Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities if, instead of rewarding waste and extravagance, we reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Taking our cue from Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast series “The Myths of Meritocracy,” we invented the Academic Stewardship metric to reward schools for making the most of what they have. Specifically, 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. Evaluated in terms of Academic Stewardship, the big wealthy schools fall by the wayside, whereas less affluent smaller schools that do more with less rise to the top, notably HBCUs.

Colleges and universities 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.

America’s smaller schools, 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 Academic Stewardship

Best Colleges and Universities for Undergrads
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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. Nevertheless, it’s worth giving an overview of the metric here. Measuring Academic Stewardship 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.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Challenge Accepted

In 2021, Malcolm Gladwell released a series of poignant podcasts about schools that were doing phenomenal work in advancing higher education but that were getting no recognition for it from the standard academic ranking organizations such as U.S. News & World Report. Especially noteworthy among these podcasts were “Project Dillard,” “Lord of the Rankings,” and “My Little Hundred Million.”

What troubled Gladwell is that schools like Dillard University and Reed College could never, given the way college rankings were set up, receive the recognition they deserved. The whole ranking system was rigged against them. Gladwell focused especially on Dillard University, an HBCU in New Orleans. By making its mission to serve underserved populations, Dillard was, in effect, getting penalized by U.S. News & World Report, which puts a premium in its rankings on schools that have a lot of money and spend it lavishly. In fact, the U.S. News rankings have a long history of penalizing schools that focus on making education more accessible to those with little or no money.

Our entire team at AcademicInfluence.com was tasked with listening to Gladwell’s series of podcasts on higher education. Some of us listened to it through the subscription service Scribd.com, which made Gladwell’s series conveniently available in a five-hour audio book titled “The Myths of Meritocracy.” We saw in these podcasts a real challenge to our ranking enterprise, and one that we could not dismiss lightly or simply rationalize away.

At AcademicInfluence.com, we use publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of academic persons, we then identify the schools with which they’re affiliated, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. We lay out this methodology in detail on our about pages.

Not surprisingly, rich and large schools have a huge advantage in scoring highly on influence-based rankings. Influence is an asset that people (notably faculty and alumni) confer on the schools with which they’re affiliated. As a result, the bigger wealthier schools have an easier time accumulating such assets and thereby raising their influence scores. In our influence-based rankings of schools, the bigger wealthier schools therefore tend to come out on top.

But not always. In 2020, we invented our Concentrated Influence metric to remove the size advantage of bigger schools, allowing smaller schools to punch above their weight class to compete successfully against larger schools. But Concentrated Influence does not control for wealth. Prompted by Gladwell, we therefore introduced our Academic Stewardship metric to control not just for a school’s size advantage but also for its wealth advantage, thereby gauging to what degree schools are good stewards of their resources.

Our Most Surprising Discovery - The Triumph of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

We invented the Academic Stewardship metric to highlight schools that make the most of their limited resources. In inventing this metric, we didn’t set out to artificially elevate or downgrade any schools. Our aim was to simply give schools credit for doing the best they could given their financial and human resources. Schools are dealt different cards. We wanted our Academic Influence metric to reflect making the most of the cards actually dealt.

What did we find? Simply scan the ranking below to answer that question for yourself. The most obvious thing that leaps out at you is this: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) crushed it in this ranking. In all the earlier experimental versions of the Academic Stewardship metric that we formulated, including the one we finally settled on, HBCUs kept coming up at the top, with Fisk University in particular dominating the ranking at the #1 spot.

Three HBCUs appear in the top five of this ranking, and five appear in the top fifteen. Dillard University, about which Gladwell did an entire podcast, appears at #14. The recognition that the Academic Stewardship metric gives to HBCUs is remarkable and unanticipated. Yet in hindsight, this stunning performance of HBCUs is also easily explained: HBCUs, underfunded and underappreciated for so many years, have nonetheless, as a matter of pride, striven to do the best they can with what limited resources they have. Our earnest wish is that this Academic Stewardship ranking plays some small part in giving these schools the recognition they deserve.

If you would like to take a deeper dive into the history of HBCUs, check out our article The History of HBCUs in America.

