to LEGOLAND California.

43. University of North Carolina at Pembroke in Pembroke, NC

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is known as one of the most diverse colleges in the nation.
Points: 8
Net Cost: $10,566

Founded in 1887, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke is the nation’s only four-year public institution founded by American Indians for American Indians. It has a 90 percent job and grad school placement of students within 12 months of graduation. UNCP offers its 6,000+ students the choice of 58 undergraduate and graduate majors. It has a 16:1 student-faculty ratio and a 74 percent admissions rate.
Neat Things On Campus: The Museum of the Southwest American Indian; an average class size of 20 students; 90+ clubs and organizations; a greenhouse; a remotely accessible dome observatory with a 16” telescope; a picturesque waterfront Quad; a new BraveHealth Center with an outdoor serenity garden; a multi-million dollar nursing simulation lab; and five residence halls.

42. University of West Alabama in Livingston, AL

The University of West Alabama is set in one of the smallest college towns on this list, but the campus offers a number of activities to keep students busy.
Points: 8
Net Cost: $13,545

Founded in 1835, the University of West Alabama is a comprehensive public university with more than half of its 5,000+ students learning online. This could explain the 100 percent retention rate amongst military and veteran students who utilize their benefits. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UWA has a 17:1 student-teacher ratio, and 93 percent of students receive some financial aid.
Neat Things On Campus: Priority housing based on cumulative grade point average and credit hours earned; six housing options, but all new freshmen are housed together in Gilbert Hall; 90+ fields of study at five different colleges; Lake LU and the lakefront baseball field; the Black Belt Museum; and the UWA Campus School, home to eight full-time working classrooms in the Julia S. Tutwiler College of Education where students get hands-on experience.

41. University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, NC

Unique features exist on campus at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, like a movie lot in the School of Filmmaking.
Points: 8
Net Cost: $13,452

Founded in 1963, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a public arts conservatory offering high school programs as well as undergraduate and graduate degree programs. It has an incredibly intimate 7:1 student-faculty ratio. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UNCSA has more than 1,300 students enrolled. It has a 54 percent admissions rate, an 85 percent student retention rate and a 62 percent overall graduation rate.
Neat Things On Campus: An event occurring almost every day; a School of Design Production, including one of the best costume design programs in the country, according to Hollywood Reporter; 11 performance and screening spaces; a spectrum of programs unmatched by any other public or private schools; a mascot that is a fighting pickle; an incredibly collaborative community amongst students within the different schools; eight residence halls, two of which are reserved for high school students; 30 baccalaureate areas of study; and a partnership with The Sundance Institute.

40. Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Louisiana University has been recognized as the top U.S. Region VI SBDC for “Excellence and Innovation.”
Points: 8
Net Cost: $10,850

Created in 1925, Southeastern Louisiana University is a state-funded public university with a 20:1 student-faculty ratio and almost 15,000 students.  Over offers more than  152 majors, minors and concentrations at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Ranked among the top 60 nationwide universities for return on tuition investment by Affordable Colleges Online, SLU is the state’s third-largest public university.
Neat Things On Campus: A number of promising safety measures that have earned the school a “safest campus” ranking; 365 acres in a small town just 45 minutes from New Orleans and Baton Rouge; 12 residential facilities, 130+ student organizations and 15 athletics teams; a shortened work week in the name of sustainability; a beautiful “Friendship Oak” and a virtual trading room in a Finance Technology Lab.

39. Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth City State University is one of the smallest colleges on this list, which results in its intimate student-faculty ratio of 13:1.
Points: 8
Net Cost: $3,156

A public, historically black college founded in 1891, Elizabeth City State University is the cheapest college on this list according to its NCES-reported net cost. ECSU is a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina. It offers baccalaureate, professional and master’s degree programs to fewer than 1,500 students, 97 percent of which receive some financial aid.
Neat Things On Campus: A waterfront location at the narrows of the Pasquotank River, near the well-known Outer Banks beaches; Bias Hall, a historic three-level residence hall built back 1938; six bowling lanes in the campus alley; a golf driving range; a $26 million, glass and steel Pharmacy Complex, fully equipped with facilities like the IV simulation and compounding labs; and 639 acres of land in the Great Dismal Swamp where ECSU constructed a half-mile-long Boardwalk and Observation Tower.

38. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in North Dartmouth, MA

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth awards financial aid to 93 percent of its students.
Points: 9
Net Cost: $16,898

One of five operating subdivisions of the University of Massachusetts, the UMass Dartmouth is a Tier 1 National Research University. It’s located in southeastern Massachusetts on a 710-acre campus with almost 8,700 students. Chartered in 1895, UMassD is accredited by the NEASC, among other specialized organizations. It offers 84 undergraduate, 33 master’s, 13 doctoral and 46 certificate programs.
Neat Things On Campus: Campus extension locations in Dartmouth, Fall River, Fairhaven and New Bedford; 160+ student clubs and organizations; a School of Law (2010); the Leading By Example State Higher Education Award for commitment to clean energy and environmental practices; the Claire T. Carney Library, recognized for excellence in architectural design and library planning; the 400-MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility; a dual-source single-crystal x-ray diffractometer; the Pennington SimLab for student nurses; 14 residence halls; and the UMassD New England Proximity Program, which offers a special tuition rate for all full-time undergraduates who reside in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

37. Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD

Frostburg State University offers a number of high-ranking online degree programs like the fully online nursing degree program for undergraduates.
Points: 9
Net Cost: $13,208

An institution of the University System of Maryland, Frostburg State University opened in 1902. It’s home to 5,600+ students, 47 undergraduate majors, 13 master’s degree programs and one doctorate program. FSU is a Lead Consulting Institution, mentoring other schools in building student leadership. It has a 100 percent retention rate for students utilizing military/veteran benefits.
Neat Things On Campus: A tightly knit small town location on 260 acres in the beautiful Appalachian highlands of Western Maryland; a food court with sushi; an NPR-affiliate radio station; free on-campus parking; a planetarium and rooftop observatory; and the Compton Science Center, which is fully equipped with a greenhouse, a herbarium, a centrifuge, electron microscopes, a wind tunnel and the Natural History Museum at FSU.

36. East Carolina University in Greenville, NC

East Carolina University is one of the most diverse colleges on this list, earning five consecutive Higher Education Excellence in Diversity awards from Insight into Diversity magazine.
Points: 9
Net Cost: $12,817

Founded in 1907, East Carolina University is a public doctoral university. It enrolls more than 29,000 students, 43 percent of whom were enrolled in a STEM or healthcare program in 2016. ECU is North Carolina’s leader when it comes to getting a degree online. It offers more than 40 online degree programs, including the only program in which educators can earn their doctorate in educational leadership online in just three years (with dissertation).
Neat Things On Campus: The largest research library in Eastern North Carolina with more than 3 million books; unique features like the Ground Cloud, a 12-foot circle of mist rising upward from the sidewalk, the Media Glockenspiel (a multimedia clock tower) and the Sonic Gates with motion-triggered speakers that play for passersby; a large residential “neighborhood” called College Hill; and one of the nation’s top collegiate baseball facilities.

35. Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR

Arkansas State University offers students more than 150 degree programs, and 94 percent of students receive some kind of financial aid.
Points: 9
Net Cost: $12,310

Founded in 1909, Arkansas State University is a public, doctoral-level research institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It’s the state’s second-largest university by enrollment with 14,085 total students, but just over 2,800 live on-campus.
Neat Things On Campus: The NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (the state’s first osteopathic medical school); a 40-acre Equine Center; rugby fields; and the Bill and Alice Nix Petting Zoo, which has featured sheep, miniature donkeys and horses, deer, ducks, chickens, pigs, llamas, calves, turkeys, cats, dogs, goats, rabbits and more.

34. Cameron University in Lawton, OK

Cameron University has made more than $60 million in capital improvements to campus over the past years, including construction of things like the Center for Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies and the 2.6-acre Bentley Gardens.
Points: 9
Net Cost: $9,093

Created in 1908 as an agricultural high school, Cameron University is now a state-funded university. It offers nearly 50 associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. It has 5,000+ students  in Lawton and its branch campus in Duncan. It’s the largest four-year institution in Southwest Oklahoma. Cameron consistently ranks in U.S. News & World Report’s “Least Debt” category, and it has an open admission policy.
Neat Things On Campus: “The Cameron University Guarantee,” meaning Cameron will provide additional, free education for any graduate whose employer identifies a deficiency in core employment areas; more endowed faculty positions than any other regional university in the state; a “Healthy Campus” certification from the Oklahoma State Department of Health; and an 18-hole disc golf course, which winds throughout the campus.

33. University of Colorado Boulder in Boulder, CO

In 2015, Forbes ranked the University of Colorado Boulder as the second most innovative tech hub in the country.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $22,727

University of Colorado Boulder is one of the 34 public research universities belonging to the Association of American Universities. It has an 87 percent student retention rate, 31,000+ students and more than 700 student veterans utilizing the GI Bill. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, CU Boulder is the top public university recipient of NASA research awards. Since 1994, 92 new companies have been based on CU Boulder Technologies.
Neat Things On Campus: A scenic and outdoor-opportunity-rich location along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains; a 91 percent placement rate of graduates into jobs, military service or graduate schools; 2,000+ undergraduates directly involved with faculty research; almost 1,300 invention patents since 2006; 400+ student clubs and organizations; the highest graduate four-year rate among Colorado public universities; five Nobel laureates and eight MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellows; 22 campus residence halls; one of the oldest business schools in the U.S.; the nation’s largest geotechnical centrifuge;  a wind-energy-powered Rec Center that contains an ice arena and indoor turf; an outdoor theater; and the Fiske Planetarium and Science Center with a 65-foot diameter dome.

32. Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, IL

Northern Illinois University offers it students the choice of 57 different undergraduate majors, 69 graduate programs and a law program that ranks fourth in the state for student success on the Bar Exam.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $19,782

Chartered in 1895, Northern Illinois University is a public research university. It has a 756-acre main campus, additional campus locations, seven degree-granting colleges, and over 19,000 enrolled students. The student- faculty ratio is 13:1. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, NIU ranks in Payscale.com’s top third of “Colleges Worth Your Investment.” It’s among the top 10 in Illinois for both in- and out-of-state tuition.
Neat Things On Campus: Several art museums; an “all-you-care-to-eat” dining hall; more than 220 student organizations; a Latino Resource Center, a Center for Black Studies and an Asian American Center; a student-run restaurant; a cluster living lifestyle residence option for groups of 12 students; and the Davis Hall observatory, which overlooks the East Lagoon.

31. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Edwardsville, IL

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s retention rate for first-year full-time students is 72 percent, but the retention rate amongst those utilizing military benefits is 100 percent.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $15,360

Established in 1957, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is a public university about 20 miles north of St. Louis. It consists of 2,660 acres of woodland set atop the bluffs, overlooking the Mississippi River’s bottom land. Home to more than 14,000 students, SIUE has extended campuses in Alton and East St. Louis. These offer schools of dental medicine, pharmacy, nursing and engineering. The latter offers eight undergraduate degrees, five master’s degrees and two cooperative doctoral programs.
Neat Things On Campus: A Campus Violence Prevention Plan and campus safety app called Rave Guardian; in-state tuition to undergraduates from all 50 states; a recently completed $300 million construction and infrastructure improvement plan; a 120-foot wind turbine, 140 solar panels, more than 17,500-square-feet of green roof space, 35 acres of gardens and a 380-acre Nature Preserve; and a robotics lab, 3D printing, wind tunnel, structural materials lab and a hydraulics and fluid mechanics lab in the new Engineering Building.

30. Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA

About 25 percent of students at Old Dominion University are military affiliated, and those utilizing military/veteran benefits have a retention rate of 78 percent.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $15,218

Old Dominion University is a public research university with three locations and 100+ online programs. It offers 274 different academic programs, including 22 doctoral programs. The more than 24,500 students represent 180 foreign countries. Located along the Elizabeth River, ODU has 14 residence halls and more than 300 student clubs and organizations.
Neat Things On Campus: 17 different dining locations; a two-story rock climbing wall; two fitness facilities on the opposite ends of campus; the Pretlow Planetarium; a five-foot $150,000 OmniGlobe; a high level of diversity; and The Arthur & Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory with almost 3,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

29. University of Montana in Missoula, MT

The University of Montana is one of the most beautiful college campuses in the fall.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $13,894

Established in 1893, the University of Montana is a public research university. It has  more than 13,000 students at Missoula College, UMT’s two-year unit, and its tree-studded campus, located at the base of Mount Sentinel. An affiliation of four other institutions around the state, UMT has a 92 percent admissions rate and a 16:1 student-teacher ratio. It offers 174 academic programs and professional programs in law, pharmacy and physical therapy.
Neat Things On Campus: A 56-acre main campus, a 180-acre South Campus and two sites occupied by Missoula College, which are equipped with facilities like a cadaver lab, cybersecurity center and student-built modular homes; 150+ student organizations; a golf course; the Four Bear Program, which guarantees graduation within four years; the most Udall Scholars in the nation; a 100 percent placement rate upon graduation for culinary arts students;  the indoor climbing gym with 7,000 square feet of climbing surface area, 50 feet of vertical ascent and a bouldering cave; the Payne Family Native American Center; a music building designed in the shape of a grand piano; the first World Trade Center to exist on a university campus; the 28,000-acre Lubrecht Experimental Forest; and the Zoological Museum with over 18,000 bird and mammal specimens.

28. Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, MN

Saint Cloud State University has about 250 student clubs and organizations, as well as NCAA athletics.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $13,582

Founded in 1869, Saint Cloud State University is a comprehensive public university located on a 100-acre campus along the Mississippi River . It has more than 15,000 students, 200 different academic programs and study abroad opportunities on six continents. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, SCSU has an average retention rate of 69 percent, but its retention of military/veteran students is 84 percent.
Neat Things On Campus: A unique location between downtown St. Cloud and the Beaver Islands, a group of 30+ islands that form a natural maze for two miles down the river; nearly every available national accreditation; meteorology and graphic information systems degree programs; the Bridges, a scenic exercise route, as well as three other walking/biking trails; Central Minnesota’s premier indoor climbing facility with more than 2,100 square feet of climbing surface; and the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center that includes two Olympic-size hockey rinks.

27. Eastern Washington University in Cheney, WA

At Eastern Washington University, students get to enjoy 12 fraternities, 10 sororities, 90 intramural club sports and hundreds of student organizations on campus.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $12,397

Eastern Washington University is a regional, comprehensive public university with its main 300-acre parklike campus in Cheney. Degree programs are offered at locations in Bellevue, Everett, Seattle, Shoreline, Spokane, Tacoma and Vancouver. EWU is the state’s fastest-growing public institution. It has 12,000+ students, a 21:1 student-faculty ratio, a 95 percent admissions rate and 143 areas of study, including a doctorate in physical therapy.
Neat Things On Campus: A short distance from 20 lakes, beautiful mountains and the Turnbull National Wildlife refuge; a $26.3 million Recreation Center, which houses a NHL-size hockey rink, climbing wall, sports courts and fitness center; the nation’s first-ever red synthetic turf; and a bachelor’s degree program in data analytics, making it the only university in the country to have the Microsoft Professional Program integrated with a degree.

