To identify the Best Colleges in Indiana for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Indiana anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Indiana
It’s safe to say that the best colleges and universities in Indiana are not just big names in the state, or even in the midwest – institutions like the University of Notre Dame 77 and Purdue University 68 are globally renowned, with reputations for world-changing ideas and discoveries. Indiana has a disproportional supply of excellent higher education options for students of all interests, backgrounds, and goals, for a lot of reasons – most importantly, because Indiana values education. Much of the state’s higher education began the same way, with settlers from New England and the Northeast bringing with them the Ivy League standards of institutions like Dartmouth College 78 and Harvard University 87 , determined to educate and elevate their new home.
That drive created nationally-respected institutions like Valparaiso University 67 , Wabash College 72 , and Goshen College 66 , a classical liberal arts colleges that built the groundwork for Indiana’s professional leadership. Indiana’s religious populace – made up of a patchwork of Christian denominations, including what were once fringe groups like the Quakers, Mennonites, and Disciples of Christ – started some of the nation’s most respected religious schools, while major public research universities like Purdue set standards for learning and discovery in every field from agriculture to aerospace engineering. This is the common thread of Indiana’s top universities and colleges: meeting needs, changing lives, and building a better world for Indiana and beyond.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Hoosier State.
Valparaiso University is a small, Lutheran institution known as one of the Midwest’s top regional universities. Founded in 1859 by the Methodist church, Valparaiso gained a sterling, national reputation over the course of the 19th century; by the turn of the 20th, Valpo was the second-largest university in the nation and known (admiringly) as the Poor Man’s Harvard. However, WWI and a devastating fire left the college bankrupt, leading the Lutheran University Association to buy and revitalize the institution as an independent Lutheran liberal arts college. Today Valpo is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the #4 best regional Midwestern university, as well as a best value and one of the most innovative schools in its class; Washington Monthly ranks Valpo as one of the top 5 master’s-level liberal arts colleges in the nation.
Valparaiso University follows a traditional liberal arts curriculum, with every freshman student beginning with the Core, an intensive, interdisciplinary program preparing them for college-level thinking and study. Around 10% of students are admitted to Christ College, Valpo’s freshman honors program, in which students study the Greek and Roman classics, practice Socratic learning, and take part in performance and debate events. Valpo’s engineering, nursing, and business pre-professional programs are highly respected and award-winning, and 85% of pre-med students are accepted into medical school – far higher than the national average, and even improved by the 100% acceptance rate of Christ College students. Valparaiso may not be the Poor Man’s Harvard anymore, but it is undoubtedly one of the best universities in the Midwest.
University of Notre Dame
The full name is the University of Notre Dame du Lac – Our Lady of the Lake – but all anyone in the US needs to hear is Notre Dame. Notre Dame stands alongside names like Harvard, Yale, and Duke in terms of sheer recognizability; since its founding in 1842, few universities have been as storied and famed as Notre Dame. A large, highly selective private Catholic research university, Notre Dame is known for both its religious devotion and its intellectual rigor, as well as for its cutting-edge, world-changing research (supported by an endowment over $10 billion). Notre Dame, of course, is also legendary for the Fighting Irish, one of the most successful football teams in American history. Notre Dame is ranked in the top 25 national universities nationally by nearly every significant agency, including U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Kiplinger’s and more.
Notre Dame is highly selective, accepting only 18% of applicants, usually the most high-achieving high school graduates. Primarily a traditional liberal arts university, Notre Dame’s undergraduate programs are highly rigorous and demanding, led by some of the most accomplished and decorated faculty in the world. The university’s professional schools, including Law, Business, and Engineering, are among the world’s highest-ranked, while Notre Dame has also been a center of study and thought for the Catholic Church in the US. Major research innovations, including cancer treatment, robotics, and astrophysics, have made the modern world possible, and research centers like the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Center for Social Concerns are making life safer and better around the world. Notre Dame is not just a top Indiana college – it’s the world’s college.
