When you are trying to determine the quality of a particular institution, what do you normally do? Chances are you look to sites like U.S. News or Princeton Review to give you the information you need. While these are highly reputable sources that can often be very helpful, research has shown that some of the indicators used for those rankings – such as alumni donations and teacher salaries – don’t necessarily correlate to quality or, more importantly, student satisfaction. That’s where we come in.
Affordable Online Schools
We’ve come up with eight quality indicators that we think are a good measure of a student’s potential “depth and breadth” of experience at an institution. All were weighted equally. They include: graduation rate, freshmen retention rate, student-to-faculty ratio, percentage of classes taught by graduate assistants, average entrance ACT score, number of campus organizations, and number of academic programs. We also considered a school’s ranking by Forbes, a measure of quality that, due to its focus on what a student gets out of college and not how a student gets into college, we think is a great measure of student satisfaction (read more here).
Because we’re all about great value, we also took into consideration a school’s affordability, and so no college on this list has a net price (the total cost of attendance minus the average aid package) over $22,000 – roughly the typical price tag of a year of college. As a result, you get a list of postsecondary institutions that are all regionally accredited, relatively affordable, and high-scoring on all eight of our measures of quality. They are listed in descending order according to their cost, but we have included our quality ranking as well so you can assess just how each school measures up. They have also been separated into public and private schools and were rated in separate groups.
25. University of Cincinnati
With enrollment north of 42,000, the University of Cincinnati provides an atmosphere of educational excellence and a commitment to research to students from around the country. The student-to-faculty ratio is only 15:1, and students can choose from thousands of classes separated into over 300 academic programs. The school has as well-developed global engagement program and sends students everywhere from Mexico to Australia, South Africa to Austria. UC also has everything the sports-minded “Bearcat” could want, with intramural and club sports, sports clinics, an athletic complex and a fitness center, and 17 NCAA teams that together have captured over 40 conference championships.
Net Price: $19,310
24. Grand Valley State University
Grand Valley State, principally located just a few miles from the bustling urban area of Grand Rapids, also has a number of smaller campuses in nearby towns. This major university provides a liberal education foundation through its 200+ academic programs, in addition to a number of unique minors, such as Aging and Adult Life, Applied Linguistics, Juvenile Justice, Geographic Techniques, and Natural Resources Management. Of course, there’s plenty of time for fun and games, too. In addition to hundreds of student organizations, the school also offers special events like the “Laker Leadership Program” to encourage student leadership and “Spotlight Productions” to bring entertainment and shows to campus year round.
Net Price: $18,242
23. Ohio University
At Ohio University, the truth is in the numbers. It’s easy to see what a great school it is when you consider that international student enrollment is nearly 1,500, 81% of freshmen receive financial aid, and there are over 1,000 full-time faculty (12% of classes are taught by TA’s). Furthermore, from 2010-11 the school won over 70 awards and graduated 10 Fulbright Scholars. Although the school has impressive academic programs (well over 100), it also possesses a passionate dedication to the arts, as exemplified in its “Arts for Ohio” initiative, which seamlessly integrates shows and cultural events into students’ everyday lives.
Net Price: $17,846
22. Ohio State University
Not to be confused with Ohio University, Ohio State is one of the largest universities in the country with nearly 70,000 students across all campuses. There’s never a dull moment at Ohio State, and you’ll soon discover that the 1,400 registered student organizations and 150+ academic programs will keep you more than busy. Students are so busy having fun that there’s no time to consider leaving, as evidenced by the 92% retention rate and 83% 6-year graduation rate. The size and scope of the university also allow it to be one of the premier research institutions in the Midwest, with centers devoted to polymer and composite engineering, automotive research, food industry, photovoltaics, and much more.