26. University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, GA

The University of North Georgia is one of only six senior military colleges in America, and it has a 92 percent retention rate amongst military and veteran students.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $9,608

Created in 2013 through a merger of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College, the University of North Georgia is the state’s seventh-largest public university. It offers more than 100 programs of study to its 18,700+ students across five campuses. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UNG has a 65 percent acceptance rate and campuses in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee.
Neat Things On Campus: A designation as a State Leadership Institution and The Military College of Georgia (the Corps of Cadets); a dual-enrollment program for high school students through the Blue Ridge campus; a location in the fastest-growing region of the state; six colleges and the Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA), a National Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences; student representation of 97 different countries; a 33-foot high rock climbing wall; the 145-year-old historic Price Memorial Building with a real gold steeple; a picturesque view of the Blue Ridge Mountains; patient simulation labs, a planetarium and a cadaver lab; air hockey and pool tables in some residence hall common areas; and a drill field that, out of tradition, is not allowed to be used as a shortcut.

25. California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA

CSU Dominguez Hills may be harder to get into than some schools on this list, but the retention rate amongst military and veteran students is 100 percent.
Points: 10
Net Cost: $3,297

Located on a park-like 346-acre campus in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, California State University Dominguez Hills is another public state university in the CSU system. Established in 1960, it ranks 8th in the nation for the number of liberal arts degrees awarded to Hispanic students. About 92 percent of its nearly 15,000 students receive some financial aid, making CSUDH’s net cost very affordable.
Neat Things On Campus: The 2015 Governor’s Award for Innovation in Higher Education; an All-Steinway School designation; the only state-funded entry-level occupational therapy master’s program in California; a Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE) that hosts an annual Women in STEM Conference; and the 125-acre StubHub Center, an “Official U.S. Olympic Training Site.”

24. The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ

According to the U.S. Department of Education, The College of New Jersey has the sixth-highest four-year graduation rate among public colleges and universities.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $22,421

Established in 1855, The College of New Jersey is a public university. It offers a strong liberal arts core through its schools in:

  • arts and communication
  • health and exercise science
  • humanities and social sciences
  • business
  • education
  • engineering
  • nursing
  • science

TCNJ has 94 percent and 100 percent retention rates among full-time and military students, respectively. It enrolls about 7,400 students, has a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and an impressive 87 percent overall graduation rate.
Neat Things On Campus: 289 tree-lined acres in suburban Ewing Township, just one hour from New York City and Philadelphia; more than 200 campus organizations; 10 micro-restaurants; an annual Funival with real carnival rides; The David Sarnoff Collection with over 6,000 artifacts that document major developments in communication and electronics in the 20th century; more than 50 liberal arts and professional programs; two campus lakes; residential housing with amenities like a game room with a flatscreen and a drawing room with a fireplace; and the new $120 million Campus Town, a mixed-use housing project with retail spaces and luxury apartment living, which was 100 percent privately funded.

23. Southern Illinois University Carbondale in Carbondale, IL

About 95 percent of students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale receive some financial aid.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $17,149

Founded in 1869, Southern Illinois University Carbondale is a public university with a Carnegie Classification of High Research Activity. It has a 15:1 student-faculty ratio and over 17,000 total students. The flagship university of the SIU system, SIU Carbondale is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers more than 200 academic programs at the certificate, associate, baccalaureate, graduate and doctoral levels.
Neat Things On Campus: The only bachelor’s degree in equine science among Illinois public universities and a 50-animal equine center; the Rehabilitation Institute, one of the largest most comprehensive university-based programs of its kind in the U.S.; 3,100 acres along Little Grassy Lake, now named the Touch of Nature Environmental Center, which became one of the first camps in the nation for people with disabilities; and move-in day volunteers who help you lug your belongings into the dorms.

22. Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL

Florida State University is among the top six colleges with the highest graduation rates on this list, and according to U.S. News & World Report, it’s No. 2 nationally in efficiently providing academic quality.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $16,506

Founded in 1851, Florida State University is the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state. It currently reigns as a Carnegie Commission-classified doctoral university with the “Highest Research Activity.” The more than 41,000 students come from every county in Florida, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 130 different countries. It offers 351 different degree programs and what seems like endless research opportunities.
Neat Things On Campus: The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, funded by the National Science Foundation,  holds the most world records for the most powerful magnets on Earth; other research centers like the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy’s Center for Advanced Power Systems; one of the largest collegiate marching bands in the country; eight libraries; more than 750 registered student organizations; and the FSU Flying High Circus, one of only two collegiate circuses in the country.

21. Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ

About 5,200 students live on-campus at Montclair State University, which has an 83 percent retention rate and 65% overall graduation rate.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $15,131

Founded in 1908, Montclair State University is a public research institution offering more than 300 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral-level programs to its 21,000 students. Located on a 252-acre suburban campus just 12 miles from New York City, Montclair was the state’s first institution to offer multiple doctoral programs. Forbes dubbed it “New Jersey’s best public university”.
Neat Things On Campus: A student representing Brazil in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in figure skating; a new 2,000-bed student residence and dining complex; a “Top Gap Closer” designation from the U.S. Education Trust for increasing graduation rates for minority students; a 24-hour diner; weekly and monthly bike rentals; and a train station that takes students directly from campus to Manhattan.

20. University of Illinois at Chicago in Chicago, IL

The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the nation’s largest urban colleges, and it’s the largest university in the Chicago area.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $11,571

Formed in 1982, the University of Illinois at Chicago is Chicago’s sole public research university and the largest university in the area. It offers its 30,000 students 15 colleges and the Hospital & Health Sciences System. It has an 80 percent student retention rate and a 58 percent overall graduation rate. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UIC offers 86 bachelor’s, 99 master’s, 65 doctoral degree programs, and 53 certificate programs. It has as an 18:1 student-teacher ratio.
Neat Things On Campus: A Disability Resource Center, ensuring accessibility on campus; a federal designation as a Minority Serving Institution; bike-sharing stations; three nearby rail stations; the Great Cities Institute; the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; the Tutorium for Intensive English for international students; 10 residence halls; a modern Student Recreation Facility, which includes a leisure pool, lazy river, 42-foot climbing wall and a fitness center overlooking downtown Chicago; the Atkins and UIH Prairie gardens; and Project Oasis, a program which has transformed 30+ underutilized campus spaces into informal learning environments, placing emphasis on lighting, acoustics and ergonomics.

19. Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX

Texas Woman’s University is the largest university in America primarily for women.
Points: 11
Net Cost: $8,881

Texas Woman’s University is a public, primarily women’s university offering campus locations in Denton, Dallas and Houston. Its 15,600+ students can earn degrees in nursing, health sciences, education, the arts and sciences and business. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, TWU is the No. 1 college in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for graduate earnings v. cost. Students can choose from 100+ undergraduate and 50+ graduate degree programs.
Neat Things On Campus: A highly praised level of diversity; a Texas Pond containing large turtles; a high campus safety ranking by BestColleges.com; the Dallas Center campus, which is in the heart of Southwestern Medical District surrounded by four hospitals; more than 140 student organizations; nine different dining options; an 18-hole golf course and rock climbing wall; a greenhouse; and a sculpture to honor recycling.

18. Auburn University in Auburn, AL

About 82 percent of military and veteran students utilizing their benefits at Auburn University thought the school was worth returning to.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $21,698

Established in 1856, Auburn University is a large public research university set on 1,841 lush acres. With a total enrollment of 28,290, this SACS-accredited university is also home to more than 300 student clubs and organizations. It also has a 233,000-strong alumni network.
Neat Things On Campus: The first-class, public Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve and Nature Center and outreach program of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences; the 14-acre public Donald E. Davis Arboretum; and the American Alliance of Museums-accredited Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art with seven dynamic galleries, an auditorium, a café, a gift shop and landscaped walking paths.

17. Keene State College in Keene, NH

Keene State College has a 75 percent student retention rate and a 63 percent overall graduation rate.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $18,647

A member of the University System of New Hampshire and of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, Keene State College offers 42+ areas of study. It also offers study abroad, individualized majors and an 83 percent admissions rate. For first-year students who are New Hampshire residents and eligible for the Pell Grant, Keene’s Granite Guarantee will completely cover the cost of full-time tuition (12 credits minimum) for four years.
Neat Things On Campus: A 170-acre location bordered by the Ashuelot River; the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery and the smaller Carroll House Gallery; a 15:1 student-faculty ratio; a Global Chefs program that brings “culinary stars” to campus to serve dining specialties; and multiple living-learning communities and waterfront housing options that border the Brickyard Pond and include up to 10-person suites.

16. Stanford University in Stanford, CA

The overall graduation rate at Stanford University is 94 percent, making it one of the two universities with the highest graduation rates (90 percent/higher) on this ranking.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $16,695

Founded in 1885, Stanford University is a private research university in Silicon Valley. It offers its 17,000+ students degree programs from seven schools of:

  • medicine
  • law
  • humanities and sciences
  • engineering
  • education
  • earth
  • business

The admissions rate is just 5 percent, but the retention rate is 98 percent. For undergraduates from households with incomes below $125,000, Stanford fully covers tuition by scholarship and/or grant aid.
Neat Things On Campus: Programs for K-12 students; 20 libraries holding over 9.5 million volumes; a $1.6 billion research budget; 36 varsity sports, 32 club sports and over 600 student organizations; a 4:1 student-faculty ratio; 19 faculty members who are Nobel laureates; a 75,000 square foot recreation facility with a climbing wall, fencing center and more; Palm Drive, lined with about 150 Canary Island palm trees; some of the world’s most advanced nanoscale patterning and characterization equipment; Google’s first server; and one of the world’s largest collections of Rodin sculptures.

15. Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, VT

Lyndon State College is one of the easiest colleges to get into on this list with a 98 percent admissions rate.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $15,587

Soon to become Northern Vermont University by joining forces with Johnson State College, Lyndon State College is a public liberal arts college.  Founded in 1911, it has more than 1,200 students on its 211-acre campus. About 48 percent of students live on-campus, where they benefit from a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and 28 bachelor’s degree programs. Some 98 percent of students receive some financial aid.
Neat Things On Campus: highly enrolled, unique bachelor’s degree majors like music business industry and mountain recreation management; an innovative Explorations program which allows students to explore options before choosing a major and still graduate within four years; a 10-minute distance from world-famous mountain biking at Kingdom Trails and winter sports at Burke Mountain; an American Ramp Company-designed and manufactured skatepark; the indoor Gravity Well Climbing Center and ropes challenge courses; and over 30 alums at ESPN, thanks to the electronic journalism arts program.

14. East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN

Only two other universities in America have the same comprehensive mix of healthcare programs within one campus as the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $14,915

Founded in 1911, East Tennessee State University has three campus locations, including a 350-acre main campus and 31-acre Veterans Affairs campus. Its 14,000+ students can choose from 140 academic programs which are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. It has an admissions rate of 92 percent, and over 96 percent of students receive some kind of financial aid.
Neat Things On Campus: A state law that allows some full-time faculty and staff with handgun carry permits who have notified authorities to carry their concealed guns on campus; a U.S. Olympic Training Site for weightlifting, canoe and kayak, and bobsled and skeleton; a Tennessee Urban Forestry Council-certified arboretum; the Harry D. Powell Astronomical Observatory; and the Gray Fossil Site and Museum, where they’ve unearthed a saber tooth cat, alligator, tapir, rhinoceros, short-faced bear and a mastodon.

13. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in Honolulu, HI

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has one of the most diverse college campuses ,with students representing all 50 states and 136 different countries and regions.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $13,520

Established in 1907, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is a public research university. It is one of the nation’s few land-, sea- and space-grant institutions. The flagship campus of the University of Hawaiʻi system, it offers its 18,000+ students an 85 percent admissions rate. It has a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and a tuition more than $4,000 below the national average for a public university. Offering hundreds of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs, UH is a global leader in earth and environmental sciences. It has a 58 percent overall graduation rate.
Neat Things On Campus: A picturesque 320-acre campus in the Mānoa Valley, just outside downtown Honolulu; an average class size of 20 students; faculty who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Institute of Medicine; a Carnegie Foundation classification of having “very high research activity”; 200+ student organizations; the UH Translational Health Science Simulation Center, one of the country’s most advanced simulation centers; the only school of Hawaiian knowledge in the world; Coconut Island, the only research facility in the world built on a coral reef; Lyon Arboretum, the only research facility in America located in a tropical forest; all-gender restrooms; the Japanese Garden; and the John Young Museum of Art.

12. Ball State University in Muncie, IN

Ball State University’s campus is home to more than 400 student organizations and clubs.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $13,369

Founded in 1918, Ball State University is a public research university with roots as a teacher college. It has more than 22,500 students, a 93 percent career placement rate and accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The retention rates amongst both traditional and military/veteran students are high. Despite the large student population, the student-faculty ratio is an intimate 14:1.
Neat Things On Campus: A “Top Green College” ranking from the Princeton Review; the last commissioned work of sculptor Daniel Chester, the creator of the Abraham Lincoln statue within the D.C. memorial; a bowling alley; the David Owsley Museum of Art with more than 10,000 works from around the world; a new Rinard Orchid Greenhouse; Indiana’s largest planetarium; and the state’s busiest pedestrian intersection.

11. Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO

Southeast Missouri State University offers more than 250 online courses, as well as more than 30 study abroad opportunities.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $11,776

Founded in 1873, Southeast Missouri State University is a public comprehensive university with nearly 12,000 students. It offers more than 145 undergraduate majors, 100 minors, and more than 75 graduate programs, including more than 60 healthcare degree programs. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, SEMO has a 328-acre main and River Campus in Cape Girardeau, as well as regional campuses in Sikeston, Malden and Kennett.
Neat Things On Campus: A program with Apple that integrates technology in classrooms; 21 residence halls, 10 dining facilities and more than 180 social, recreational and special interest student organizations; the only campus dedicated solely to art, dance, music and theatre in Missouri (River Campus); a historic Seminary Building; a Gum Tree on top of “cardiac hill”, where students place their used chewing gum; and a gymnastics facility.

10. Troy University in Troy, AL

The average class size at Troy University is just 29 students.
Points: 12
Net Cost: $10,283

Founded in 1887, Troy University is a public university. It offers its almost 18,000 students a network of campuses and teach sites throughout Alabama, in 17 U.S. states and 11 countries, as well as a plethora of online degree programs. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, Troy has a 91 percent admissions rate and a 15:1 student-faculty ratio.
Neat Things On Campus: 150+ clubs, Greek organizations and philanthropic groups; the small Lake Lagoona; 12 residence halls, including a mix of gender-specific and co-ed buildings; the Confucius Institute, a non-profit public institute that promotes Chinese language and culture while supporting local Chinese teachings; a citation from BackgroundChecks.org for operating one of the safest campuses in Alabama; and the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park, featuring a pond, walking trails, an amphitheatre and the largest display of Terracotta Warriors by renowned artist Huo Bao Zhu outside of Xi’an, China.

9. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

With a 100 percent retention rate amongst military and veteran students, it’s safe to say that Cornell University is one of the most military-friendly colleges on this list.
Points: 13
Net Cost: $30,014

A private, Ivy League land-grant institution, Cornell University was founded in 1865. It offers more than 100 fields of study and additional campus locations in New York City and Doha, Qatar. Even with almost 22,000 students, the student-faculty ratio at Cornell is an intimate 9:1. The retention rate for full-time students is 97 percent.
Neat Things On Campus: A nearby lake, natural waterfalls and gardens; 45 Nobel laureates affiliated as faculty members or alumni; a School of Hotel Administration recently ranked No. 1 in the world by CEOWORLD magazine; and more than 2,300 acres located in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes region and within one of the “foodiest” cities in America.

8. University of Massachusetts Amherst in Amherst, MA

While the average student retention rate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is high, the retention rate amongst military and veteran students is 72 percent.
Points: 13
Net Cost: $20,093

Founded in 1863, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public land-grant university with a 1,450-acre campus in the rural Pioneer Valley, 90 miles from Boston. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, UMass has more than 30,000 students, and an 18:1 student-faculty ratio. It has a 91 percent retention rate and a 76 percent overall graduation rate.
Neat Things On Campus: The largest library system at a state-supported institution in New England; 112 bachelor’s degree programs, six associate’s, 77 master’s and 48 doctoral programs offered through nine schools and colleges; two consecutive rankings from The Princeton Review as the No. 1 college for “Best Campus Food”; a sushi dining station; six campus art galleries; more than 100 academic courses on diversity-related topics; a new Center for Data Science; 2.4 million square feet of new facilities built in the last 10 years; 52 residence halls, plus the Commonwealth Residential Honors College; and walking distance from one of the top college towns in America; a campus pond.

7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is so popular amongst its military and veteran students that it has a 100 percent retention rate for those utilizing their benefits.
Points: 13
Net Cost: $16,683

Founded in 1867, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the UI flagship public research university where the first graphical web browser was invented. With more than 47,000 students, Urbana-Champaign has a 94 percent student retention rate and a whopping 85 percent overall graduation rate. It offers 150+ undergraduate fields of study, 130 master’s programs, 90 doctoral programs and online degree programs.
Neat Things On Campus: One of the largest public university library collections in the world with 13 million volumes; annual research funding of over $600 million; two major museums: the Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion; and the Spurlock Museum, a museum of world history and culture; one of the largest recreational facilities of its kind on a university campus, including a leisure pool with a slide, a climbing wall, an inline skating rink and more; 15 colleges and instructional units; a $29.4 million initiative to implement increased community access to high-speed fiber-optic Internet; 75 percent of John Philip Sousa’s original music manuscripts, the world’s largest collection, at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music; 24 undergraduate University residence halls, including 10 living-learning communities, and three university-owned apartment complexes; 1,000+ student clubs and organizations; and a ranking as one of the most “disability friendly” U.S. campuses.

6. University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD

The University of South Dakota is comprised of nine colleges and schools, including a School of Medicine, School of Law and online degree programs.
Points: 13
Net Cost: $16,502

Founded in 1862, the University of South Dakota is a public research university with a 274-acre campus located in a small town along the bluffs above the Missouri River. It offers 205 undergraduate and 75 graduate degree programs to its 10,000+ students. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, USD has a 17:1 student-faculty ratio, an 88 percent admissions rate, a 55 percent overall graduation rate and a 100 percent retention rate amongst military and veteran students.
Neat Things On Campus: An eye-catching combination of old and new architecture; NCAA Division I athletics; more than 120 student organizations; only 28 percent of all undergraduates living in campus housing; the Shakespeare Garden with every flower, herb and shrub mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare; six residence halls; four campus buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the National Music Museum; the only medical school in the state; the region’s only College of Fine Arts; the only law school in the state; the Native American Cultural Center; and a 38-foot indoor climbing wall.

5. Murray State University in Murray, KY

The top three undergraduate academic fields with the highest enrollment at Murray State University are animal health technology, nursing and agriculture.
Points: 13
Net Cost: $10,529

Founded in 1922, Murray State University is a four-year public university. It offers almost 250 associate, baccalaureate, master’s, specialist and doctorate degrees. It has  more than 10,000 students on its main campus in western Kentucky, five other regional campuses and online. Murray State’s student-faculty ratio is a comfortable 15:1.The admissions rate is 85 percent and about 99 percent of students receive financial aid.
Neat Things On Campus: A main campus location in the “friendliest small town in America”, according to USA Today; a “Town & Gown”partnership with the local and state government, education professionals, industry, small business, banking and health care providers; an Equine Center and University Farm; the Wrather West Kentucky Museum; a 15-minute drive from the Kentucky Lake and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area; and a Shoe Tree, where students who meet at Murray and get married return to nail a shoe to what looks more like a stump (for fire hazards reasons) for good luck.

