The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is steadily building its reputation as a stellar research institution. It has been recognized for its high research spending, and its experts have recently made headlines for studying everything from genetically engineered crops to prebiotics. The school offers more than 150 majors, including bioengineering, community health, media and cinema studies, and special education. Students also have access to the country's second largest university library system. (Only Harvard's is larger.)

All that knowledge doesn't stamp out some old-fashioned superstition, though. As per campus tradition, generations of students have rubbed the nose on a campus bust of Abraham Lincoln for good luck before exams, and people who kiss at the Eternal Flame landmark are said to enjoy eternal bliss.

The University of Illinois's flagship campus scores highly on Money’s measures of affordability, with an estimated net price of a degree of a little over $103,000 (not including state and federal aid). It was one of the first universities to make its campus more accessible to students with physical disabilities more than 70 years ago, and it has also garnered notice in recent years for its large number of international students — especially from Asia. The school says it has more than 17,000 Asian American and Asian international students, meaning that nearly 40% of students on campus are of Asian descent.

Next time you're on campus, make sure to check out a performance by the Marching Illini, which composer John Philip Sousa once declared "the world's greatest college band."