Net Price: $17,406
21. University of Kansas
The University of Kansas isn’t just one of the best universities in the Midwest according to our standards. Two of its programs (City Management and Special Education) are highly nationally ranked, and it is one of the best postsecondary institutions for NIH grants devoted to pharmacy research. The school has also produced more Rhodes Scholars than any other Kansas university. Sports enthusiasts and lawyers may find the university particularly appealing, as UK’s basketball and debate teams have both won national championships. And whether you’re going to major in Aerospace Engineering or Voice, at least one of the school’s more than 110 academic degrees will help you launch a career of which to be proud.
Net Price: $16,923
20. University of Missouri – Columbia
The University of Missouri, colloquially known as “Mizzou,” has come a long way from its humble roots. The first university founded after the Louisiana Purchase, it is now a $2.1 billion enterprise and is the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system. It is one of only 34 public universities that has been invited to join the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), and is one of only seven public schools to have a law school, veterinary college, and medical school on the same campus. The campus also includes a botanic garden, a journalism library, an entomology museum, a craft studio gallery, and practically endless other student-centered facilities.
Net Price: $16,884
For More Information: University of Missouri – Columbia
19. University of Oklahoma
When you become a “Sooner,” you join a community of world-class scholars and innovative students reaching new heights every day. Plus, life in Norman is anything but dull. Join the “Community of Gamers” or any number of the 300 other student organizations, “adopt a professor” to facilitate greater student-to-faculty interaction, or throw yourself into active Greek life. The University of Oklahoma is also committed to community outreach and provides K-12 youth programs, military programs, and grants and partnerships that address a broad spectrum of social and educational concerns. Athletes will be happy to hear that the school recently initiated a massive $370 million renovation of its football stadium.
Net Price: $16,780
For More Information: University of Oklahoma
18. University of Wisconsin – Madison
The University of Wisconsin, although ranked 15th overall and 18th for its net price, has one of the highest freshmen retention rates of any school on the list at 95%. Also, the 6-year graduation rate is a notable 83%. Students at UW are constantly achieving big things, and the school has for professional schools (law, medicine, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine). UW also encourages students to engage in leadership, and you can earn a certificate in leadership or even earn a “Wisconsin Experience Grant” for your student organization seeking campus-wide impact. Speaking of student organizations, you can do everything from participate in a Southasian dance competition to “adopt a grandparent” at a nearby nursing home.
Net Price: $16,536
For More Information: University of Wisconsin – Madison
17. University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
In a state home to barely 3 million people, one university stands out: the University of Iowa, a school with top-ranked programs located in one of America’s best college towns. The student-to-faculty ratio is only 16:1 and 80% of classes have fewer than 30 students – quite a feat for such a large research institution. Since this is an article about affordability in postsecondary education, it’s also noteworthy that there is over $56 million available in scholarships to undergrads. And between the school’s undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, you’ll have over 200 degrees from which to choose.
Net Price: $15,966
For More Information: University of Iowa
16. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
We bet not many readers will be surprised that “U of M” made this list. It’s a prestigious university that has produced famous alumni in almost every field, including astronauts, authors, actors, artists, Nobel laureates, and business people – including the inventor of the iPod and the co-founder of Google. Life at Michigan includes top-notch academics, a diverse arts and culture scene, and rousing Big 10 athletics that includes a friendly (sometimes) rivalry with the nearby Michigan State University. With more than 120 academic programs and ten times as many student organizations, it’s no surprise that the school retains 97% of its freshmen and graduates 90% of students in 6 years.
Net Price: $15,939
For More Information: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
15. Illinois State University
Get the best of both worlds by attending Illinois State. Located in the modest twin towns of Bloomington and Normal, the campus is also just a short drive from the major cities of Chicago and St. Louis. The school has a sizeable athletic division and prides itself on its school spirit; events like Homecoming and organizations like the school radio show will give you ample opportunities to get involved. Students also love to give back and regularly participate in activities to help new students move in, participate in the “American Democracy Project,” collect donations for tornado victims, and promote responsible citizenship.
