To identify the Best Colleges in Michigan 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 Michigan anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Michigan
The best colleges in Michigan respond to the needs of Michigan’s people and land in a multitude of ways – practical career and professional programs that prepare the state’s doctors, lawyers, business leaders, and more; leading-edge research in science, social science, and humanities that changes the world daily; community engagement that brings healthcare, economic support, and advancement to the people; and innovative delivery methods like online degrees, extension programs, and adult education opportunities. Michigan’s people are diverse; from the Native Americans who first cultivated the land, to the French and English settlers of the 18th century, to the Scandinavian and German immigrants of the 19th, to the Great Migration of African-Americans North from oppression after the Civil War, Michigan has welcomed all and given all a place to make their living.
All along, Michigan’s top colleges and universities have heard the people’s needs and met them, from the early seminaries and teacher’s schools bringing religion and education – institutions like Kalamazoo College 70 , Calvin College 73 , and Hope College 68 , which today are top-ranked liberal arts colleges – to the major public research universities like the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 76 and Michigan State University 70 . Whether they are giving Michigan’s future leaders a deep foundation in the humanist values of the traditional liberal arts, or guiding undergraduate and graduate students in the most advanced STEM research, Michigan’s higher education system is dedicated to the people first.
U.S. News & World Report’s top regional college in the Midwest (tied for #1), Calvin College is one of the most prestigious Christian liberal arts colleges in the nation, affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church of North America and a member of the esteemed Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Founded in 1876, Calvin College was originally intended to educate and train Calvinist pastors in the Reformed Church, but over a century and a half Calvin has grown into a strong, respected liberal arts college, attracting students from all 50 states and 60 countries and earning top rankings in a variety of areas.
As a liberal arts college, Calvin College’s curriculum is based in the classical humanities, arts, and sciences, with all students gaining a further grounding in faith and theology, a crucial aspect of Reformed Christianity. As a Christian college, all of Calvin’s courses and programs are built around Christian beliefs, with the ultimate goal of preparing faithful believers for service leadership in their professions and lives. A quarter of Calvin’s diverse student body is made up of ethnic minorities and international students, creating a caring community of differing perspectives and outlooks, while a commitment to public service means students learn and practice the value of doing good. All of Calvin College’s characteristics make it one of the best colleges in Michigan.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
One of the most respected and productive public research institutions in the nation, the University of Michigan is also one of the oldest colleges in the Midwest, founded in 1817 – two decades before Michigan even became a US territory. After moving to Ann Arbor in 1837 (a consolation prize for the city not being selected the state capitol), UM grew into a major STEM, humanities, and social science research institution, with a $10 billion endowment and one of the founding member of the Association of American Universities. Michigan has been named a Public Ivy (a public university with the quality and reputation of the Ivy League) and ranked in the top 30 national universities by U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Michigan is a crucial part of life and culture in the state, with major, global research initiatives in every field. Michigan was a pioneer and continues to set standards in computer science; the National Election Studies center and the Correlates of War are two of the world’s most important social science research centers; and Michigan helped define the digital humanities by creating the JSTOR scholarly database and initiating Google’s book digitization project. Ann Arbor is also considered one of the most beloved college towns in America, and UM’s nearly 45,000 students are happy to make the city home – temporarily or permanently. The University of Michigan is the definitive public research university, truly one of Michigan’s top colleges.
Michigan State University
One of the most prominent public research universities in the US, Michigan State University has been a prime example of publicly-funded STEM and professional research and study for more than a century and a half. When the federal government enacted the Morrill Land Grant – a forward-thinking program that revolutionized scientific and engineering education – it was Michigan State (founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan) they looked to as a model. Today Michigan State is on the nation’s largest universities, and a leader in science, engineering, social science, and professional studies, and has been ranked the #33 national public university by U.S. News & World Report.
As a pioneering land-grant university, Michigan State is a global leader in engineering and other scientific research; it is the home of the largest nuclear research center on a college campus, the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory. But MSU was also a trendsetter in business; the top 50-ranked Broad College of Business set standards for specialized areas like supply chain management, hospitality, and packaging, some of the most exciting and in-demand business and management fields today. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences also initiated modern communications study as the first college of its kind in the US, and remains the #2 program in its field. No matter the major, students recognized excellence in Michigan State.
Founded in 1833 by Baptist missionaries, Kalamazoo College has the distinction of being one of the oldest colleges in the Midwest, and the first chartered under the Michigan Territory (5 years before Michigan’s statehood). While K College is historically American Baptist, the college has no religious affiliation today and operates as a traditional liberal arts college. K College has been named a College That Changes Lives, with students benefiting from the mentoring and guidance made possible by a 13:1 student to faculty ratio, and from the wide range of opportunities for work, service, and study abroad offered by K’s unique curriculum.
As a traditional liberal arts college, Kalamazoo College is steeped in the classical arts and humanities, with students guided through their college career along the innovative K Plan. K College puts a deep and thorough emphasis on experiential learning and study abroad – 70 percent of students take part in internships and other career-advancement programs, while another 70 percent study abroad, and more than two-thirds engage in local and regional community service. As such, the K Plan puts critical thought and development, international awareness, and service learning at the forefront of education, producing highly capable and confident graduates ready to take on any career.