We also take a look at the best HBCUs over the past twenty years in Most Influential HBCUs 2000-2020.

So too, if you are interested in attending an HBCU but aren’t able to attend college on a traditional campus, or you need the flexibility an online school offers, we’ve got you covered:

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Colleges and Universities Exemplary in Academic Stewardship

  1. #1

    Fisk University

    Nashville , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/21

    Fisk University’s academic strengths:
    1. Sociology
    2. Political Science
    3. Literature
    4. Education
    5. History
    6. Mathematics
    7. Chemistry
    8. Business
    9. Physics
    10. Psychology
    Fisk University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Mathew Knowles
    2. Frederica Wilson
    3. Nikki Giovanni
    4. Diane Nash
    5. John Lewis
    6. David Levering Lewis
    7. Mary Frances Berry
    8. Manning Marable
    9. Johnnetta Cole
    10. Evelyn Boyd Granville

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Fisk University

  2. #2

    Hampshire College

    Amherst , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Hampshire College’s academic strengths:
    1. Literature
    2. Physics
    3. Anthropology
    4. Communications
    5. Mathematics
    6. Sociology
    7. Computer Science
    8. Psychology
    9. History
    10. Education
    Hampshire College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Lee Smolin
    2. Jon Krakauer
    3. Gary Marcus
    4. David Shulkin
    5. Norton Juster
    6. Benjamin Mako Hill
    7. Naomi Wallace
    8. Ellis Henican
    9. Carrie Mae Weems
    10. Heather Boushey

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Hampshire College

  3. #6

    Wiley College

    Marshall , TX

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    <1K

    Wiley College’s academic strengths:
    1. Mathematics
    2. Criminal Justice
    3. Sociology
    4. History
    5. Education
    6. Chemistry
    7. Religious Studies
    8. Communications
    9. Biology
    10. Literature
    Wiley College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Johnnie Colemon
    2. Al Jackson
    3. C. O. Simpkins Sr.
    4. William Astor Kirk
    5. Frederick C. Tillis
    6. Zephyr Wright
    7. Maxine Horner
    8. Han Chen
    9. Adam Costanzo
    10. Richard Williams

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Wiley College

  4. #7

    William Jewell College

    Liberty , MO
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/24

    William Jewell College’s academic strengths:
    1. Physics
    2. Chemistry
    3. Philosophy
    4. Business
    5. History
    6. Political Science
    7. Psychology
    8. Mathematics
    9. Engineering
    10. Biology
    William Jewell College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Don Page
    2. Dallas Willard
    3. Robin Carnahan
    4. Terry Teachout
    5. Harold E. Brooks
    6. Donald Marolf
    7. Josephine Staton
    8. Brian Knight
    9. Orvar Swenson
    10. Zel Fischer

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from William Jewell College

  5. #8

    Goshen College

    Goshen , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1108/25

    Goshen College’s academic strengths:
    1. Sociology
    2. Religious Studies
    3. Biology
    4. History
    5. Literature
    6. Physics
    7. Political Science
    8. Communications
    9. Nursing
    10. Social Work
    Goshen College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. David Bartel
    2. Byron Good
    3. Owen Gingerich
    4. Sofia Samatar
    5. Ellah Wakatama Allfrey
    6. John W. Meyer
    7. J. Mark Ramseyer
    8. Said Sheikh Samatar
    9. Philip A. Beachy
    10. Howard Zehr

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Goshen College

  6. #9

    Hollins University

    Roanoke , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    Hollins University’s academic strengths:
    1. Philosophy
    2. Literature
    3. Communications
    4. Sociology
    5. Education
    6. History
    7. Political Science
    8. Economics
    9. Mathematics
    10. Psychology
    Hollins University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Lawrence C. Becker
    2. Ann Compton
    3. Lee Smith
    4. Balli Kaur Jaswal
    5. Henry S. Taylor
    6. Annie Dillard
    7. Christine Schutt
    8. Donna Richardson
    9. Susan Campbell Bartoletti
    10. Lyda Hill

