Massachusetts’ Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Massachusetts’ Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts 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.

Massachusetts’ 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 Massachusetts’ Colleges and Universities

Massachusetts'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 Massachusetts’ 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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Massachusetts’ Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Hampshire College

    Amherst , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Hampshire College known for?

    Hampshire College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Amherst College

    Amherst , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is Amherst College known for?

    Amherst College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Clark University

    Worcester , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Clark University known for?

    Clark University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Mount Holyoke College

    South Hadley , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Mount Holyoke College known for?

    Mount Holyoke College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Gordon College

    Wenham , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    What is Gordon College known for?

    Gordon College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Williams College

    Williamstown , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    15%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1480/33

    What is Williams College known for?

    Williams College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Wellesley College

    Wellesley , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is Wellesley College known for?

    Wellesley College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Wheaton College

    Norton , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Wheaton College known for?

    Wheaton College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    Brandeis University

    Waltham , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    33%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/31

    What is Brandeis University known for?

    Brandeis University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #12

    Stonehill College

    Easton , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Stonehill College known for?

    Stonehill College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #13

    Springfield College

    Springfield , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    What is Springfield College known for?

    Springfield College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #14

    Lesley University

    Cambridge , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/23

    What is Lesley University known for?

    Lesley University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #15

    Western New England University

    Springfield , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Western New England University known for?

    Western New England University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Economics
    • Social Work
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #16

    Westfield State University

    Westfield , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    What is Westfield State University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1540/35

    What is Massachusetts Institute of Technology known for?

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #18

    Framingham State University

    Framingham , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    What is Framingham State University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • History
    • Literature
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #19

    Emerson College

    Boston , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1305/29

    What is Emerson College known for?

    Emerson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #20

    University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

    North Dartmouth , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1090/21

    What is University of Massachusetts Dartmouth known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #21

    Suffolk University

    Boston , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/23

    What is Suffolk University known for?

    Suffolk University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/25

    What is Wentworth Institute of Technology known for?

    Wentworth Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #23

    Worcester Polytechnic Institute

    Worcester , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    7K

    What is Worcester Polytechnic Institute known for?

    Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #24

    Simmons University

    Boston , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1200/26

    What is Simmons University known for?

    Simmons University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #25

    Salem State University

    Salem , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/21

    What is Salem State University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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Massachusetts’ Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts

Some of the most talked about universities in Massachusetts are its private schools, including Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which also happen to be the largest. Tuition for these prestigious schools runs between $50,000 and $54,000. Students here have access to some of the top programs in the country in fields such as biology, literature, law, education, engineering, and religious studies. The alumni from New England schools are equally as impressive, including Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

The public higher education institutes also boast top-notch programs, allowing students to pursue associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in fields like mathematics, social work, medicine, and economics. The University of Massachusetts Amherst, the state’s largest public university, offers tuition around $16,000 and serves over 28,000 students. Additionally, students who are interested in attending a religiously affiliated school have 17 options to choose from, most of which feature high graduation rates for their students. For future dental, medical, or mental health professionals, Massachusetts also offers loan forgiveness programs for those working in underserved communities.

As the port of destination for the Mayflower, home to the Plymouth colony, and site of the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts looms large in United States history, but this most populous New England state isn’t just for history buffs. The Bay State is also known for its delicious cuisine, beautiful coastlines, and devout sports fans. Not to mention, it has over 100 colleges for students to choose from.

Find a program that’s right for you and explore the best schools Massachusetts has to offer.


What are Massachusetts’ Colleges & Universities?

Massachusetts’ Best Overall