One of the nation’s oldest evangelical Christian universities, Taylor University was founded in 1846 as a Methodist women’s college; the college became coed in 1850, however, and began developing a reputation throughout Indiana for academic quality, tolerance, and acceptance, welcoming students of all backgrounds, races, and classes. Today, Taylor is an independent, non-denominational Christian institution, dedicated to biblical learning and a Christ-centered worldview. Taylor University is ranked the #1 regional college in the Midwest, a highly competitive field that includes many nationally-known institutions, and their commitment to global outreach is quickly making Taylor a name known around the world.
Taylor University’s curriculum is rooted in the traditional liberal arts, but as an evangelical institution, Taylor is dedicated to combining the classical arts, humanities, and sciences with Christian faith, encouraging and guiding students to leadership in service to the community and the church. Around 1900 students – as well as a growing body of fully online students – are enrolled at Taylor, including a diverse mix of ethnicities and international students. Taylor has been at the forefront of Christian higher education, including a pioneering sports evangelism mission, and community service is at the heart of student life. A combination of faithfulness and academic excellence has made Taylor University a force in the Midwest.
Founded in 1832 (as Wabash Teachers Seminary and Manual Labor College, the kind of ultra-specific name the 19th century treasured), Wabash College was originally intended to bring New England-style liberal arts education (particularly Dartmouth, its founder’s alma mater) to Hoosier country. Though it was founded by Indiana Presbyterians, Wabash was always intended to be independent and non-denominational, and that history of freedom continues today. Wabash is one of the few remaining all-male liberal arts schools in the nation, and is one of the wealthiest colleges for its size, supported by the Lilly Endowment. In addition, Wabash has a long-standing place in the top tier of national liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.
Wabash College is rooted in the traditional liberal arts, with a curriculum that focuses on preparing young men for leadership, focusing on critical thinking, responsibility, and humanist values. The ground-breaking Liberal Arts Plus program is a unique set of interdisciplinary specializations, including Democracy, Global Health, Digital Arts, and the Center for Innovation, Business, and Entrepreneurship (CIBE); the Liberal Arts Plus is designed to integrate liberal arts values and professional preparation. Wabash also encourages community and has a uniquely hands-on relationship with its fraternities, some of the oldest in the nation, which do the job of acclimating new students to the college and building community. Wabash is obviously a top college for Indiana.
Founded in 1855, Butler University is named for its founder Ovid Butler, an Indianapolis attorney and devoted member of the Disciples of Christ. Grounded in the church’s ecumenical, interdenominational spirit, Butler was intended to provide educational opportunity for all; it was opposed to slavery and was one of the first colleges open to both men and women. Butler’s tradition of accessibility and excellence continues into the 21st century, welcoming more than 4000 students from across the US and around the world. U.S. News & World Report has named Butler the #2 best regional university in the Midwest.
With its roots in the traditional liberal arts, Butler works to unite classical humanities and sciences with the demands of modern professional education. The Lacy School of Business is is considered one of the finest in the nation, while College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences graduates have the highest pharmacy licensure exam passing rate of any private liberal arts university. Overall, Butler’s graduates have an incredible 97% job and graduate school placement rate within 6 months of graduation, a clear sign that they’re doing something right and have earned their place among the best colleges in Indiana.
DePauw University is a small, private liberal arts college founded in 1837 by the Methodist Episcopal Church (a precursor to today’s United Methodist Church). Named for its most influential benefactor, Washington C. DePauw, whose contributions helped build the university’s programs, particularly the School of Music. Always interdenominational and open to all faiths and backgrounds, DePauw is known today for inclusion, diversity, and commitment to building a supportive community. DePauw is ranked in the top tier of liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report, and second only to Notre Dame among Indiana institutions in Forbes’ college ranking.
Above all, DePauw is dedicated to excellent teaching and student support. An incredibly low 10:1 student:faculty ratio puts DePauw among some of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges for faculty mentorship, while 99% of faculty hold the highest degree in their field. DePauw is also highly diverse, with nearly 20% of the faculty and student body made up of minority students, and 10% made up of international students. DePauw’s School of Music is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the nation; a 5:1 student:faculty ratio gives music students the close personal attention they need to excel. DePauw is a definitive liberal arts college, and shows what the top universities in Indiana have to offer students.