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Hollins University

  7. #10

    Olivet College

    Olivet , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    <1K

    Olivet College’s academic strengths:
    1. Computer Science
    2. Literature
    3. Biology
    4. History
    5. Mathematics
    6. Chemistry
    7. Sociology
    8. Business
    9. Psychology
    10. Anthropology
    Olivet College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Dave Cutler
    2. Adeola Fayehun
    3. Wolfgang Mieder
    4. Liz Walker
    5. Claressa Shields
    6. Kiyoko Takeda
    7. Sugar Chile Robinson
    8. William P. Blair
    9. B. Lee Cooper
    10. Gene G. Chandler

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Olivet College

  8. #11

    Menlo College

    Atherton , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    <1K

  9. #12

    Houghton College

    Houghton , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/24

    Houghton College’s academic strengths:
    1. Religious Studies
    2. Computer Science
    3. Sociology
    4. Physics
    5. Chemistry
    6. Education
    7. Engineering
    8. History
    9. Literature
    10. Mathematics
    Houghton College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Kim Pegula
    2. Douglas Comer
    3. Richard Mouw
    4. Bruce Waltke
    5. Ronald Enroth
    6. Joseph Hupp
    7. Neil MacBride
    8. Deborah Birx
    9. Anthony C. Yu
    10. Alan Heatherington

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Houghton College

  10. #18

    Reed College

    Portland , OR
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $63K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1422/32

    Reed College’s academic strengths:
    1. Anthropology
    2. Psychology
    3. Economics
    4. Computer Science
    5. Philosophy
    6. Literature
    7. Sociology
    8. Mathematics
    9. History
    10. Physics
    Reed College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Gary Snyder
    2. Barbara Ehrenreich
    3. John Taylor Gatto
    4. Eleanor Rosch
    5. Sally Haslanger
    6. Larry Sanger
    7. Peter Norton
    8. Diane Ravitch
    9. Howard Rheingold
    10. Keith Packard

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Reed College

  11. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1275/26

    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s academic strengths:
    1. Earth Sciences
    2. Physics
    3. Engineering
    4. Chemistry
    5. Computer Science
    6. Biology
    7. Mathematics
    8. Psychology
    9. Education
    10. Criminal Justice
    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Valerie Aurora
    2. Axel Scherer
    3. Jeffrey A. Lockwood
    4. Lukas Lundin
    5. Terry Wallace
    6. Penelope Boston
    7. Tim Callahan
    8. Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloom
    9. Larry Soderblom
    10. Baojun Bai

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

  12. #23

    Wabash College

    Crawfordsville , IN

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/26

    Wabash College’s academic strengths:
    1. Biology
    2. Chemistry
    3. Literature
    4. Philosophy
    5. Physics
    6. History
    7. Religious Studies
    8. Political Science
    9. Economics
    10. Psychology
    Wabash College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Dan Simmons
    2. Ronald J. Rychlak
    3. Stephen Goldsmith
    4. Robert G. Roeder
    5. David E. Kendall
    6. Stephen H. Webb
    7. Stephen H. Webb
    8. Robert Dirks
    9. Damon R. Leichty
    10. Pete Metzelaars

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Wabash College

  13. #24

    Georgetown College

    Georgetown , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1161/24

    Georgetown College’s academic strengths:
    1. Sociology
    2. Physics
    3. Philosophy
    4. Computer Science
    5. Literature
    6. History
    7. Political Science
    8. Biology
    9. Religious Studies
    10. Chemistry
    Georgetown College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Scott Pruitt
    2. Jacqueline Taylor
    3. Woo Chia-wei
    4. James C. Klotter
    5. Gary Bauer
    6. Billy Ray Cyrus
    7. Joe Dan Osceola
    8. Susan Johns
    9. Kenneth Davis
    10. Bruce McNorton

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Georgetown College

  14. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    Caltech’s academic strengths:
    1. Physics
    2. Chemistry
    3. Earth Sciences
    4. Engineering
    5. Computer Science
    6. Mathematics
    7. Biology
    8. Economics
    9. Business
    10. History
    Caltech’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Donald Knuth
    2. Fei-Fei Li
    3. Stephen Wolfram
    4. Murray Gell-Mann
    5. Sean M. Carroll
    6. Kip Thorne
    7. Michael Gazzaniga
    8. Christof Koch
    9. Solomon W. Golomb
    10. Vernon L. Smith

