Idaho’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Idaho’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Idaho if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in Idaho deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

Idaho’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of Idaho’s Colleges and Universities

Idaho's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of Idaho’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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Idaho’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    University of Idaho

    Moscow , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    What is University of Idaho known for?

    University of Idaho’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Idaho State University

    Pocatello , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    9K

    What is Idaho State University known for?

    Idaho State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Boise State University

    Boise , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is Boise State University known for?

    Boise State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Lewis–Clark State College

    Lewiston , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    990/19

    What is Lewis–Clark State College known for?

    Lewis–Clark State College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Sociology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    College of Idaho

    Caldwell , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    1K

    What is College of Idaho known for?

    College of Idaho’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/23

    What is Northwest Nazarene University known for?

    Northwest Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    What is Brigham Young University–Idaho known for?

    Brigham Young University–Idaho’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    New Saint Andrews College

    Moscow , ID
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is New Saint Andrews College known for?

    New Saint Andrews College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

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Idaho’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Idaho

Just over half of the 13 colleges and universities in Idaho are public schools. Boise State University, Idaho’s largest public university, serves roughly 17,000 students. Here, students can pursue degrees in fields like communications, earth sciences, and engineering. Idaho is also home to five private schools, including the state’s largest school, Brigham Young University Idaho, which has a student population of nearly 49,000 students.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

While students at BYU school can expect to pay around $4,000 in tuition, well below the national average, the other private school tuition costs range between $13,000 to $30,000. The majority of Idaho’s colleges and universities can be considered small schools, serving student populations of 4,000 or less. However, the state’s largest schools offer the most affordable tuition fees, ranging from as little as $4,000 to $8,000. Students who pursue their degrees in Idaho can study fields like chemistry, law, and anthropology at the University of Idaho or religious studies, psychology, and literature at New Saint Andrews College. Additionally, Idaho offers a loan forgiveness program of up to $100,000 to physicians who work in the state’s rural areas.

French fries, mashed potatoes, tater tots, and even potato-inspired ice cream — Idaho is, as per its reputation, a potato lover’s dream. But it’s not all spuds in this state. Along with countless hiking trails, rivers perfect for rafting trips, and 72 types of gemstones, this state offers higher education institutes with competitive tuition fees and programs.

For more information, explore some of Idaho’s top programs and future career possibilities.


What are Idaho’s Colleges & Universities?

Idaho’s Best Overall