4. University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR

With 100 percent of students receiving some financial aid, the University of Central Arkansas offers the most financial aid of all of the colleges on this ranking.
Points: 14
Net Cost: $12,988

Founded in 1907, University of Central Arkansas is a public research university with a 356-acre campus in a more urban area just 30 miles north of Little Rock. With almost 11,500 students, UCA has a 17:1 student-faculty ratio. It offers 152 different certificate and degree programs. It has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and a 90 percent acceptance rate.
Neat Things On Campus: Free laundry for residents; the Baum Gallery, an educational art museum; one of the most active internship programs in the state (within the College of Business); a recently renovated (2014) Health, Physical Education and Recreation Center; a “hammock farm”; 12 20-person skyboxes in the Bear Hall residence hall that has fantastic views of Estes Stadium’s purple and gray striped field; the largest mascot logo on turf of all stadiums and colleges in America; the Physical Therapy Center with more than 40,000 square feet of teaching, lab and research space, and it was the first PT program within the state; the Dr. Edmund E. Griffin Planetarium; and a modern, mixed-use upperclassmen residential building with a deli, ice cream shop, study space and more on the first floor.

3. Morehead State University in Morehead, KY

At Morehead State University, 70 percent of teaching faculty have a doctorate in their field.
Points: 14
Net Cost: $11,296

Founded in 1887, Morehead State University is a public university nestled in the foothills of the Daniel Boone National forest. It offers 135 undergraduate degree programs and 70 graduate programs to its nearly 11,000 students. MSU grants some kind of financial aid to 99 percent of its students, who also benefit from classes with an average of 18 students. It’s ranked as one of the safest campuses in the nation and has  accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Neat Things On Campus: The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics, a dual-credit residential high school for academically exceptional Kentucky students; a Space Science Center that houses one of only five space science undergraduate programs in the nation; a swimming pool with a whirlpool; league, group and Kozmik bowling; a nationally recognized and award-winning Recreation and Wellness Center; and free laundry.

2. Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ

At 80 percent, Rutgers University is among the top 10 universities on this list with the highest overall graduation rates.
Points: 15
Net Cost: $15,614

The largest institution of higher education in New Jersey and one of America’s first land-grant institutions, Rutgers University is a public national research university. Almost 70,000 students are enrolled. It has a 15:1 student-faculty ratio at the New Brunswick campus. Established in 1766, Rutgers has a 92 percent retention rate among full-time students. It offers 150+ undergraduate majors, 200+ graduate-level programs and three campuses in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden.
Neat Things On Campus: More than 175 research centers; five interconnected campuses in New Brunswick; extended locations in all 21 New Jersey counties as well as academic and research enterprises around the world; membership with the Association of American Universities and the Big Ten Conference; a convenient location that straddles the Raritan River and is a short distance from both NYC and Philadelphia; the Douglass Residential College for women; self-sustaining Rutgers Gardens, one of the few in the country that does not charge a visitor’s fee and is open 365 days a year; the Zimmerli Art Museum; 500+ student organizations, 80+ fraternities and sororities, and 57 club sports; 28 acres of solar panels and 7-acre solar farm; 4 full-service recreation centers and one free-standing fitness center; and 136 residence hall buildings.

1. University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY

The Gatton College of Business at the University of Kentucky  underwent a $65 million renovation, completed in 2016, and ranks among the top 80 business programs in America.
Points: 16
Net Cost: $17,850

Founded in 1865, the University of Kentucky is a public university with 16 colleges and schools, offering 200+ academic programs to its nearly 30,000 students. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, UK has a welcoming 91 percent admissions rate, a 64 percent graduation rate and an average class size of 25 students.
Neat Things On Campus: A College of Law that is currently undergoing a $53 million renovation; more than 40 engineering-related student organizations, co-op rotations and internships with companies like NASA; Education Abroad programs that take 1,000+ students overseas annually; the $112 million state-of-the-art Don and Cathy Jacobs Science Building, opened in 2016, with technology-enabled active learning (TEAL) classrooms and indoor gardens; the state’s only level-one trauma center; a full gamut of academic medical colleges, including nursing, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, public health and health sciences, one of eight colleges in the country with such extensive offerings on a contiguous campus; Kentucky’s only NCI-designated cancer treatment facility; the Gluck Equine Research Building; technology to use the energy produced by people working out on elliptical machines, reducing its carbon footprint; a football stadium that was redesigned and modernized in 2015; an all-you-care-to-eat dining facility; one of the largest Starbucks on any college campus; a library that can seat more than 4,000 students; 600+ registered student organizations; and a Student Center that is also currently undergoing a $175 million expansion and renovation.

Related Resources:

Sources
The National Center for Education Statistics
Image Source
The American Association of State Colleges and Universities
The New York Times