What is a public college or university?

A college or university owned/operated by a government. The most common of these in the US are state colleges and universities. Typically public colleges are named for places, as described below.

  • Community and technical colleges are often named for their city or county. Examples include Johnson County Community College and Cincinnati State Community and Technical College.
  • In some states, smaller state colleges are often named for their city. Examples include Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), Pittsburg State University (Pittsburg, Kansas) and Norfolk State University (Norfolk, Virginia). In other states, smaller public colleges are named for regions. Examples include Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, Kentucky), Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti, Michigan) and Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, Texas).
  • Often the largest public universities in a state are named for the state. If the word “state” is in the name (Ohio State, Kansas State, Michigan State, etc.), the university may be a “land-grant university” that received special funding from the US government in the 19th century; these universities often focused on agriculture and education.
  • Public colleges in states are sometimes organized into “systems,” where the institution name will have a location added to the end to indicate what campus is meant. Prominent examples are California (the University of California system that includes UCLA in Los Angeles, UCSF in San Francisco, UC Berkeley and others) and Texas (the University of Texas system with UT Austin, UTEP in El Paso and others).