Courtesy of Texas A+M

State colleges and universities are usually the most affordable option for in-state students and sometimes for out-of-staters as well. Many now have reciprocal arrangements with nearby states to provide discounted tuition rates to their residents.

Due in part to their affordability, public colleges have become increasingly popular—and sometimes harder to get into—in recent years. They have also substantially improved their graduation rates on average, a statistic experts use as a key measure of educational quality.

In Money magazine's recently released rankings of the 705 best-value colleges in the U.S., more state schools than ever before landed near the top. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ranked No. 2 (second only to Princeton), the highest ranking ever for a public university. In fact, public colleges took 11 of the top 20 spots on this year's list.

These 15 state schools ranked the highest on Money’s overall Best Colleges list.

To view Money's full "Top 50" list of public colleges, click here.

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, Peterson's,, Money/College Measures calculations.