Best public colleges in Missouri

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If you’re going to go to college—or send your child to college—you want to choose the best one. But what exactly that means is different for each person. 

There are a lot of factors, including how big the college is both overall and in terms of class sizes. It also matters whether a college has good programs for the fields you’re more interested in studying, the types of sports or other student activities that interest you, decent access to student housing either on or off campus, and a high graduation rate. There’s also life after college to consider: Does a college have a good support system for people seeking employment, a strong alumni network, or a high rate of job placements at or just after graduation?

Colleges themselves suggest the most important factors for students are, or should be, emotional ones, like “whether you feel comfortable on campus,” as the University of South Florida puts it, or “how the school made you feel,” as Concordia College puts it.

But is just one of the independent sources that suggests cost is in fact the most important factor when choosing a college. U.S. News & World Report cautions that the baseline price can be misleading. In-state students at public colleges have the lowest so-called “sticker prices,” averaging $10,338 in the 2021-2022 school year, as compared with $38,185 at private colleges. That means less need for scholarships, loans, or family penny-pinching. But some of those more expensive colleges help to counter the price difference with generous financial aid packages—and some promise to ensure students have no debt upon graduation.

With so many factors to consider, it’s important to look beyond just the basic data on a college’s website. Stacker reviewed data from Niche to compile a list of the best public colleges in Missouri. Niche’s methodology rates academic quality as the most important—which includes the quality of professors, the college’s acceptance and graduation rates, and how much they spend on research. Next in Niche’s importance is value—which includes the average cost students pay after financial aid is factored in, the average loan amount students take out each year, and metrics about graduates’ earnings and ability to repay student debt. 

The analysis also considers other factors, including diversity on campus, quality of student life, campus housing and food options, and data about aspects of the surrounding community, including crime rates and rent prices. 

Read on to see which public colleges in Missouri rank the highest.

Sean Locke Photography // Shutterstock

#8. Northwest Missouri State University

– Maryville, MO
– #324 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B
– Acceptance rate: 86%
– Net price: $13,754
– SAT Range: 980-1160

DavidPinoPhotography // Shutterstock

#7. Missouri State University

– Springfield, MO
– #283 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B
– Acceptance rate: 94%
– Net price: $16,501
– SAT Range: 1010-1200

Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

#6. University of Central Missouri

– Warrensburg, MO
– #199 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B
– Acceptance rate: 76%
– Net price: $13,852
– SAT Range: Not Available


#5. Truman State University

– Kirksville, MO
– #185 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B+
– Acceptance rate: 61%
– Net price: $11,470
– SAT Range: 1120-1290


#4. University of Missouri – St. Louis

– Saint Louis, MO
– #123 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B+
– Acceptance rate: 57%
– Net price: $10,525
– SAT Range: 1020-1300

Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

#3. Missouri University of Science and Technology

– Rolla, MO
– #114 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B+
– Acceptance rate: 85%
– Net price: $13,589
– SAT Range: 1290-1460


#2. University of Missouri – Kansas City

– Kansas City, MO
– #103 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: B+
– Acceptance rate: 76%
– Net price: $14,368
– SAT Range: 1050-1330


#1. University of Missouri

– Columbia, MO
– #56 nationally
– Overall Niche Grade: A-
– Acceptance rate: 77%
– Net price: $18,249
– SAT Range: 1130-1350

This story features data reporting by Emma Rubin, writing by Jeff Inglis, and is part of a series utilizing data automation across 50 states.


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