We all know the Ivy League.
But in 1985, Richard Moll coined the term “Public Ivy” in his book “Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s best public undergraduate colleges and universities,” which aimed to help incoming college students receive a quality education at a more cost-effective price tag. Moll, a dean of admissions at University of California – Santa Cruz, wondered why the Ivy League was considered the best of the best when there were public institutions that offered just as many resources of the same quality. Thus, he set out to create a list of public “Ivy” schools, based on the following criteria.
Criteria to be in the Public “Ivy League”
- Admissions selectivity
- Education that includes liberal arts
- Money put into reputable faculty and to create an attractive campus
According to Richard Moll’s book, these are the original Public Ivies:
The Original Public Ivies
In addition to a list of the original Public Ivies, here’s a look at a Public Ivy ranking by Niche Academics grade.
Niche Overall Grade
|A+||College of William & Mary||Williamsburg||VA||6,097||32%||1693|
|A+||University of California - Berkeley||Berkeley||CA||25,018||22%||1868|
|A+||University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor||MI||27,046||37%||1817|
|A+||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill||NC||17,437||33%||1789|
|A+||University of Texas - Austin||Austin||TX||37,083||47%||1883|
|B||University of Vermont||Burlington||VT||9,956||77%||1791|
|A+||University of Virginia||Charlottesville||VA||14,928||30%||1819|
These schools didn’t make it into Moll’s official Public Ivy list, but are worthy runners-up, according to his book.
- University of Colorado Boulder
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- New College of Florida
- Penn State
- University of Pittsburgh
- SUNY Binghamton
- University of Washington
- University of Wisconsin
Comparing the Ivies to the Public Ivies
The Ivies have lower acceptance rates and higher Niche Academics grades, but the Public Ivies are more widely dispersed across the country and have Niche Academics grades just slightly lower than the Ivy League, with not one school lower than a B+. Public Ivies also have bigger undergrad populations than regular Ivies. Plus, Ivy League schools do not award student athletic scholarships, whereas Public Ivies tend to reward athletes, since many of these schools are involved in athletic conferences like Big Ten, Big 12, and more.
Traditional Ivy League Schools
Niche Overall Grade
|A+||Columbia University||New York City||NY||7,236||7%||1754|
|A+||Yale University||New Haven||CT||5,393||8%||1701|
|A+||University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia||PA||10,324||13%||1740|
Greenes’ Guides to Public Ivies
In their 2001 book “The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities,” Howard and Matthew Greene took Moll’s initial 1985 list and expanded on it to include 30 of the best public colleges and universities, dividing them by regions including Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Western, and Great Lakes & Midwest.
The Bottom Line
Bigger and more scattered around the country, the Public Ivies offer some resources and perks that Ivy League schools don’t, including cheaper tuition and higher acceptance rates. While they may not have the “best of the best” reputation of the Ivy League, for many students, Public Ivies’ eclectic atmosphere is more conducive and desirable for four or more years of learning.