Vermont’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Vermont’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Vermont 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 Vermont 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.

Vermont’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 Vermont’s Colleges and Universities

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

  1. #1

    Bennington College

    Bennington , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Bennington College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Saint Michael's College

    Colchester , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Saint Michael's College known for?

    Saint Michael's College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Norwich University

    Northfield , VT

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Norwich University known for?

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

    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Education
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    Middlebury College

    Middlebury , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    22%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    What is Middlebury College known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • History
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    University of Vermont

    Burlington , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    What is University of Vermont known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • History
    • Economics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Landmark College

    Putney , VT

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    55%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Landmark College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Sterling College

    Craftsbury Common , VT

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    16%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Sterling College known for?

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

    • Education
  8. #8

    Champlain College

    Burlington , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    What is Champlain College known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Vermont Technical College

    Randolph , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Vermont Technical College known for?

    Vermont Technical College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
  10. #10

    Johnson State College

    Johnson , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Johnson State College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Communications
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Goddard College

    Plainfield , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Goddard College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Castleton University

    Castleton , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1019/20

    What is Castleton University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

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Vermont’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Vermont

Vermont is home to five public universities and colleges. Among these is the state’s largest school, the University of Vermont in Burlington. This college serves almost 13,000 students and boasts alumni like Ben Affleck and John Dewey. The majority of the higher education institutes in Vermont are private schools. Tuition at these schools ranges greatly, from $17,000 to $57,000. Though it is the most expensive private school in the state, Landmark College in Putney is especially unique as its student population is made up entirely of students diagnosed with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and autism. Students here can earn degrees in fields like psychology, studio art, and life science while participating in a more intimate, student-centered learning environment.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Almost all of Vermont’s schools could be considered small schools, serving student populations of 5,000 or less. Included on this list are three religiously affiliated schools, like Saint Michael’s College in Colchester. While tuition in Vermont tends to be costly, the state offers several loan forgiveness programs to qualifying dentists, physicians, nurses, and lawyers who work for nonprofits.

While many travelers come to Vermont for its famous maple syrup and stunning fall foliage, they’ll stay for the state’s bounteous farmers markets, wineries, and artisan foods. The magnificent green mountains, pristine skiing resorts, and rugged hiking trails are also major draws for visitors and residents alike. Students aiming to earn their degree while enjoying the outdoors and eating locally-sourced meals can attend one of Vermont’s 22 higher learning institutes.

Learn more about Vermont’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s array of picturesque colleges and universities.


What are Vermont’s Colleges & Universities?

Vermont’s Best Overall