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Caltech

  15. #26

    West Virginia Wesleyan College

    Buckhannon , WV
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/21

    West Virginia Wesleyan College’s academic strengths:
    1. Nursing
    2. Biology
    3. Physics
    4. Chemistry
    5. Economics
    6. Psychology
    7. Literature
    8. History
    9. Mathematics
    10. Medical
    West Virginia Wesleyan College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Robin Davis
    2. Lewis C. Cantley
    3. Denise Giardina
    4. Jason Koon
    5. Emanuel Todorov
    6. Katherine A. Hoadley
    7. Anthony Peters
    8. Anthony Peters
    9. John Swan
    10. Pamela Balch

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from West Virginia Wesleyan College

  16. #27

    Hiram College

    Hiram , OH

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1006/21

    Hiram College’s academic strengths:
    1. Literature
    2. Economics
    3. Communications
    4. Biology
    5. Psychology
    6. Philosophy
    7. History
    8. Medical
    9. Mathematics
    10. Physics
    Hiram College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Carol Z. Perez
    2. Claude Steele
    3. Jan Hopkins
    4. Mark W. Spong
    5. Sharon Creech
    6. Dean A. Scarborough
    7. Robert Biscup
    8. Martha Derthick
    9. Wendy Murray
    10. Lance Liotta

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Hiram College

  17. #28

    Knox College

    Galesburg , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1220/27

    Knox College’s academic strengths:
    1. Literature
    2. Computer Science
    3. Mathematics
    4. History
    5. Education
    6. Psychology
    7. Political Science
    8. Physics
    9. Philosophy
    10. Biology
    Knox College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. John Podesta
    2. Robert Hanssen
    3. David A. Kolb
    4. Robert F. Spetzler
    5. Thomas E. Kurtz
    6. Ander Monson
    7. Alexander Rabinowitch
    8. Margaret A. Ryan
    9. Vir Das
    10. Barry Bearak

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Knox College

  18. #29

    Haverford College

    Haverford , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    Haverford College’s academic strengths:
    1. Religious Studies
    2. Philosophy
    3. Mathematics
    4. Literature
    5. Sociology
    6. Anthropology
    7. Political Science
    8. History
    9. Physics
    10. Chemistry
    Haverford College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Fredric Jameson
    2. Dave Barry
    3. Juan Williams
    4. Jane Silber
    5. Jon Kabat-Zinn
    6. Howard Lutnick
    7. Mark Geragos
    8. Andy Gavin
    9. John C. Whitehead
    10. Arn Tellem

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Haverford College

  19. #30

    Virginia Union University

    Richmond , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    849/15

    Virginai Union University’s academic strengths:
    1. Religious Studies
    2. Social Work
    3. History
    4. Education
    5. Sociology
    6. Chemistry
    7. Communications
    8. Literature
    9. Psychology
    10. Computer Science
    Virginai Union University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Iyanla Vanzant
    2. Roslyn Brock
    3. Randall Robinson
    4. Wyatt Tee Walker
    5. Henry L. Marsh
    6. Ben Wallace
    7. Leontine T. Kelly
    8. Douglas Wilder
    9. Charles Oakley
    10. Yvonne Maddox

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Virginai Union University

  20. #31

    Monmouth College

    Monmouth , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/22

    Monmouth College’s academic strengths:
    1. Physics
    2. Chemistry
    3. Engineering
    4. Philosophy
    5. Economics
    6. Computer Science
    7. Biology
    8. History
    9. Literature
    10. Sociology
    Monmouth College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Ann Garry
    2. Steven Pressman
    3. Joe Tait
    4. Harold Arthur Poling
    5. Chad Simpson
    6. Danielle Nierenberg
    7. William J. Winslade
    8. Karen Bush
    9. Kennedy J. Reed
    10. Jane Kurtz

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Monmouth College

  21. #32

    Transylvania University

    Lexington , KY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/26

    Transylvania University’s academic strengths:
    1. Chemistry
    2. History
    3. Literature
    4. Business
    5. Biology
    6. Communications
    7. Political Science
    8. Education
    9. Economics
    10. Philosophy
    Transylvania University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Seamus Carey
    2. Matt Jones
    3. Richard Berman
    4. Daniel Mongiardo
    5. Peter S. Fosl
    6. Charles L. Shearer
    7. Claria Horn Boom
    8. Karen K. Caldwell
    9. Tracy Clayton
    10. Tisa Mason

