To identify the Best Colleges in Kansas 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 Kansas anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Kansas
In American culture, Kansas may be best known for what it’s not – the magical Land of Oz, where Dorothy learned there’s no place like home. And there really is no place like Kansas. The Sunflower State has had a history of struggle and triumph, born out of the Civil War and grown in boom times and depressions, and the best colleges in Kansas carry the torch for Kansas’ uniquely steadfast, resilient character. While Kansas made its reputation on agriculture, fossil fuels, and flight (as a major aviation manufacturing center), the Kansas of the 21st century faces challenges that Kansans are ready to take on headfirst – a transforming economy, political struggles, and the new world of work.
That’s where Kansas’ top colleges and universities come in. The higher education system of Kansas is meeting people where they are, with extension campuses, outreach programs, and a rapidly modernizing online education system. One of the nation’s top STEM institutions, Kansas State University 62 , is an transformative public research university, while regional public universities like Pittsburg State University and Emporia State University are making new opportunities for Kansas working adults and young people. A number of well-respected Protestant and Catholic liberal arts colleges keep the western educational tradition alive and adapting to 21st century concerns. It’s all here for the Kansas student – the best colleges and universities in Kansas.
These are the top Consensus colleges for the Sunflower State.
Bethel College-North Newton
The oldest Mennonite college in the US, Bethel College was founded in 1887 by Russian Mennonite immigrants. Originally a teacher’s college, Bethel College saw a need to educate the booming population of the region, and a non-sectarian, Christian college fit the needs of the time and provided room to grow. Today, Bethel is affiliated with the Mennonite Church USA, but operates independently of the church, and is open to students of all religious backgrounds. Bethel is highly regarded throughout the Midwest, and is the only Kansas college ranked by Washington Monthly and U.S. News & World Report as a national-level liberal arts college.
As a small liberal arts college, Bethel’s curriculum is built on the classical humanities, arts, and sciences, giving a foundation for further academic work and professional study, including programs in highly in-demand fields like nursing, teaching, and social work. Though Bethel is non-denominational, all students take courses in religion and in multicultural studies, reflecting traditional Mennonite and humanist values of exploration, inquiry, and critical analysis. Recognized by Mother Jones as one of the top liberal arts colleges for combining financial value and ethical values, Bethel is one of Kansas’s leaders in higher education and a trusted name.
Southwestern College (KS)
Founded in 1884, during the same education revolution that sparked Bethel College, Southwestern College is a small liberal arts college associated with the United Methodist Church. Originally slated for Wichita, founders settled on the rural town of Winfield, providing the space to build one of the most beautiful campuses in the state, and develop an intensive service relationship with the people of the region. Today Southwestern is known for its extensive community service, excellent adult professional education programs, and top-notch reputation throughout Kansas and the Midwest.
As a small liberal arts college, Southwestern’s curriculum maintains a foundation in the humanities and sciences, but in recent years the college has developed a strong reputation for degree-completion and pre-professional programs for working adults, including pre-law, pre-med, and pre-physical therapy. Southwestern has high standards and generous financial aid, with 100% of students receiving financial aid, many in the form of merit and need-based scholarships. A 12:1 student:faculty ratio gives students the opportunity to form mentoring relationships with faculty, while students from 25 states and 10 nations create a productive diversity, making Southwestern College one of the top colleges in Kansas.
Pittsburg State University
Pittsburg State University – Pittsburg, KS, that is – was founded in 1903 as a manual training and normal school, providing hands-on education in trades and teaching. As a model of practical learning, the normal school provided the foundation for modern experiential education, letting students learn by doing alongside expert teachers. That spirit continues over a century later, with programs oriented toward the needs of 21st century workers, professionals, and leaders. Pitt State has been recognized as a top regional institution in the Midwest and boasts a 90% job or graduate school placement within six months of graduation.
Pitt State’s programs have been built around the educational requirements of Kansas’ people, from teacher education to career training, but in the 21st century the university is becoming better known for its AACSB-accredited Kelce College of Business and for its cutting-edge College of Technology, built around the Kansas Technology Center. With programs like these, Pitt State is preparing Kansas’ workforce for the future of work. In addition, Pitt State puts value and affordability at the center, even offering resident tuition rates to surrounding counties outside of Kansas. All of these factors make Pittsburg State University one of the best colleges in Kansas.
MidAmerica Nazarene University
One of the nation’s eleven Church of the Nazarene-affiliated colleges, MidAmerica Nazarene University is a relatively young institution, founded in 1966, but in just 50 years MNU has become one of the most trusted universities in the Midwest. As a Christian university, MNU is dedicated to missions and transformation, preparing students for professional life as servant leaders. Students do not need to belong to the Nazarene church; more than 40 Christian denominations and six world religions are represented in the student body, and in the 21st century MNU has made significant outreach to working adults and professionals outside of the traditional college-age population.
With more than 40 undergraduate programs and 15 graduate and professional programs, MidAmerica Nazarene is working to provide students with the means to achieve success in the 21st century job market. But MNU, as a Nazarene institution, is also deeply concerned with faith and service, putting Christian values and belief at the center of every program, from nursing to business administration. Students benefit from small class sizes (16 for undergraduate courses, 9 for graduate programs) and close personal attention and mentorship from faculty members. With a strong reputation in the Midwest and a highly developed network of partners and alumni across the US, MNU gives students in Kansas and beyond a top quality college education.
