North Dakota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

North Dakota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in North Dakota 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 North Dakota 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.

North Dakota’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 North Dakota’s Colleges and Universities

North Dakota'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 North Dakota’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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North Dakota’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #2

    Minot State University

    Minot , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    What is Minot State University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1152/23

    What is North Dakota State University known for?

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

    • Economics
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #4

    University of North Dakota

    Grand Forks , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is University of North Dakota known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Bismarck State College

    Bismarck , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Bismarck State College known for?

    Bismarck State College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    Mayville State University

    Mayville , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/20

    What is Mayville State University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    Valley City State University

    Valley City , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1019/21

    What is Valley City State University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    University of Mary

    Bismarck , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1164/23

    What is University of Mary known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Dickinson State University

    Dickinson , ND
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    99%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    What is Dickinson State University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Physics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

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North Dakota’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in North Dakota

The majority of the higher learning institutes in North Dakota are public schools and almost all of the schools could be considered small schools, serving less than 5,000 students. The state’s two largest schools, however, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University in Fargo, each have a student population around 12,000 students. Tuition at both of these schools comes in just below the national average at $9,000.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

At UND and NDSU, students can study fields such as engineering, chemistry, law, and education. Additionally, students can attend one of the state’s five private schools, three of which have religious affiliations. Students who attend these schools can pursue degrees in fields like nursing, religious studies, education, and earth sciences. North Dakota also offers a private tribal college, United Tribes Technical College, located in the state’s capital, Bismarck, where students can expect to pay around $4,000 in tuition fees.

As the country’s number one producer of honey and sunflowers, and home to part of the international Peace Garden, North Dakota’s landscape is a thing of natural beauty. This magnificent state also has its fair share of one-of-a-kind attractions, including the Badlands Dinosaur Museum, which features world-class minerals and fossils, and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Heritage Center, which gives an inside look at this Native American tribe’s unique culture and traditions. The state also boasts 19 colleges and universities for students hoping to earn a higher education degree.

Discover more about earning your degree in North Dakota by exploring some of the state’s top programs.


What are North Dakota’s Colleges & Universities?

North Dakota’s Best Overall