Net Price: $15,673
For More Information: Illinois State University
14. Kansas State University
Kansas State University, fondly known as “K-State,” has received accolades for its involvement in many educational initiatives, including a grant to increase the number of underrepresented minorities on campus, a top-ranking aviation program, and involvement in the EPA’s “Campus Rainworks Challenge.” It also boasts a nationally respected Black Student Union and much-lauded online graduate programs in education and engineering. The university has also been named a “Friend of the Flint Hills” for its contribution to protecting the last tall grass prairie lands in the U.S. K-State offers students nearly 600 clubs and has a freshmen retention rate of 80%.
Net Price: $15,414
For More Information: Kansas State University
13. University of Minnesota
There’s a reason the University of Minnesota is at the top of our list. High scores in nearly every category include a 75% 6-year graduation rate, a 91% freshmen retention rate, 680 student organizations, more than 220 academic programs, and an average entrance ACT score of 28. The university also nearly broke the top 100 schools ranked by Forbes – a source that pays particularly close attention to measures of “output” and student satisfaction. Due to the school’s impressive stature, you can easily supplement time spent studying and meeting new friends in clubs by participating in ground-breaking research, traveling abroad to study, or cheering on some of the schools more than 20 sports teams.
Net Price: $15,531
For More Information: University of Minnesota
12. University of Nebraska – Lincoln
As the largest state school in Nebraska, U of N attracts ambitious young people from all over the Midwest. 10 separate colleges comprise the university, including ones of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Education and Human Sciences, Graduate Studies, and Journalism and Mass Communications. The school also has well-established programs in Dentistry, Nursing, Public Affairs, and Community Service. In addition to immersing yourself in academic programs, you can also engage in research centered on ground water contamination, biotechnology, applied genomics, psychometrics, and much more. The school also runs the “Nebraska Innovation Campus,” which connects students and researchers with a talented network of experts and companies.
Net Price: $15,132
For More Information: University of Nebraska – Lincoln
11. Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
MSU is a large public institution situated in the state’s capital, a scenic college town heavily populated with bookstores, dining establishments, bars, and entertainment venues geared toward the young people that make up a good portion of the population. The university frequently lands near the top of rankings of public institutions and produced an admirable 17 Fulbright Scholars last year. Study abroad for a semester or intern overseas, contribute to the inspired Intercultural Film Project, or pursue your passion in one of nearly 70 research centers and institutes. MSU has over 600 student organizations, more than 150 academic majors, and a freshmen retention rate second only to its same-state rival, the University of Michigan.
Net Price: $14,526
For More Information: Michigan State University
10. Oklahoma State University
Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a school with “high research activity,” OSU easily lives up to this claim with research centers focused on everything from agriculture and food production to toxicology. In addition, with a self-proclaimed slogan of “America’s Healthiest Campus,” the school offers a plethora of group fitness classes, intramural sports, sports clubs, and outdoor adventure events. OSU also hosts specialty programs like “Biggest User,” Zumbafest, Glow Runs, the “Summer Splash-in,” and the competitive “Cowboy Challenge.” That being said, bookworms won’t be disappointed; the nearly 90 academic programs cover every conceivable interest, from aerospace to veterinary studies.
Net Price: $14,415
For More Information: Oklahoma State University
9. University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa
The University of Northern Iowa is the perfect mix of research institution and small campus feel. Although there are over 90 majors and 250 student organizations to occupy the more than 12,000 undergraduates, classes are kept small. In fact, the student-to-teacher ratio is 16:1, and qualified professors teach 99% of classes. In addition, only about 4,300 students live on campus, which gives the school a more intimate feel despite its broad reach. The school has received accolades from everyone from Forbes and Kiplinger’s to Princeton Review and U.S. News, and its Business Administration program in particular stands out from the crowd. The school has also been rated a superior “green college” as well as military friendly, and so attracts environmentally conscious students and veterans.