Hope College is a small, Christian liberal arts university in Holland, MI, a small city settled by Dutch immigrants. Those intrepid settlers founded Hope in 1851 as the Pioneer School, a primary through college institution intended to provide stability and, of course, hope for the people of the region. Associated with the Reformed Church in America, Hope is known throughout the Midwest for their academic excellence and religious commitment, a reflection of the Calvinist heritage of intensive study and hard work. Hope has been named one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
As a Reformed institution, Hope is both deeply engaged in academic pursuits, and centered in Christian beliefs and tradition. Hope’s liberal arts curriculum dovetails with its Calvinist history by emphasizing analysis, involvement, and knowledge for the sake of service. More than 90% of Hope students take part in some experiential learning, whether internship, study abroad, or local service learning projects, and Hope’s focus on rigor and exploration has real-world results. Not only does Hope earn more NSF funding for undergraduate research than any other liberal arts college in its class, but Hope graduates have a 93% rate of job or graduate schooling placement within six months – the hallmark of a top college.
Grand Valley State University
In the mid-20th century, the Michigan legislature realized that Grand Rapids was rapidly becoming a large metropolitan area, yet the second-largest city in the state had no public college. To meet the needs of the Grand Rapids area, Grand Valley State University was established in 1960 as a public, liberal arts institution serving a regional population, but in just over fifty years, GVSU has turned into one of the state’s largest and most respected universities. Grand Valley State has been named a best buy for more than two decades for its combination of affordability and excellence, and recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the #3 public regional university in the Midwest.
With more than 25,000 students and over 120 degree programs, Grand Valley State is a comprehensive university, from certificates to doctorates. Grand Valley State’s students also participate in study abroad to an exceptionally high degree, ranking #11 in the nation, and establishing more than 4000 study abroad programs. Grand Valley’s programs, including the College of Community and Public Services, the Seidman College of Business, the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, and the Kirkhof College of Nursing, are dedicated to providing for the public good of Michigan’s people, and are recognized as some of the best in the region. A 94% placement rate for employment and graduate school shows that Grand Valley State graduates are supported and successful, making GVSU a top Michigan college.
Aquinas College (MI)
Founded by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Aquinas College began in 1886 to prepare young women to be teachers in the parochial schools of the state. As time went on, and the normal school model (in which teachers learned hands-on in a classroom) was supplanted by the teacher’s college model (in which teachers earned a full bachelor’s degree), the school grew into a junior college, then a full liberal arts bachelor’s college, all along earning accolades and a sterling regional reputation for excellence. Today Aquinas College is ranked as one of the top regional institutions, and the #3 best value in the Midwest, by U.S. News & World Report.
Built on the Dominican values of prayer, community, and intensive study, Aquinas College has built a reputation for academic rigor and deep Catholic faith, preparing students not only for careers, but for a life of religious service. Catholic Studies is a major part of the Aquinas curriculum, but so are programs that have a real and palpable impact on the life of Aquinas’ students and the people of Grand Rapids, especially healthcare, sustainability, and the concept of economicology, which links economic development with ecological responsibility. Aquinas’ graduates have a 90% success rate in job placement and graduate school acceptance, thanks to the college’s reputation, and deep connections to the business and industry of Grand Rapids.
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Founded in 1959, the University of Michigan-Dearborn began its life as a regional campus of the University of Michigan, resulting from an exceptional partnership with the Ford Motor Company. In exchange for the donation of land and capital from Ford, UM would open a campus dedicated to engineering, mechanics and business, using the connection to Ford to develop a cooperative education program in which students would gain real-world experience training with Ford. The experiment was a success, and over the 20th century UM-Dearborn would grow into a sizable campus ranked as the sixth-best regional university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Located in a suburb of metropolitan Detroit, UM-Dearborn’s mission includes a longtime commitment to transforming the region through practical, career-oriented education, using research, relationships with government and industry, and community service to engage with the people and meet needs. Nearly half of Dearborn’s 9000 students are first-generation college students, and the university’s reasonable tuition makes it affordable for anyone who wants the opportunity. The highly diverse student body is made up of more than 96% Michigan residents, showing why UM-Dearborn remains one of Michigan’s best, and most important, universities.
Northern Michigan University
Founded in 1899 as a normal school, Northern Michigan University’s first mission was to provide educated teachers for the public schools of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan’s sparsely-populated, rural region. Located in Marquette, the largest city in the region, Northern Michigan University has become a crucial part of life in the Upper Peninsula, dedicated to providing educational opportunities for the Yoopers (the residents of the Upper Peninsula, or U.P.), from nursing and firefighting to business and technology. For its efforts to reach out to the population of the U.P., NMU has been acclaimed as one of the top online educators in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
As a regional institution, NMU’s programs are highly oriented toward applicability and practical value, and largely revolves around professional education. NMU’s healthcare programs are highly ranked and especially successful: U.S. News has recognized NMU’s master’s degree in nursing as one of the best in the nation, while the university’s pre-med and pre-dental students have better than 90% success rate in acceptance into doctoral programs – far above the national average. NMU is key to developing the leadership and professionals of the Upper Peninsula, and one of the best colleges in Michigan.
A small, private United Methodist Church-affiliated liberal arts college, Adrian College dates back to 1845, in the early years of Michigan’s statehood. Adrian College was first a seminary and theological school, preparing students for the Methodist ministry, but when that original institution closed in 1859, Adrian College was opened as a progressive, abolitionist institution. That dedication to trust, justice, and the dignity of all people remains deeply embedded in Adrian’s mission, as has academic quality. Adrian College has been named an up-and-coming institution by U.S News & World Report, and in recent years has reached the U.S. News ranking of the top regional colleges in the Midwest.
Service and justice are at the heart of Adrian College’s curriculum, forming the foundation of all of the college’s programs, from business to philosophy. Adrian College is built around a traditional liberal arts curriculum, with an emphasis on critical thinking, social awareness, and practical community service contributing to a fundamental knowledge of western civilization and the history of ideas. Programs are primarily focused on the liberal arts and functional professions such as Pre-Engineering, Pre-Health Science, and Pre-Law. With its growing reputation and commitment to the good of Michigan’s people, Adrian College is an institution to watch.