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Transylvania University

  22. #33

    Elmira College

    Elmira , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    Elmira College’s academic strengths:
    1. Nursing
    2. Psychology
    3. Medical
    4. Economics
    5. Sociology
    6. Earth Sciences
    7. Literature
    8. Chemistry
    9. Biology
    10. History
    Elmira College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Roberta Baskin
    2. Sheila Williams
    3. Wilhelmina Holladay
    4. Matt E. Baker
    5. Diane Lockward
    6. Fay Kanin
    7. Benjamin J Lovett
    8. Stephanie Kugelman
    9. Kenneth R. Hall
    10. Kevin B. Winebold

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Elmira College

  23. #34

    Eastern Mennonite University

    Harrisonburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Eastern Mennonite University’s academic strengths:
    1. Sociology
    2. Criminal Justice
    3. Religious Studies
    4. Social Work
    5. Political Science
    6. Chemistry
    7. Mathematics
    8. Psychology
    9. Biology
    10. Economics
    Eastern Mennonite University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Leymah Gbowee
    2. Donald Kraybill
    3. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
    4. Ali Gohar
    5. Howard Zehr
    6. Emmanuel Bombande
    7. David Augsburger
    8. Myron Augsburger
    9. Mohamud Siad Togane
    10. Jeremy Yoder

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Eastern Mennonite University

  24. #36

    Pacific Union College

    Angwin , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1060/21

    Pacific Union College’s academic strengths:
    1. Religious Studies
    2. Literature
    3. Medical
    4. History
    5. Biology
    6. Social Work
    7. Nursing
    8. Communications
    9. Sociology
    10. Education
    Pacific Union College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Stanley G. Payne
    2. George R. Knight
    3. Lisa Breckenridge
    4. Jon Dybdahl
    5. Vincent W. Patton III
    6. Loree Sutton
    7. Niels-Erik Andreasen
    8. Larry Geraty
    9. Peter Monge
    10. J. Russell Nelson

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Pacific Union College

  25. #37

    Cornell College

    Mount Vernon , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1222/26

    Cornell College’s academic strengths:
    1. Philosophy
    2. Mathematics
    3. Anthropology
    4. Chemistry
    5. Psychology
    6. Physics
    7. Computer Science
    8. Literature
    9. Engineering
    10. History
    Cornell College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Harper Reed
    2. Leo Beranek
    3. David C. Hilmers
    4. Thomas Zinkula
    5. Michael W. Allen
    6. Aleta Arthur Trauger
    7. Jack Norris
    8. Matthew Brouillette
    9. Ann R. Cannon
    10. Michael J. Graham

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Cornell College

  26. #38

    Washington & Jefferson College

    Washington , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    1K

    Washington & Jefferson College’s academic strengths:
    1. Medical
    2. Business
    3. History
    4. Literature
    5. Mathematics
    6. Physics
    7. Education
    8. Biology
    9. Political Science
    10. Communications
    Washington & Jefferson College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Roger Goodell
    2. Jonathan Gottschall
    3. David A. Steinberg
    4. John S. Reed
    5. Gary Namie
    6. Joe Philbin
    7. William L. Thomas
    8. Richard Clark
    9. Tom Rooney
    10. Frederick E. Grine

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Washington & Jefferson College

  27. #39

    Ripon College

    Ripon , WI

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    Ripon College’s academic strengths:
    1. Physics
    2. Anthropology
    3. Communications
    4. Philosophy
    5. History
    6. Economics
    7. Sociology
    8. Psychology
    9. Biology
    10. Mathematics
    Ripon College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Harrison Ford
    2. McKey Sullivan
    3. Michael Gableman
    4. James Megellas
    5. Ryan C. Amacher
    6. Richard Threlkeld
    7. Gary G. Yerkey
    8. Barbara Bechler Flynn
    9. Laura Ramsey
    10. Frances Lee McCain

