Michigan’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Michigan’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Michigan 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 Michigan 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.

Michigan’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 Michigan’s Colleges and Universities

Michigan's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
Download Badge

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 Michigan’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.
Back to Top

Michigan’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #5

    Andrews University

    Berrien Springs , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/25

    Andrews University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in General Studies
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

  3. Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/23

    Northern Michigan University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Applied Workplace Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Clinical Lab Sciences/Laboratory Medicine
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Construction Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Loss Prevention Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Native American Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Applied Workplace Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Clinical Lab Sciences/Laboratory Medicine
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Construction Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Loss Prevention Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Native American Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    Eastern Michigan University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Technology Management
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 79-81
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #15

    Wayne State University

    Detroit , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/24

    Wayne State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Mortuary Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    Western Michigan University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Comparative Religion
    • Required Credits: 127
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Criminal Justice
    • Justice Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. #17

    Ferris State University

    Big Rapids , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Ferris State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Allied Health Science
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Automotive Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Dental Hygiene
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Digital Media Software Engineering
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in HVACR Engineering Technology and Energy Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Security and Intelligence
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Integrative Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Project Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Risk Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. #18

    Oakland University

    Rochester Hills , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    Oakland University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Environmental Health and Safety
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Integrative Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Business Communication
    • Healthcare Leadership
    • Human Resource Development
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN to BSN)
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 32
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. #20

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    26%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

  10. Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    22K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/24

    Grand Valley State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 126
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Health Professional
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Public and Nonprofit Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Respiratory Care
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Combined Degree: Computer Engineering BSE and Applied Computer Science MS
    • Required Credits: 141
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Combined Degree: Computer Science BS and Applied Computer Science MS
    • Required Credits: 135 - 138
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. #23

    Lake Michigan College

    Benton Harbor , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Graduation

    21%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Lake Michigan College known for?

    Lake Michigan College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  12. #24

    Spring Arbor University

    Spring Arbor , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/23

    Spring Arbor University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Human Services
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN to BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/23

    University of Michigan–Flint’s Online Degrees

    BAS in Applied Science
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management
    • Finance
    • General Business
    • International Business
    • Marketing
    • Operations and Supply Chain Management
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resouces Management (OBHRM)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Early Childhood Studies
    • Required Credits: 128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Care Administration
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Philosophy
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Respiratory Therapy
    Degree Concentrations
    • Program type: Degree completion
    • Required Credits: 124
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
Back to Top

Michigan’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Back to Top

Colleges and Universities in Michigan

With over 80 public and private colleges to choose from, students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree can find a program that suits their educational needs and budget. Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are the two largest schools, both serving around 42,000 students and costing $16,000 in tuition. Most of the schools in The Wolverine State, however, serve smaller student populations, with tuition fees ranging from $3,000 to $49,000.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Additionally, students pursuing their degree at a school with religious affiliations have more than 20 options to choose from, including Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Grand Rapid’s Calvin College, and Hope College in Holland. Students attending one of Michigan’s private schools, like Davenport University, can earn their degrees in fields like nursing, education, criminal justice, and history. Michigan, like many other states, also provides a special loan forgiveness program to those in medical, dental, and mental health professions who work in underserved communities. Recipients can receive up to $200,000 of tax-free funds over an eight-year period.

The great state of Michigan famously serves as the major hub of the United States auto industry - and also boasts the longest freshwater coastline in the nation. Students who love the outdoors but are also drawn to the metropolitan energy of big cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids will feel very much at home in Michigan.

To find your degree program, explore some of the top schools in Michigan.


What are Michigan’s Colleges & Universities?

Michigan’s Best Overall