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What Are the Public Ivies?


Ivy LeagueYou’ve probably heard of the Ivy League. But have you heard of the Public Ivy League?

Public Ivies are colleges that have many of the benefits of Ivy League schools- stellar academics, famous faculty, dynamic students, and top-notch facilities – but are public colleges rather than private ones.

This means Public Ivies can sometimes offer something Ivy League universities can’t – a lower price tag, especially for students applying in-state.

What is a Public Ivy?

The idea of a “Public Ivy” appeared in 1985 in a college guidebook by Robert Moll, an admissions officer at top schools around the US. Moll listed the public schools that he thought represented the elite eight of public universities:

  • College of William & Mary (Virginia)
  • Miami University (Ohio)
  • University of California (All Campuses)
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • University of Vermont – Burlington
  • University of Virginia

These Public Ivies were known to give the most bang for your buck – and they still do today, 25 years later.

But there are more great public schools than just that handful. Take a look at 4 other colleges that you may think that Moll left out of his Public Ivies list:

1. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

If you’re walking on the campus of this Public Ivy, you might think you’re at Harvard or Yale. That’s because its design is based on a series of campus quads, like many Ivies’ are.

A leader in the sciences and engineering, the University of Illinois has the 4th largest library in the US – behind only Harvard, Yale, and another public ivy – UC Berkeley.

2. University of Wisconsin – Madison

Student life at the University of Wisconsin is one of the most dynamic of the Public Ivies, both on campus and off. It’s the only school in the US with two daily newspapers, and its football team has a huge following.

Students can be found at the on-campus Rathskeller pub, discussing politics and philosophy like the Ivy founders did.

3. University of Washington

One of the oldest universities on the Pacific, the University of Washington brings the tradition of Public Ivies to the West Coast. The campus has its own unique history, originally designed for the 1909 World’s Fair.

The school also has something no other Ivy can boast: a TV channelĀ  dedicated just to research and academic subjects. Scholars from all around the country use this Public Ivy’s station to broadcast their work to the world.

4. New College of Florida

In its sunny climate, the New College of Florida seems a world away from the chilly New England schools of the Ivy League. But this new Public Ivy has a lot in common with its counterparts to the north.

Founded in 1960, the New College focuses on academics and independent research. Without graduate students, professors focus only on undergrads. No grades here – instead, professors give written reports on student progress.

If you’re considering the Ivy League, think about these Public Ivies. You might discover a school that gives you the academics, campus life and traditions you want – at a much nicer price.



5 Responses to “What Are the Public Ivies?”

  1. roger Says:

    This post is completely factually incorrect.

  2. Ronen at University Language Says:

    Hi Roger,
    I’m sorry you feel that way. What precisely do you have an issue with in the post? I’d be glad to correct anything that might have been written in error.

  3. sai Says:

    The public ivies are all supposed to be state-funded, research universities. You can omit New College of Florida. Im surprised Vermont was included by Moll. Vermont isn’t considered a public ivy anymore. You also forgot Penn State and Georgia Tech, considered the Penn and Cornell of public ivies, respectively.

  4. Christopher Says:

    A coupe of points:

    1. UVA was included in the original list of 8 Public Ivies by Moll, which mirrored the 8 schools in the Ivy League.

    2. Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, and New College were all in the list of “worthy runners up,” along with Colorado, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Pitt, and Binghamton.

    I’ve never heard anyone describe Penn State or Georgia Tech a the “Penn” and “Cornell” of Public Ivies. That may be sai’s opinion, but it’s far from universal. If a modern list were being made, all of the campuses of the UC system might not be included as one single entry (as far as quality goes, the vast majority of the campuses deserve to be up there, but some of the campuses lack the “look and feel” of an Ivy that Moll was also aiming for, as well as the prestige of an Ivy level school, particularly outside CA).

    I don’t think that Vermont or Miami U would be up there anymore, but those schools are also quite a bit smaller than the large flagship public universities that make up the rest of the list, so it’s hard to make a comparison.

    also, I don’t know why sai would omit New College of Florida, considering that it’s a state-funded research university, simply newer and smaller than most others. As far as quality of teaching goes, it very well may be the best public university in the country.

  5. Diane at University Language Says:

    Christopher, you’re right — we did put UVA in the wrong list. Thanks for the sharp eyes! The post has been updated accordingly.

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