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Ripon College

  28. #40

    Agnes Scott College

    Decatur , GA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    1K

    Agnes Scott College’s academic strengths:
    1. Mathematics
    2. Physics
    3. Philosophy
    4. Economics
    5. Psychology
    6. Political Science
    7. Literature
    8. History
    9. Sociology
    10. Medical
    Agnes Scott College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Wasfia Nazreen
    2. Jordan Casteel
    3. Jennifer Nettles
    4. Loretta Ross
    5. Susan M. Phillips
    6. Sue Jinks-Robertson
    7. Kimberly Belle
    8. Marsha Norman
    9. Katherine Harris
    10. Marilyn Breen

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Agnes Scott College

  29. #41

    Chestnut Hill College

    Philadelphia , PA

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    1K

    Chestnut Hill College’s academic strengths:
    1. Computer Science
    2. Mathematics
    3. Psychology
    4. Education
    5. History
    6. Criminal Justice
    7. Communications
    8. Sociology
    9. Literature
    10. Medical
    Chestnut Hill College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Frances Spence
    2. Frederica Massiah-Jackson
    3. Kathleen Byerly
    4. Margaret McKenna
    5. Ana Marjanovic-Shane
    6. Nicole M. Monteiro
    7. Yefim Kats
    8. Joseph Kulkosky
    9. George Diemer
    10. Scott Browning

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Chestnut Hill College

  30. #42

    Hanover College

    Hanover , IN

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    Hanover College’s academic strengths:
    1. Biology
    2. Earth Sciences
    3. Physics
    4. Chemistry
    5. History
    6. Mathematics
    7. Literature
    8. Political Science
    9. Education
    10. Engineering
    Hanover College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Mike Pence
    2. Woody Harrelson
    3. Walter LaFeber
    4. Eric Holcomb
    5. Richard Lesh
    6. Chris Culver
    7. David L. Armstrong
    8. Bertha Lewis
    9. Philip Hedrick
    10. Monica Sone

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Hanover College

  31. #43

    Trinity Washington University

    Washington , DC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    1K

    Trinity Washington University’s academic strengths:
    1. Political Science
    2. Nursing
    3. Sociology
    4. Education
    5. Literature
    6. Criminal Justice
    7. Communications
    8. Religious Studies
    9. Psychology
    10. Medical
    Trinity Washington University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Kellyanne Conway
    2. Nancy Pelosi
    3. Cathie Black
    4. Rosemary M. Collyer
    5. Kathleen Sebelius
    6. Maggie Williams
    7. Claire Eagan
    8. Tina Darragh
    9. M. Patricia Smith
    10. Kate Moira Ryan

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Trinity Washington University

  32. #44

    Albion College

    Albion , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/24

    Albion College’s academic strengths:
    1. Earth Sciences
    2. Chemistry
    3. Computer Science
    4. Physics
    5. Mathematics
    6. Biology
    7. Political Science
    8. Business
    9. Literature
    10. Economics
    Albion College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Joel Manby
    2. Doug Parker
    3. Bruce C. Berndt
    4. Josh A. Cassada
    5. Martin Nesbitt
    6. Jon Scieszka
    7. Richard Mills Smith
    8. Bates Gill
    9. Barbara Ann Crancer
    10. Charles L. Shearer

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Albion College

  33. #45

    Cazenovia College

    Cazenovia , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    <1K

    Cazenovia College’s academic strengths:
    1. Business
    2. Psychology
    3. Communications
    4. Criminal Justice
    5. Education
    6. Biology
    7. Sociology
    8. Literature
    9. Social Work
    10. Medical
    Cazenovia College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Hind Rassam Culhane
    2. Joseph R. Ferrari
    3. Barbara W. Woodlee
    4. David R. Andrews
    5. John Robert Greene
    6. Judy Fenster
    7. Rachel E. Dinero
    8. Barbara J. Hager
    9. Jessica Essary
    10. Jesse Harasta