Benedictine College was founded in 1971, but has a long, illustrious history that goes much farther back. The merger of two Catholic college – a men’s college founded in 1858, and a women’s college founded in 1923 – created an accomplished co-ed Catholic institution that has made its reputation known throughout the Midwest. Sponsored by a monastery and abbey, Benedictine is deeply committed to the values of St. Benedict, which stresses virtue, excellence in all endeavors, and dedication to the community good. Benedictine has been named one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report.
Benedictine College has crafted an ambitious plan to be one of the most renowned colleges in the nation by 2020, an initiative founded in a focus on building excellence in both undergraduate and graduate programs. In the 21st century, Benedictine is best known for business and education, as well as theology – a natural for a Catholic college, including the national Symposium for Advancing the New Evangelization. Mixing academic rigor and Catholic faith is the model of Catholic education, and Benedictine College exemplifies that standard – even being chosen to represent US Catholic higher education at the Vatican.
Kansas State University
The oldest college in Kansas, Kansas State University was founded as a land-grant college in 1863, but Bluemont Central College, the institution that became K-State, goes back to 1858. As a land-grant institution, Kansas State’s first mission was bringing agricultural and mechanical education to the settlers of the then 2-year-old state. K-State did that and more, building a century and a half legacy as Kansas’ leader in STEM research and learning, professional studies, and diversity. KSU is ranked by the Princeton Review as a top college, including happiest students and best college towns (Manhattan, KS).
Kansas State is well known nationally for its accomplished students, including the nation’s highest number of Rhodes scholars, Marshall scholars, and Truman scholars. The university’s roots in mechanical arts and sciences in the 19th century grew into a world-class engineering program, including nationally-recognized research in biodefense, unmanned aerial systems, and other defense, food, and biology-related research. K-State is the first choice of Kansas high school graduates, and K-State graduates earn an impressive 94% six-month placement rates – 97% for master’s graduates. It all adds up to the reason Kansas State is a top Kansas college.
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas was founded in 1865, after a two-year delay due to the Civil War, and was born out of the same spirit that drove the abolitionists – to establish a free state where all could experience education and opportunity. Part of the Association of American Universities, KU has spent 150 years educating Kansas’ lawyers, doctors, teachers, and business and government leaders. KU has earned national recognition from many of its programs, including #1 U.S. News & World Report rankings in City Management and in Special Education.
The University of Kansas is the leading academic and professional institution in the state, with Kansas’ only pharmacy and medical schools, and the world-class University of Kansas Medical Center, home to the KU Hospital, Medical, Nursing, and Health Professions schools. KU is also the state leader in public administration and policy, including firefighting, criminal justice, law enforcement, and public management, providing many of the state’s crucial servicepeople and leaders. With an accomplished student body from all 50 states and more than 100 nations, the University of Kansas is one of the best universities in Kansas.
The first bachelor’s college in Kansas, Baker University dates back to 1858, one of the darkest times in American history with the violent lead-up to the Civil War. Baker persevered, growing a historic campus into one of the most respected institutions in the Midwest. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, Baker is ecumenical, welcoming, and dedicated to faith and service. Baker is the highest-ranked Kansas private university in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of regional Midwestern colleges, and has been acclaimed for its value by The Economist.
With a student body of just over 3000, Baker University students benefit from a 12:1 student:faculty ratio, one of the hallmarks of a top-notch liberal arts institution, but Baker has grown beyond the confines of more restricted liberal arts colleges with many highly-rated adult and continuing education programs at a number of extension campuses. Baker also has one of the most respected nursing schools in the region, and a host of excellent online degree programs. A 98% job and graduate school placement rate helps Baker stand out as one of the highest in the Midwest, and Baker graduates earn the highest average salary in Kansas, making Baker unquestionably one of Kansas’ best universities.
Emporia State University
Founded in 1863 as Kansas’ normal school – an early teacher’s college built on experiential education – Emporia State University is a distinguished regional public institution that has retained its focus on education for the real world. That has included highly respected professional programs in a variety of fields, as well as admirable outreach to the young people of Kansas. Emporia State has also made online education a priority in the 21st century, providing opportunity for working adults who cannot attend a traditional on-campus program. For its efforts to provide higher education in Kansas, Emporia State has been by the Princeton Review as one of the best universities in the Midwest.
As a regional university, Emporia State puts the needs of Kansas’ people at the forefront, with programs in necessary, practical professions at its heart. Of course, with its roots in a normal school, Emporia State is still one of Kansas’ most important teacher education programs; the ESU Teacher’s College has been cited as Exemplary Model Teaching Education program nationally. Other key programs include business – centered around the Koch Center for Leadership and Ethics – and library science, housed in the oldest School of Library and Information Management west of the Mississippi. It’s no wonder Emporia State has been regularly ranked as one of Kansas’ top universities.
A small, American Baptist Church-affiliated institution, Ottawa University was founded in 1865 by Baptist missionaries serving the people of the Ottawa tribe, who established a tribal boarding school for American Indian children. While the Civil War, and other changes in Kansas over the century altered the original agreement, Ottawa University maintains a relationship with the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma; any Ottawa Tribe member may attend the university tuition-free, creating a growing core of Native American students.
Over a century and a half OU has grown into comprehensive university, with a small center of on-campus students and a large and growing student body online and at eight extension campuses. With its Baptist heritage, OU seeks to integrate Christian faith and values with the traditional liberal arts and contemporary career preparation for a diverse and energetic student body. Ottawa University is determined to emerge as one of the nation’s leading Christian universities in the 21st century, and with all of their developments, OU seems to be well on their way.