The University of Iowa ranked 57th in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of "America's Best Colleges," while Iowa State ranked 87th out of 248 national universities.
Among public schools, Iowa jumped up one spot from last year to 19th, while Iowa State came in at 41st.
"We're getting better, we're going in the right direction," Iowa President David Skorton said. "The university community has worked very, very hard to maintain quality in the face of ongoing budget cuts."
Topping the list of public national universities was the University of California-Berkley and the University of Virginia, tied for the No. 1 spot.
"We are glad to be among the top 50 public institutions because we think we belong on that list," said John McCarroll, Iowa State spokesman.
This year's results will be published in the Monday edition of the magazine. U.S. News uses a formula that includes graduation and retention rates, faculty resources and other factors to determine the rankings, which are both popular and controversial.
Critics have long contended that parents and high school students rely far too heavily on U.S. News in choosing schools, and that colleges gear some of their efforts _ such as admissions _ toward getting high rankings.
McCarroll said private universities with stringent enrollment requirements tend to do better in the rankings.
"As a land-grant institution our mission is to reach as many people as we can, so that's what we do," McCarroll said.
For the fourth consecutive year, Princeton University has topped the U.S. News ranking, this time sharing the top spot with Harvard University.