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Cazenovia College

  34. #47

    Oglethorpe University

    Atlanta , GA

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    Oglethorpe University’s academic strengths:
    1. History
    2. Physics
    3. Political Science
    4. Literature
    5. Business
    6. Philosophy
    7. Communications
    8. Economics
    9. Sociology
    10. Engineering
    Oglethorpe University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Dar'shun Kendrick
    2. Diana Fleischman
    3. Lawrence Schall
    4. Michael J. Beran
    5. Hugh P. Thompson
    6. Sable Elyse Smith
    7. John Burke
    8. Ahmet Akin
    9. Christopher J. McFadden
    10. Reginald F. Frye

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Oglethorpe University

  35. #48

    Friends University

    Wichita , KS
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/22

    Friends University’s academic strengths:
    1. Biology
    2. Psychology
    3. Mathematics
    4. Religious Studies
    5. Literature
    6. Social Work
    7. Communications
    8. Criminal Justice
    9. Computer Science
    10. Sociology
    Friends University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. James F. Crow
    2. Antwan Wilson
    3. R. C. Buford
    4. Darrel Ray
    5. Bruce P. Blake
    6. Mitch McVicker
    7. Jeff Fraser
    8. Michael O'Donnell
    9. Aaron Jack
    10. Matt Lundy

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Friends University

  36. #49

    Rockford University

    Rockford , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    51%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Rockford University’s academic strengths:
    1. Sociology
    2. Political Science
    3. Philosophy
    4. Literature
    5. Biology
    6. History
    7. Education
    8. Psychology
    9. Medical
    10. Mathematics
    Rockford University’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Stephen Hicks
    2. Hind Rassam Culhane
    3. Robin Schone
    4. Roland Poska
    5. Mark Pedowitz
    6. Barbara Santucci
    7. Deb Patterson
    8. Jane Addams
    9. Joyce Holmberg
    10. Maurice West

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Rockford University

  37. #50

    Illinois College

    Jacksonville , IL

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    1K

    Illinois College’s academic strengths:
    1. Biology
    2. Medical
    3. Economics
    4. Political Science
    5. History
    6. Business
    7. Literature
    8. Chemistry
    9. Physics
    10. Education
    Illinois College’s most influential faculty and alumni today:
    1. Cheri Bustos
    2. Brian Sherwin
    3. Bob Schillerstrom
    4. Steve Hochstadt
    5. Richard Henry Mills
    6. Paul Findley
    7. Nancy Farmer
    8. Maurice West
    9. Edward E. Johnston
    10. Marina Verenikina

    See more of notable alumni and faculty from Illinois College

Back to Top

Find the Best Academic Stewards in Each State

More about Measuring Academic Stewardship

At AcademicInfluence.com, we measure the influence of schools. By taking publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar and Wikipedia, we can measure the influence of academic persons in their respective disciplines, and then by looking at what schools they’re affiliated with (faculty and alums), we can measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. All of this we cover in our methodology and related articles.

Go to: The Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Not surprisingly, rich and large schools have a huge advantage in scoring high on influence. Influence can be viewed as an educational asset, and the bigger wealthier schools are in a strong position go acquire a lot of it. But what happens when smaller schools with fewer resources invest in influence wisely and, proportionately, do better in acquiring influence than large wealthy schools? Large wealthy schools have a lot of money to burn in acquiring influence. Academic Stewardship imposes a cost on poor stewardship, rewarding schools not for influence per se but for their effectiveness in acquiring influence with limited means.

Academic Stewardship is getting the most influence for the actual resources on hand. As a ranking metric, it asks how effectively schools use the financial and human resources they have to obtain influence. Academic Stewardship rewards wise stewardship, penalizes waste and extravagance. Cost-effectiveness analyses are widely used in business, but Academic Stewardship goes beyond mere cost-effectiveness. When the topic of money comes up in higher education, the focus is often on affordability and keeping costs down, rather than on clarifying how a school’s resources are contributing optimally to its academic impact.

Many of the schools that rank highly by Academic Stewardship would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools. An Academic Stewardship ranking determines which schools are most influential in light of the limits on financial and human resources that they face.

Academic Stewardship intersects with affordability and getting the best value for one’s tuition dollar, but it should not be confused with frugality or even financial responsibility. Indeed, some very wealthy schools are, by any measure, financially responsible, as witnessed by their ever growing endowments.

