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
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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 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.
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Michigan’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Olivet College

    Olivet , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Olivet College known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Albion College

    Albion , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/24

    What is Albion College known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Kalamazoo College

    Kalamazoo , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    79%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    What is Kalamazoo College known for?

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

    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • History
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Adrian College

    Adrian , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/21

    What is Adrian College known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • History
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Andrews University

    Berrien Springs , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1210/25

    What is Andrews University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Kettering University

    Flint , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1275/27

    What is Kettering University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Alma College

    Alma , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    What is Alma College known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Communications
    • History
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Calvin University

    Grand Rapids , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    What is Calvin University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    Lawrence Technological University

    Southfield , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    What is Lawrence Technological University known for?

    Lawrence Technological University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    University of Detroit Mercy

    Detroit , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    What is University of Detroit Mercy known for?

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

    • Law
    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    Northern Michigan University

    Marquette , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/23

    What is Northern Michigan University known for?

    Northern Michigan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/27

    What is Michigan Technological University known for?

    Michigan Technological University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    Eastern Michigan University

    Ypsilanti , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    47%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    What is Eastern Michigan University known for?

    Eastern Michigan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    Wayne State University

    Detroit , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    20K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/24

    What is Wayne State University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #16

    Western Michigan University

    Kalamazoo , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    What is Western Michigan University known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #17

    Ferris State University

    Big Rapids , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    What is Ferris State University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #18

    Oakland University

    Rochester Hills , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    What is Oakland University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Central Michigan University

    Mount Pleasant , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    16K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/23

    What is Central Michigan University known for?

    Central Michigan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Earth Sciences
    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #20

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    26%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    45K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is University of Michigan known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #21

    Grand Valley State University

    Allendale , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    22K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/24

    What is Grand Valley State University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Philosophy
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Business
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #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:

    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Engineering
  22. #24

    Spring Arbor University

    Spring Arbor , MI

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1097/23

    What is Spring Arbor University known for?

    Spring Arbor University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/23

    What is University of Michigan–Flint known for?

    University of Michigan–Flint’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

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Michigan’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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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