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Public Ivies, Ivy Plus, Little Ivies

Public Ivies, Ivy Plus, Little Ivies – Terms Explained

When you begin researching colleges, you may come across the terms Public Ivies, Ivy Plus, and Little Ivies, which may be confusing if you’re unsure of the differences. The term Ivy League has most often been used to refer to the eight most prestigious and influential universities in the US. However, the United States has 5,300 colleges and universities, each with its own unique expertise and traditions. It can be hard to keep track of the vast amount of terminology used to describe different schools and figure out the meaning behind each phrase. In this blog post, we will focus on these three terms and what they mean for potential college students. Whether you're a high school student researching your options or an adult looking to start their higher education journey, understanding these terms is essential in finding the perfect school that fits all your needs.

The Ivy League is more than just a list of eight prestigious universities; it is a title and phrase associated with academic excellence, prestige, and life-long traditions. The term was coined in 1954 to refer to a schools’ athletic aptitude, but is now also used to denote their academic excellence. The list of the top eight schools includes:

Brown UniversityProvidence, RI
Harvard UniversityCambridge, MA
Cornell University Ithaca, NY
Princeton UniversityPrinceton, NJ
Dartmouth UniversityHanover, NH
Yale UniversityNew Haven, CT
Columbia UniversityNew York, NY
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA

However, the use of “Ivy” has recently expanded to include Public Ivies, Ivy Plus, and Little Ivies – referring to schools with similar academic reputations and application competitiveness. According to the U.S. News and World Report, these schools also rank at the top. Today, we will dig deeper into each of these terms, providing you with a better understanding and overview of prestigious schools in the U.S., not limited to these eight Ivy League schools.

Public Ivies

Yale University’s Admission Officer, Richard Moll, coined the term “Public Ivies” in 1985 in his book, Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities. Most Ivy League schools are located in the Northeast region; however, Public Ivies are spread out across the country. Moll’s ranking methodology included:

  • Academic rigor, quality of faculty, and cost of tuition
  • School resources available for students, facilities, and faculty

The main differences between Public Ivies and Ivy League schools are the student body, tuition, and financial endowment. Public Ivies generally have a larger student body, such as UCLA, which admitted 15,602 applicants in 2020; while Harvard only admitted 2,320 new students. Due to the larger student body, the financial endowment is typically more limited for Public Ivies’ schools. However, Public Ivies offer lower tuition rates, especially if you are an in-state student.
The list has drastically changed over the past 30 years, but generally speaking, Public Ivies are public colleges and universities that are renowned for their academic excellence, similar to Ivy League schools.

Original Public IviesRunner-ups
College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia)University of Colorado Boulder
Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta)
University of California (entire UC system)The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)New College of Florida
The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillPennsylvania State University (University Park)
The University of Texas at AustinUniversity of Pittsburgh
University of Vermont (Burlington)The State University of New York at Binghamton (also known as Binghamton University)
University of Virginia (Charlottesville)University of Washington (Seattle)
University of Wisconsin–Madison

In 2001, Howard and Matthew Greene, presidents of Education Consulting companies in the U.S., published The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities to discuss 30 Public Ivy schools by region.

Pennsylvania State University at University ParkUniversity of Delaware
Rutgers UniversityUniversity of Maryland
The State University of New York at Binghamton (also known as Binghamton University)College of William & Mary
University of ConnecticutUniversity of Virginia
University of FloridaUniversity of Arizona
University of GeorgiaUniversity of California (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillUniversity of Colorado Boulder
The University of Texas at AustinUniversity of Washington
Indiana University
Miami University (located in Oxford, Ohio)
Michigan State University
The Ohio State University
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Iowa
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ivy Plus Schools

Another term used frequently is Ivy Plus, referring to schools that consistently rank in the top 20, besides the 8 Ivy League schools. The schools in the Ivy Plus list are similarly prestigious schools with highly competitive rates, large endowments, and outstanding alumni networks. The term “Ivy Plus” is often used in the context of higher education rankings, networking opportunities, and other collaborations among the institutions. Ivy Plus schools may partner on research initiatives, exchange programs, or joint events. The term can also be used in reference to alumni networks, as graduates of these institutions often have valuable connections in a variety of fields.

The various universities that are frequently included in the Ivy Plus Schools group vary, but they generally share similar characteristics with the Ivy League institutions, such as a commitment to academic excellence, selective admissions, and a strong reputation for research and scholarship. Some of the universities that are often included in the Ivy Plus group include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and the University of Chicago.

Through researching different lists, we have gathered the schools most commonly listed as Ivy Plus:

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, MA
Stanford UniversityStanford, CA
University of ChicagoChicago, IL
California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, CA
Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimore, MD
Northwestern UniversityEvanston, IL
Duke UniversityDurham, NC
Little Ivies

Little Ivies, also called Mini Ivies, are an unofficial list of small, private liberal arts colleges in the Northeastern area. This name is used due to the smaller student bodies that still provide academic rigor and a selective admissions process, aligning with Ivy League standards. Most of the Little Ivies focus on undergraduate education.

Some of the schools that are commonly included in this group include Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, Williams College, and Wesleyan University. These schools are known for their small class sizes, strong sense of community, and rigorous academic programs.

Little Ivies/Mini Ivies List:

Amherst College (Amherst, MA)Lafayette College (Easton, PA)
Bates College (Lewiston, ME)Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA)Trinity College (Hartford, CT)
Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)Tufts University (Medford, MA)
Connecticut College (New London, CT)Union College (Schenectady, NY)
Colby College (Waterville, ME)Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
Hamilton College (Clinton, NY)Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Haverford College (Haverford, PA)Williams College (Williamstown, MA)

While Public Ivies offer larger schools with strong traditions, Little Ivies provide personal attention to students due to their small class sizes. Regardless of the school you attend—whether it is Ivy or non-Ivy—we firmly believe that you will learn and grow as a determined and career-oriented college student, ready to change the world! The upcoming article will discuss other Ivy-related terms and specifically Hidden Ivies, New Ivies, and Other Ivies.


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