By contrast, the schools that appear high up in our Academic Stewardship rankings tend to be all over the map when it comes to standard accounting measures, such as tuition costs. At issue is the influence that schools can acquire given the financial and human resources available to them. If a school high in Academic Stewardship is going to charge more for tuition, such an increase needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Academic Stewardship as a Metric

So what exactly is Academic Stewardship? Academic Stewardship, as we define it, is a metric for measuring influence as a function of human and financial resources. The influence score of a school, as we note in our methodology statement and expand on in our InfluenceRanking™ engine description, is the combined influence of all the people affiliated with the school, which includes both faculty and alumni.

The formula for Academic Stewardship is a fraction, and so has a numerator and denominator. We put the overall influence score of a school in the numerator. The denominator of Academic Stewardship then consists of multiplying three factors. These three factors are entirely constructed from the National Center for Educations Statistics’s IPEDS data:

FACTOR 1
The size of the undergraduate student body. The idea here is that large schools with large numbers of undergraduates dilute their influence across many students, but smaller schools may be able to concentrate their influence more effectively. If this were the only factor in the denominator, Academic Stewardship would coincide with an earlier metric we’ve developed and used widely across this site, namely, Concentrated Influence. But there’s more to Academic Stewardship.
FACTOR 2
The school’s budget. A school’s annual budget gives a good sense of what a school has to spend in acquiring influence. The budget will include salaries of faculty, which enables them to affiliate with the school and thereby contribute their influence to it. At the same time, the budget covers the cost of educating students, who by becoming influential alumni will also contribute to the school’s influence.
FACTOR 3
The maximum of i) total tuition and fees income for the year, ii) five percent of the endowment, and iii) 8,000 times size of undergraduate student body. This factor controls for wealth of schools in terms of tuitions charged and tuition costs capable of being covered by endowments (5 percent being a very modest return on an endowment and thus easily spent on influence). It also controls for public institutions that charge virtually no tuition and may have no endowment, but which clearly are getting their money from somewhere (tax payers). In our research $8,000 is as low as an education per student can go without becoming overwhelmingly subsidized.

ACADEMIC STEWARDSHIP = (OVERALL INFLUENCE SCORE OF SCHOOL)/
(FACTOR1 x FACTOR2 x FACTOR3)

Note that the last factor may seem a bit jury-rigged, but it works. It holds wealthy schools accountable for their wealth, especially those with large endowments, treating 5 percent of the endowment as a financial resource that schools readily have available to them without undercutting their bottom line. At the same time, this factor holds seemingly poor schools honest about their subsidization (such as through taxes or religious donations) if they show very little income from tuitions. The point is to prevent schools from claiming unfair advantages or disadvantages.

The second and third factors suggest some redundancy, with budget ordinarily incorporating income from tuition and fees. That’s true, but we are simultaneously trying to control for wealthy schools that can dip into huge endowments as well as for seemingly poor schools that can report low budget and tuition figures, but still have access to considerable financial resources. Taken together, these two factors control for fudging of budget and tuition figures.

Two more tweaks are needed for our Academic Stewardship metric. First, we limited our attention to schools with at least 700 students. To go smaller invited a lot of specialty schools, including some really fine music conservatories. But we wanted this ranking to serve nonspecialist readers interested in schools with a diversity of offerings, and so 700 seemed like a reasonable cutoff.

Also, we limited our attention to American schools that were in the top 1,000 for overall influence. We did this because we wanted to avoid schools that had extremely small overall influence but that would still come up high in Academic Stewardship because their financial resources were proportionately even more extremely small.

In formulating our Academic Stewardship metric, we needed to calibrate it to ensure that schools that do more with less do indeed get properly rewarded. We expect that this metric can still be improved. But we’re also confident that in its present form, it is closely on target.

Our Most Surprising Find

Interestingly, in the various earlier experimental versions of the Academic Stewardship metric that we formulated, and also in the one we settled on here, we found a consistent pattern: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) kept coming up at the top, with Fisk University in particular dominating the ranking at the #1 spot.

The special recognition that this metric gave to HBCUs was remarkable and unanticipated. You can see how HBCUs thrive under the Academic Stewardship metric by using our Custom College Ranking tool set to Academic Stewardship and by diving deeper with our 50 Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship ranking.

Image Credit: Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons.