Minnesota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Minnesota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Minnesota 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 Minnesota 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.

Minnesota’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 Minnesota’s Colleges and Universities

Minnesota'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 Minnesota’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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Minnesota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #3

    Gustavus Adolphus College

    Saint Peter , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Gustavus Adolphus College known for?

    Gustavus Adolphus College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • History
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #4

    Hamline University

    Saint Paul , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    What is Hamline University known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Physics
    • Education
    • Business
    • Literature
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1147/25

    What is College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University known for?

    College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/21

    What is Minnesota State University Moorhead known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #7

    St. Olaf College

    Northfield , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1310/29

    What is St. Olaf College known for?

    St. Olaf College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Social Work
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #8

    Augsburg University

    Minneapolis , MN

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/20

    What is Augsburg University known for?

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

    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #9

    St. Catherine University

    Saint Paul , MN

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/24

    What is St. Catherine University known for?

    St. Catherine University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/23

    What is University of Minnesota Duluth known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #11

    St. Cloud State University

    Saint Cloud , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1064/21

    What is St. Cloud State University known for?

    St. Cloud State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #12

    University of St. Thomas

    Saint Paul , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/26

    What is University of St. Thomas known for?

    University of St. Thomas ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Law
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Social Work
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    13K

    What is Minnesota State University, Mankato known for?

    Minnesota State University, Mankato’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #15

    Dunwoody College of Technology

    Minneapolis , MN

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Dunwoody College of Technology known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

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Minnesota’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Minnesota

One of largest public higher education institutes in the country, the University of Minnesota has main campuses in both of the Twin Cities, Saint Paul and Minneapolis. This school costs about $15,000 in tuition, and provides its students with competitive programs in fields like nursing, education, economics, and psychology. And the options don’t stop there. There are more than 20 schools in the state with religious affiliations, including larger schools like the University of St. Thomas, which campuses in both Twin Cities, and smaller schools like Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

For students striving to keep costs low in a smaller school environment, Southwest Minnesota State University offers tuition below the national average and serves about 3,500 students. Additionally, those on track to become a teacher or health care provider may be eligible for one of Minnesota’s loan forgiveness programs after graduation. Minnesota also boasts a large network of private colleges, two of which, Walden University and Capella University, primarily cater to online students.

Ever heard the phrase, There’s an app for that? Well, in Minnesota they say something similar, There’s a festival for that. This fun state doesn’t hold back when it comes to celebrating. With events like the Grumpy Old Men Festival, World Festival, and the Perham Turtle Fest, students earning their degrees at one of Minnesota’s more than 70 colleges won’t miss out on a good time.

Discover some of Minnesota’s top programs and learn how you can earn your associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree while cashing in on some of this state’s unique experiences.


What are Minnesota’s Colleges & Universities?

Minnesota’s Best Overall