Net Price: $14,299
For More Information: University of Northern Iowa
8. Iowa State University
Iowa State is a large, international university with students from all over the world, including 50 states and 100 countries. Students can truly customize their experience as they choose from more than 100 majors and over 800 student organizations, which include such gems as “Big Pink Volleyball,” a group that raises money for breast cancer, and the Medieval Re-creationist Club. Other highlights include the high-res immersive virtual reality lab, which creates interactive virtual worlds for research purposes, and the first biocentury research lab in the country, a facility dedicated to biomass production and processing.
Net Price: $14,095
For More Information: Iowa State University
7. North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
North Dakota State is a student-centered, research-focused land grant institution located in the largest city of this northern state. Although the small population of the state and cold weather might be a turn off for some students, it is worth it to note that North Dakota has been rated #1 for well-being, #1 for the best run state, #1 for the best state to find a job, and #1 as the most affordable state to live. How can you say no to all that? NDSU has a freshmen retention rate of a more than respectable 80% and offers over 120 academic programs that includes a variety of agricultural majors as well as less common choices like Equine Science, Fisheries and Wildlife, Respiratory Care, Emergency Management, and Zoology.
Net Price: $13,662
For More Information: North Dakota State University
6. Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
If you live just about anywhere in Indiana (or outside the state, of course), you can get access to a Purdue education. Other than its main campus in West Lafayette, Purdue also has regional campuses in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Westville, and Hammond. Purdue has a freshmen retention rate of 90% and the student-to-faculty ratio is a more than manageable 14:1 – a lower ratio than many public research universities. The school also has literally hundreds of academic programs and nearly three times as many student organizations. Spend your time pursuing an acting major, training to be a veterinarian, assisting no-kill animal shelters in the area, brushing up on your salsa skills, or virtually anything else you can imagine!
Net Price: $13,541
For More Information: Purdue University
5. Truman State University
Truman State, named for the only Missourian to become president of the United States, is a midsize university that claims 240 student organizations, 20 NCAA Division II athletic teams, and dozens of intramural sports. 90% of classes have fewer than 40 students, the student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1, and graduate assistants teach only 2% of classes – all signs that you’ll receive a high-quality education delivered by top-notch professors in an intimate format. You will undoubtedly be excited to hear that 92% of seniors have confirmed employment or graduate school acceptance by the time they receive their diploma. The news is especially bright for pre-law students, 100% of whom are typically accepted to JD programs.
Net Price: $13,060
For More Information: Truman State University
4. Ball State University
Due to the size of this university, you’d think you’d have to put up with an impersonal feel in the classroom in order to access all the academic programs and research opportunities the school provides. At Ball State, however, nothing is further from the truth. Professors teach 95% of classes and the student-to-faculty ratio is 16:1, which means that you can access literally thousands of courses without having to settle for subpar teaching or large lecture halls that make learning difficult. The school’s architecture, telecommunications, education, entrepreneurship, nursing, and landscape architecture programs are among the best in the nation – although all the programs produce first-rate degrees!
Net Price: $13,049
For More Information: Ball State University
3. Saint Cloud University
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Although you might not have heard of Saint Cloud if you live outside the Midwest, this university carries quite a bit of clout in the region and educates over 16,000 students a year. If scenery is important to you you’ll love the location, as the campus is perfectly placed between downtown Saint Cloud and a stretch of river populated with the idyllic Beaver Islands. The campus also does not sacrifice fancy facilities to achieve a low price point; students have access to art galleries, a theatre, a large library, and recreation centers that put many schools to shame.
Net Price: $12,884
For More Information: Saint Cloud University
2. University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
Public engagement. Arts and culture. International appeal. These are just some of the phrases that describe the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. There is perhaps no greater indicator of quality than the success of a school’s alumni, and U of I has produced astronauts, scientists, Olympic medalists, executives of international corporations, and even Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. Students clearly love the university and do well there, as evidenced by the 94% freshmen retention rate and 84% 6-year graduation rate. The school also boasts 1,000 student organizations – no joke – and provides youth programming, research opportunities, and academic programs to challenge and engage even the most ambitious students.