University of Evansville
A United Methodist-affiliated institution, the University of Evansville was founded in 1854 as a coeducational college. When the original building was destroyed in a fire, a donation from Andrew Carnegie (one of the most prominent higher education benefactors in history) helped the university rebuild and begin a rise to become one of the most respected regional institutions in the Midwest. With many accredited professional programs, and a reputation for inclusiveness and accessibility, the University of Evansville is regularly tapped for the top 10 Midwestern regional universities by U.S. News & World Report, and is a trusted destination for students across the nation.
With just 2500 students, the University of Evansville offers students all of the advantages of a small liberal arts institution – a 12:1 student:faculty ratio, small classes of 18 students on average, and a close, familial atmosphere. Around a third of Evansville students are either international, or belong to a racial or ethnic minority group, adding to the university’s mission to encourage social responsibility, cultural competence, and international citizenship. An incredible 80% of Evansville students participate in study abroad programs, earning top US rankings for study abroad, and 93% of graduates are employed or in graduate school within a year – a clear sign that the Evansville method works.
One of the most prominent Mennonite colleges in the US, Goshen College was founded in 1894, when Mennonite leaders became concerned that their young people lacked a college of their own. On the model of other Mainline Protestant churches, Goshen College was born out of a desire to keep Mennonite values in place and combine the traditional liberal arts with Anabaptist principles like peace, justice, and social responsibility. Today, Goshen College is a top-tier regional liberal arts college known for its academic excellence, intercultural learning, and community service.
With its motto, “Culture for Service,” Goshen College puts social action and dedication to the human race at the center of its curriculum. Goshen is one of the nation’s leading institutions for study abroad, with around 80% of students taking part in the Study-Service Term, a missions and learning experience. The most popular programs at Goshen tend to foreground service, including nursing, education, business, and leadership. While around half of Goshen students are Mennonite, students are not required to have any religious beliefs; however, a commitment to peace and cooperation are essential. Goshen is a unique institution, and its reputation is heard and seen through action the world over.
Purdue University-Main Campus
Purdue University is Indiana’s land-grant university, founded in 1869 and named for John Purdue, the philanthropist whose large donation made the university possible. As a land-grant institution, Purdue’s original mission was to make agriculture and engineering education accessible to the ordinary people of the state. Its curriculum emphasized liberal education in practical fields designed to foster an educated workforce and informed citizenry. Today Purdue is one of the most productive public research universities in the nation, known for advances in aeronautics, life sciences, information technology, and more through the Purdue Research Park. Purdue is one of U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 national public universities, as well as earning recognition for innovation, and is rated one of the best places to work in higher education.
Purdue has a low 12:1 student:faculty ratio that would be expected of a small liberal arts college, not a major public research university, and that kind of commitment to student support and mentorship is a big reason Purdue is cited as one of the nation’s top undergraduate institutions. Purdue is also a major international destination, with the fourth-largest international student body of any American university. From pioneering digital humanities (the Purdue Online Writing Lab) to nanotechnology, Purdue is helping shape the future of education, and living up to its legendary reputation.
One of U.S. News & World Report’s top 75 national liberal arts colleges, Earlham College is one of the most successful institutions in the nation for sending graduates to PhD programs, and has been named a College that Changes Lives. Earlham is a private, Quaker liberal arts college founded in 1847; it was the third Quaker college, and only the second coeducational college in America. Earlham is known for the same progressive religious and political stances as the Society of Friends, emphasizing world peace and social justice throughout its curriculum.
A hallmark of the Friends church is a belief in equality and essential dignity, and that tradition remains at the heart of Earlham; all faculty and students are called by first names rather than titles, and students work alongside faculty members as equals. With that spirit, Earlham has become known as one of the nation’s top institutions for undergraduate research, with nearly all science faculty incorporating undergraduates into research, and an almost perfect medical school acceptance rate for pre-med graduates. Earlham is also a leader in service and study abroad, with 70% of students using financial aid opportunities to study around the world. It’s a small liberal arts college with global reach, and one of Indiana’s best colleges.