Wisconsin’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Wisconsin’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin 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.

Wisconsin’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 Wisconsin’s Colleges and Universities

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

  1. #2

    Ripon College

    Ripon , WI

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

  2. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    7K

    University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point’s Online Degrees

    BS Applied Computing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Family and Consumer Sciences
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Health Information Management and Technology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    22K

    University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s Online Degrees

    BS Applied Computing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Information Science and Technology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Biomedical Sciences
    Degree Concentrations
    • Diagnostic Imaging
    • Biomedical Sciences
    • Health Sciences
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Communication
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Community Engagement and Education
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of History
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Jewish Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    38K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/29

    University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Online Degrees

    BLS Applied Social Science
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    Bachelor of Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Human Resources
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Consumer Finance & Financial Planning
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Consumer Marketplace Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    What is Wisconsin Lutheran College known for?

    Wisconsin Lutheran College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

  7. Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    What is Maranatha Baptist University known for?

    Maranatha Baptist University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    6K

    University of Wisconsin–Green Bay’s Online Degrees

    Bachelor of Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Accounting
    • Finance
    • Human Resources
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Organizational Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Health Information Management and Technology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    5K

    What is University of Wisconsin–River Falls known for?

    University of Wisconsin–River Falls’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Concordia University Wisconsin known for?

    Concordia University Wisconsin’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Concordia University Wisconsin’s Online Degrees

    BA Secondary Education
    Degree Concentrations
    • English and Language Arts
    • Social Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Business Analytics and Change Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Business Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Public Service
    Degree Concentrations
    • Leadership
    • Management of Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Nursing (RN-to-BSN)
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Applied Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Communication and Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Healthcare Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Human Resource Management
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA Theological Studies
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Applied Computer Science
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Diagnostic Medical Sonography
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS Radiologic Technology
    • Required Credits: 120-128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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Wisconsin’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Wisconsin

Between community colleges, technical schools, and universities, Wisconsin has 30 public schools. All the public schools in Wisconsin have affordable tuitions, ranging from $4,000 to $11,000. The University of Wisconsin - Madison has over 35,000 students in attendance, making it the largest in the state. The tuition runs about $11,000, and the school boasts an 85% graduation rate. Public affairs, veterinary medicine, and human ecology are just some of the fields students can study here.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Of Wisconsin’s 29 private schools, 18 are religious. With just under 10,000 students, Marquette University is the largest, and tuition for this school is about $42,000. Located in Milwaukee, this Catholic, Jesuit university offers degrees in fields like business, engineering, physical therapy, and law. Also located in Milwaukee, the state’s smallest institution, the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology, is a private graduate school with just over 30 students, and is geared toward those earning their doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Wisconsin, like many states, also provides a loan forgiveness program to those who are working in the health care field.

When people think Wisconsin, they might immediately crave cheese. After all, the state is home to a museum dedicated to all things cheese, including the annual making of a 90-pound wheel of Swiss. But The Beaver State is also known for its more than 15,000 lakes, including Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Prospective students looking to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree will enjoy the food, landscape, and educational variety Wisconsin has to offer.

Learn more about Wisconsin’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s variety of colleges and universities.


What are Wisconsin’s Colleges & Universities?

Wisconsin’s Best Overall