Net Price: $11,645
For Mor Information: University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
1. Indiana University – Bloomington
With a net price of less than $12,000, Indiana University at Bloomington secures the #1 spot on this list for affordability. The fact that it ranks #6 for quality just adds to the argument that this is a postsecondary institution to seriously consider.
Net Price: $11,361
For More Information: Indiana University – Bloomington
25. Valparaiso University
Although Valparaiso is the most expensive school on this list and just skates under the “affordability” threshold, it is also ranked #1 for quality and so deserves a second look. It received solid scores in all categories, including a 70% 6-year graduation rate, an 87% freshman retention rate (the highest of any private school on this list), a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, and nearly 200 student organizations and academic programs. The school is grounded in a liberal arts education and the majority of students are either Lutheran or Roman Catholic. In addition, nearly 10% of students come from other countries, which helps foster an atmosphere of diversity of inclusion on campus.
Net Price: $21,869
24. William Jewel College
How would you like to receive a free iPad Air for college that cultivates an interconnected, online campus platform with access to iBooks textbooks and personal attention from teachers? At William Jewel that fantasy has become a reality! But as great an offer as that is, it’s not the reason WJC made this list. It is the definition of a cozy liberal arts university, with just over 1,000 undergraduate students. Its small size allows it to maintain an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio with fewer than 20 students in 65% of classes. Furthermore, you won’t find graduate assistants at the helm of any courses! WJC also offers a respectable 70 student organizations that cover topics ranging from academic honorary to political to spiritual.
Net Price: $21,859
23. Hamline University
St. Paul, Minnesota
A small university of fewer than 5,000 students, Hamline is able to devote plenty of time to student success. The student-to-faculty ratio is only 14:1 and graduate assistants focus on their own studies, rather than teaching classes. It is a top-ranked school in Minnesota and in the Midwest, and students seem to confirm this by coming back for a second year over 80% of the time. Not content to confine students to the classroom, Hamline encourages pupils to complete an internship, collaborate on research, conduct work in the field, or complete a service learning project – and 100% of students complete at least one of these goals.
Net Price: $21,641
22. Cornell College
Mt. Vernon, Iowa
Although Cornell College isn’t an Ivy League like the university to the east with the same name, it still has plenty to offer. With a student-to-faculty ratio of a mere 11:1 and a freshmen retention rate of 84%, it’s no surprise that Cornell is ranked #5 for quality. Enjoy life on a wooded hilltop overlooking scenic Mt. Vernon as you receive a comprehensive liberal arts education. Cornell is a pioneer of the innovative “One Course at a Time” program, which gives students the chance to take three and a half week-long courses one by one in order to fully immerse themselves in their work. This means you’ll have a better opportunity to master a language, conduct scientific research, or memorize your lines for a theatrical production without interruption.
Net Price: $21,376
21. Drury University
Why do nearly 90% of freshmen at Drury return as sophomores to continue their education? Maybe it’s because of the 100 campus organizations that tailor to interests such as sustainability, Greek life, professional networking, fundraising, and ultimate Frisbee. Or maybe it’s because of the more than 60 academic programs that cater to aspiring business people, scientists, health professionals, and liberal arts majors alike. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: you’ll be guaranteed an intimate environment characterized by small class sizes and professors who spend most of their time in the classroom.
Net Price: $21,357
20. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Saint Mary’s may be ranked #25 for quality and #20 for affordability, but considering it beat out nearly 150 other schools for a spot on this list, you should be sure to take a second look at this northern private school. There are campuses in both Winona and Minneapolis but other centers in Rochester, Apple Valley, Minnetonka, and Oakdale, as well as Jamaica and Kenya! Although Forbes, U.S. News, and Princeton Review have all recognized the quality education Saint Mary’s provides, perhaps its greatest accomplishment is being listed by the National Survey of Student Engagement (a survey that assesses schools according to student responses) as an institution that affords a distinctive, superior college experience.
Net Price: $21,252
For More Information: Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
19. University of Evansville
The University of Evansville is a small liberal arts institution conveniently situated n the largest city in Southern Indiana. Access numerous events and activities on and off campus as you explore the Tri-State area and settle into a life surrounded by restaurants, museums, and amusements parks. Despite being home to only about 2,500 students, the University of Evansville has more student organizations and academic programs than most other private schools in the Midwest. The school also has a British campus at Harlaxon College just north of London, so if international travel is your thing, this institution can make it happen!
Net Price: $21,224
For More Information: University of Evansville
18. Illinois Institute of Technology
Although the net price of an IIT education is one of the more expensive on this list, recent rankings assessing return on investment have declared IIT as the #1 university in the state of Illinois, #15 among all private U.S. institutions, and #24 among all public and private U.S. institutions. But of course, college isn’t just about how much money you’ll make after graduation. During your four or so years on campus you can join a student-run theater group, promote your favorite charitable causes, or even bond with other students in the “Doctor Who” organization. The school also has a unique “First Year Experience” program that assists the transition to college by assigning each freshman a peer mentor.
Net Price: $21,201
For More Information: Illinois Institute of Technology
17. Concordia College at Moorhead
As a small liberal arts college, Concordia College at Moorhead puts an especially strong emphasis on solid instruction. As a result, the school’s stellar faculty (who teach 100% of classes) include NASA and NSF scientists, award-winning authors and composers, and other talented professionals who are experts in their fields. Although the school itself is small, it is located in a bustling college town that more than 30,000 students call home. As a result, an active community of museums, entertainment venues, and dining establishments has sprung up in the surrounding area. Concordia offers over 60 majors, including 15 honors programs and 12 pre-professional degrees. Concordia also encourages a global education and leads the way in the number of students who spend time abroad.
Net Price: $21,075
For More Information: Concordia College at Moorhead
16. Coe College
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Coe College has established a reputation for itself as a selective institution that cultivates ambitious students. In fact, five Coe graduates have recently received Fulbright Awards. The school is located in the second largest city in Iowa but is just a drive away from even bigger metropolitan areas like Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis. Coe virtually guarantees that you’ll received personalized attention from faculty, thanks to a student-to-teacher ratio of 11:1 and an average class size of 16. Students at Coe are serious about their studies, and nearly 50% of incoming students had a high school GPA above 3.7. Furthermore, within three years of graduation more than 50% of alumni go on to do some sort of postgrad study.
Net Price: $20,934
For More Information: Coe College
15. Earlham College
Speaking of selective institutions, Earlham is one of the most dedicated to attracting serious students. The average ACT score is above 28 and the average high school GPA is a 3.5. The college has been lauded as one of the premier liberal arts schools for undergraduate teaching, and the student-to-teacher ratio is an extremely low 10:1. Classes are intellectually challenging and the school encourages students to study abroad; as a result, Earlham ranks #6 in the percentage of students who at some point travel overseas. You’ll feel particularly at home in Richmond if you are committed to social change, as more than 30% of students admit that their work is oriented to making a difference in the world. The school also ranks highly in the number of graduates who end up earning PhDs.
Net Price: $20,719
For More Information: Earlham College
14. Hastings College
Not only is Hastings one of the best private institutions in the Midwest, it also has received accolades from sources like The Washington Monthly, Kaplan, Barron’s for its affordability, competitiveness, and commitment to community service and service learning. Join one of nearly 90 student organizations and take up activities like archery, rodeo, and sand volleyball. There are also a plethora of political, academic honorary, spiritual, and Greek organizations to suit every need. Hastings also has a very cool, student-run “Bronco Bikes” rental program to the satisfaction of health nuts and earth lovers.
