West Virginia’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

West Virginia’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in West Virginia 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 West Virginia 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.

West Virginia’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 West Virginia’s Colleges and Universities

West Virginia'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 West Virginia’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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West Virginia’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    West Virginia State University

    Institute , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    30%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    965/19

    What is West Virginia State University known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Computer Science
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    University of Charleston

    Charleston , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1041/21

    What is University of Charleston known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Marshall University

    Huntington , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    What is Marshall University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Earth Sciences
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    West Virginia University

    Morgantown , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/24

    What is West Virginia University known for?

    West Virginia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Bluefield State College

    Bluefield , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    880/18

    What is Bluefield State College known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Concord University

    Athens , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/20

    What is Concord University known for?

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

    • Social Work
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Glenville State University

    Glenville , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Glenville State University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    American Public University System

    Charles Town , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    35K

    What is American Public University System known for?

    American Public University System’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Law
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Ohio Valley University

    Vienna , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    25%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/20

    What is Ohio Valley University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Shepherd University

    Shepherdstown , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    What is Shepherd University known for?

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

    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Wheeling University

    Wheeling , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1020/20

    What is Wheeling University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Fairmont State University

    Fairmont , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1010/20

    What is Fairmont State University known for?

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

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Davis & Elkins College

    Elkins , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    What is Davis & Elkins College known for?

    Davis & Elkins College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    West Virginia Wesleyan College

    Buckhannon , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/21

    What is West Virginia Wesleyan College known for?

    West Virginia Wesleyan College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    55%

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/21

    What is West Virginia University Institute of Technology known for?

    West Virginia University Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Bethany College

    Bethany , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    What is Bethany College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    24%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Potomac State College of West Virginia University known for?

    Potomac State College of West Virginia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    2K

    What is West Virginia University at Parkersburg known for?

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Law

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    Salem University

    Salem , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Salem University known for?

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

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    West Liberty University

    West Liberty , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    2K

    What is West Liberty University known for?

    West Liberty University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    Alderson Broaddus University

    Philippi , WV

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/19

    What is Alderson Broaddus University known for?

    Alderson Broaddus University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

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West Virginia’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in West Virginia

West Virginia has 20 public higher education institutions, all at a sticker price of $9,000 or less, making it one of the more affordable states to earn a degree. With over 25,000 students in attendance, West Virginia University is the largest and charges $9,000 in tuition. Aside from the community and state colleges, six other public universities have populations ranging from about 2,100 to just over 10,000, and all schools have a tuition rate of about $8,000.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

The state is also home to 12 private schools, eight of which are religiously affiliated. The University of Charleston is the largest private university, but its student population is still small. About 2,000 students take classes in fields such as chemistry, political science, and history, and the tuition totals $21,000. At $32,000 in tuition and fees, West Virginia Wesleyan College is the most expensive, but its student population is only slightly above 1,300.

As the only state contained entirely within the Appalachian range, West Virginia is rightfully nicknamed The Mountain State. Those who love the outdoors will feel at home hiking through the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve or skiing at Canaan Valley Ski Resort. History buffs can visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, where they can take a walk through life in the 1800s. In addition, the state offers over 30 private and public colleges and universities to those looking to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Check out the state’s top programs and see why West Virginia could be a good fit for your educational goals and budget.


What are West Virginia’s Colleges & Universities?

West Virginia’s Best Overall