Net Price: $20,677
For More Information: Hastings College
13. Northwestern College
Orange City, Iowa
Unlike the similarly named school outside of Chicago, Northwestern College is a more than affordable option for students, no doubt in part due to its location in the quite small town of Orange City. The school is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and so puts just as much emphasis on an unwavering commitment to Christianity as it does to strong academics and a vibrant campus life. With fewer than 1,500 students, Northwestern is perfect for students looking to recreate an intimate small town feel on campus. 89% of students live on campus, so you’ll have a chance to get to know all your classmates – and your teachers too!
Net Price: $20,633
For More Information: Northwestern College
12. Ripon College
Ripon is one of the premier colleges in Wisconsin and is distinguished by a freshmen retention rate of 86% and a 6-year graduation rate of 74%. Decorated with numerous awards, the institution is particularly well known for its return on investment, dedication to community service, and quality of professors. Surveys have indicated that the vast majority of students are satisfied or very satisfied with the attention they receive from professors. The school is a particularly great choice if you are an outdoor enthusiast, as 250-acre campus is dense with foliage and located right in the heart of the state’s Green Lake region. Of course, city lovers won’t feel like they are in the middle of nowhere as Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison are all driving distance away.
Net Price: $20,602
For More Information: Ripon College
11. Alma College
Alma College may not be well known outside the state of Michigan, but it should be. It has a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio and over 120 student organizations and academic programs. Freshmen return for another year an average of 80% of the time, and who can blame them? Students are known for their passion for community service and global learning; they frequently travel to more than a dozen countries and major metropolitan areas in the U.S. for experiential study. Furthermore, the school is very highly rated for the number of students who participate in alternative break service trips.
Net Price: $20,551
For More Information: Alma College
10. Elmhurst College
Elmhurst is another school on this list with a strong religious affiliation. It is tied to the United Church of Christ and combines liberal learning with self-reflection and service work. A relatively small school, Elmhurst maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of only 13:1 and an average class size of only 16 – in fact, the largest class only has 35 students! Despite its small stature in many ways, the institution has an impressive number of student organizations and academic programs. Fill your schedule with time spent studying anything from Applied Geospatial Technologies to Theological Studies and Christian Ministry.
Net Price: $20,551
For More Information: Elmhurst College
9. Millikin University
The hallmark of a Millikin education is something called “Performance Learning,” which combines lectures and theory with hands-on practice through internships, student-run businesses, co-teaching, presentations, market research, and more. You can major in something traditional, like Physics, or a topic a little more unique, like Stage Management. In addition, special academic plans of study include scholars programs for honors, and science students, strong leaders, and those interested in community service. Millikin also offers an innovative “EDGE” program to help select students adjust to the demands of college. You can also take advantage of numerous chances to study abroad, including a semester in London and various immersion courses.
Net Price: $20,096
For More Information: Millikin University
8. Goshen College
On all of the indicators we assessed, Goshen scores the highest marks in the graduation rate and freshmen retention rate categories, which are 70% and 85%, respectively – definitely higher than average! You’ll also enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of only 10:1 and arts programs that range from lectures and conferences to prestigious musical guests and student-run theatrical performances. Goshen’s campus life is also very active and includes interesting events like Bollywood dance parties; clubs dedicated to everything from rock climbing to American Sign Language; and late night worship events. The institution is also great for active types, and more than 25% of students participate in intercollegiate sports.
Net Price: $19,773
For More Information: Goshen College
7. Simpson College
Get all the benefits of a nurturing, close-knit academic community located in a small town without sacrificing the internships, culture, entertainment, and career options of a big city. Located less than 20 miles south of Des Moines, Simpson College will provide you with an ample assortment of clubs, intercollegiate and intramural sports, and academic programs amidst a community of just 1,400 students. Majors include tons of liberal arts degrees, from Art Education to Sociology, as well as majors for the science- and health-minded, like Biochemistry, Computer Science, and Sports Administration. It’s probably no shock that 82% of freshmen return for their sophomore year!
Net Price: $19,434
For More Information: Simpson College
6. Augustana College
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Create your future at Augustana, a selective, residential private institution tied to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A proponent of five core values – Christian, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community, and Service – Augustana encourages a well-rounded education built around academic and student life programs. The school attracts ambitious students, 67% of whom graduate from high school in the top quarter of their class. Popular majors on campus include Nursing, Biology, Education, Psychology, Business, English, and Political Science. In line with its pursuit of excellence and community, Augustana offers nearly 600 study abroad programs – a clear reason over half of students study abroad before graduation.
Net Price: $19,378
For More Information: Augustana College
5. Lewis University
Lewis University is a distinctive university that has been recognized by U.S. News, Princeton Review, Colleges of Distinction, GI Jobs, and more – and now, by greatvaluecolleges.net. By combining qualities like research, scholarship, and service, Lewis is able to offer students unique options like LUMINATE, a program of community service and experiential learning opportunities that occur over breaks. The university makes it onto this list because of features like n 82% freshmen retention rate, a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio, 120 campus organizations, and nearly 80 academic programs. Although the main campus is in picturesque, suburban Romeoville, you will also find campuses in Albuquerque, Chicago, Hickory Hills, Oak Brook, Shorewood, and Tinley Park.
Net Price: $19,015
For More Information: Lewis University
4. Rockhurst University
Kansas City, Missouri
As a Jesuit university, Rockhurst has built a strong liberal arts curriculum on a solid foundation of learning, leadership, and service ideals. True to the Jesuit tradition, education at Rockhurst focuses on seven essential modes of inquiry: artistic, historical, literary, philosophical, theological, scientific relational, and scientific causal. Classes are kept to an average of 24 students and the student-to-faculty ratio is a more than manageable 13:1, which fosters rich classroom discussion and the opportunity to do research side-by-side with faculty members. Uniquely, Rockhurst provides two transcripts for students – one for grades and one for service work. As a result, students often dive head first into numerous opportunities to engage the community and help others.
Net Price: $18,784
For More Information: Rockhurst University
3. Huntington University
Consistent with life in the Midwest, Huntington University is yet another liberal arts, Christian private school centered on service and faith. Huntington has been ranked highly by numerous sources and even made Forbes’ list of top schools – a selection notorious for taking into consideration various measures of “output” and student satisfaction. The institution offers over 70 programs of study, including pre-professional and graduate degrees covering topics such as Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Athletic Training, Counseling, Education, and Youth Ministry. In addition to receiving points for quality, Huntington has also been deemed a “safe school” and a “military friendly institution.”
Net Price: $18,741
For More Information: Huntington University
2. Oklahoma Baptist University
At OBU, you get a little of everything. This includes your choice of 10 bachelor’s degrees covering 84 academic study areas, three master’s degree programs, and 80 student organizations. You also benefit from a myriad of opportunities to study abroad and a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. OBU has made it onto lists of the top-rated schools in the Midwest for decades, including Forbes. Of course, as a Baptist university the institution also fosters a supportive Christian community focused on achieving not only high intellectual standards, but ethical ones as well.
Net Price: $16,617
For More Information: Oklahoma Baptist University
1. College of the Ozarks
Point Lookout, Missouri
The College of the Ozarks is a unique institution that holds the #1 slot on this list for more than one reason. Although it’s overall net price is low, this private school goes one step further to ensure that students graduate debt free. Instead of participating with government or private loan programs, the College of the Ozarks has instituted a “Work Education Program” hat trains all full-time students to work on campus instead of paying tuition. When you combine this with the fact that the school has been praised as one of the best schools in the Midwest and even a top college in the nation, it’s easy to see why this school is #1. The College of the Ozarks is a particularly good choice for religious, conservative students who don’t drink.
Net Price: $12,073
For More Information: College of the Ozarks
Further Reading: Top 10 Cheap Online Bachelor’s Degrees