To identify the Best Colleges in Missouri 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 Missouri anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Missouri
When Americans pushed the frontier beyond the Mississippi River and into the West – following Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go west, young man” (if he ever actually said it) – Missouri was the door. Pioneers passed through Missouri on their way to California, to Arizona, to Oregon and Washington, and left their culture along the way, while workers and travellers up and down the Mississippi created a bold and transformative stew of influences to build the unique Missouri character. Slow to trust – it’s not called the “Show Me” State for nothing – but fearless and experimental, Missourians find what works, fix what doesn’t, and make their lives better, and that spirit is cemented in the state’s higher education.
The best colleges and universities in Missouri make the most of Missouri’s opportunities, from agriculture and engineering to business, education, and government. Missouri is a big state, and a strong network of public regional universities, including Northwest Missouri State University 63 , Southeast Missouri State University 60 , and Missouri State University-Springfield 57 , provides affordable and quality career and professional education, while the University of Missouri-Columbia 63 has been preparing Missouri’s leaders and scholars longer than any other public university in the West. A host of top-notch liberal arts colleges, like Truman State University 67 , Washington University in St Louis 76 , and Drury University , keep Missouri’s most accomplished young people steeped in the western tradition. Missouri was America’s Gateway to the West, but Missouri’s top colleges and universities are Missouri’s gateway to the future.
These are the top Consensus colleges for the Show-Me State.
Truman State University
Truman State University is Missouri’s premier public liberal arts college, the only school in the Missouri system specifically designed to maintain selective admissions and court the state’s highest achievers. Founded in 1867, TSU was originally a normal school, intended to prepare Missouri’s school teachers through experiential learning. Truman State spent most of its history as a small regional college, but was re-named in honor of Harry S. Truman’s Missouri’s only U.S. president, as its mission changed to encompass all of Missouri. Today Truman State is recognized as a top ten Midwest institution by U.S. News & World Report and admired throughout the region.
As a liberal arts and sciences institution, Truman State’s curriculum is centered on the classical humanities, arts, and sciences, using the liberal arts tradition to provide a grounding for a variety of career and professional fields. As a public institution, TSU is further responsible for making their education accessible, and their combination of reasonable tuition rates and solid returns have earned Truman State recognition as a great value. From academic degrees to pre-professional programs in medicine, law, engineering, and more, Truman State is easily the top college in Missouri.
Washington University in St Louis
Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis is a highly respected private research university that has built a national and international reputation. WUSTL came into being when the government and business leadership of the growing city of St. Louis, MO, became concerned about the lack of a non-religious, independent research university in the region. From a small evening college educating local students, to a nationally-recognized research university producing a number of Nobel Prize-winning faculty, Washington University has grown alongside the city of St. Louis, with each contributing to the other. WU has been named in the top 20 best undergraduate educators in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and one of the best colleges for entrepreneurs by the Princeton Review.
In addition to their top-ranked undergraduate education, Washington University in St. Louis is known for some of the most prestigious professional schools in the nation and region. WUSTL’s School of Medicine, Brown School of Social Work, and School of Architecture and Urban Design are all ranked in the top 10 nationally, while their Law and Business schools are ranked in the top 20. In a major research university, both undergraduate and graduate students gain access to some of the most cutting-edge and innovative work being done in the world, from health and engineering to the humanities. Washington University defines the possibilities of the private research university.
Drury University follows in the proud tradition of colleges and universities founded by the Congregationalist Church, a roster that includes Harvard and Yale. When Congregationalist missionaries started Drury in 1873, it was a rarity, welcoming women alongside men, and grew over the next century and a half to attract students from across the Midwest, the US, and the world. Drury was also a pioneer in adult and distance education, being one of the first in the region to institute evening classes and outreach to working adults. Drury has been named the #11 best college in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
While Drury is still historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ, it is an independent, non-religious institution, and Drury’s highly diverse student body of over 3500 comes from a variety of religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds (including one of the highest proportions of international students in the Midwest, at 12% of the student body). A grounding in the traditional liberal arts gives Drury students adaptable, applicable skills for any career path, and 96% of Drury graduates are employed or in a graduate program within six months. It all goes to show why Drury University is one of the best colleges in Missouri.
College of the Ozarks
A small, Christian liberal arts college, College of the Ozarks was founded in 1906, when a Presbyterian missionary saw the need for a high school in the mountain region. From the very beginning, students were able to work for the school to pay for their education, setting a precedent that continues today – College of the Ozarks is one of the few schools in which no student ever has to pay tuition. Over the next century, the College of the Ozarks grew into a nationally-recognized model for experiential education and innovative administration. C of O has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top 5 best Midwestern college, best value, and best undergraduate educator.
Nicknamed “Hard Work U” after a Washington Post story in the 1970s, College of the Ozarks puts a particular emphasis on character building. The student body is highly religious, and the C of O curriculum places biblical principals and Christian faith at the center of every course and program. Students receive a deep rooting in the traditional liberal arts, as well as Presbyterian faith, along with spiritual development and service. College of the Ozarks’ liberal arts foundation and faith in hard work gives students the keys to success in any field.
Rockhurst University is a small, private Catholic institution in Kansas City, MO, founded in 1910 and known for its academic rigor and engagement with the community. As a Jesuit institution, Rockhurst’s mission has been rooted in the principals of the Society of Jesus – principals like individual dignity, educational excellence, and focused spiritual growth – since its very beginning, when it opened first as a high school, then as a college. Rockhurst has been named one of the top 15 regional master’s-level universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report, and has built a national reputation among Catholic institutions.
Rockhurst has been acclaimed as a great undergraduate educator, with students receiving a traditional liberal arts general education, and a 13:1 student:faculty ratio gives students the opportunity to develop real mentoring relationships with faculty. Rockhurst is also known for their excellent graduate programs, especially the MBA from the Helzberg School of Management, one of the best in the Midwest, and their excellent occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech pathology master’s and doctoral programs. As one of the top values in Missouri, Rockhurst delivers for students and graduates.
University of Missouri-Columbia
Founded in 1839, the University of Missouri was the first public university west of the Mississippi River and stands as one of the most prestigious top-tier public research institutions in the nation. Mizzou has at its heart a belief in the power of public education that traces back to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Louisiana Purchase, and over the years spun off Missouri S&T and numerous regional campuses to form the University of Missouri system. UM Is a model of public research universities and one of the most influential institutions in the Midwest.
The University of Missouri is at the center of learning, culture, and social impact for the state of Missouri, as the home of the state’s top medical, law, and veterinary schools. With over 33,000 students from across Mississippi, all 50 states, and 120 nations, Mizzou is a highly diverse, highly accomplished, and highly motivated student body. UM’s more than $2 billion footprint makes it one of the most important economic forces in the state, and hundreds of thousands of community service hours annually means Mizzou touches nearly every citizen of the state. It’s no stretch to call the University of Missouri not only one of Missouri’s best universities, but one of the best in the nation.
Northwest Missouri State University
Founded as a normal school in 1905, Northwest Missouri State University is a trusted regional institution dedicated to making higher education accessible, affordable, and practical for Missouri’s citizens. The normal school philosophy put an emphasis on hands-on learning and mentoring, and that remains NMSU’s highest goal, while encouraging professional excellence, entrepreneurship, and progress through education. NMSU has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the top Missouri school in its category (moderately selective regional colleges).
As a regional university, NMSU’s greatest responsibility is to provide useful education that helps Missourians succeed in their careers, and Northwest Missouri State does so reliably. NMSU was the first public university to install a fully networked computer system back in 1987, and that dedication to technology and learning has not wavered; NMSU also operates the Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Computing, a leading STEM secondary school. The Horace Mann Laboratory School, in turn, is one of the nation’s most respected hands-on teacher education centers, while the Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship gives students access to the most current business tools. NMSU is showing other regional universities how the job is done, and earning its status as one of the top public universities in Missouri.
Southeast Missouri State University
Like NMSU, Southeast Missouri State University had its beginnings in a normal school (for the southeastern district of the state, naturally), and since 1873 SEMO has earned a reputation as a trusted regional university, beloved by alumni. Known as the birthplace of Missouri’s motto and nickname, The “Show Me” State (coined by a university president to encapsulate Missourians’ natural skepticism), SEMO has made its reputation on showing Missouri’s people its value – demonstrating year after year its dedication to improving the lives of Missouri’s workers, professionals, and leaders.
SEMO has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top regional college for the Midwest, and as a best value by numerous media outlets. The Harrison College of Business has been cited by the Princeton Review as one of the best in the nation, while the college’s sports management, nursing, and criminal justice programs have all received accolades. In recent years, SEMO has emerged as a national leader in online education, earning attention across the US for excellence and affordability and reaching out to Missouri’s working adults, rural residents, and other non-traditional students. Meeting Missouri’s needs is just one reason Southeast Missouri State is a top Missouri college.
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University is a historically significant, highly respected private Catholic university founded by Jesuits in 1818. As the oldest college west of the Mississippi River, Saint Louis University is also the second-oldest Jesuit university and one of the most prestigious Catholic institutions in the world. Saint Louis University has had a major influence over the growth and development of the city of St. Louis over nearly two centuries, and contributes well over $700 million to the city’s economy, as well as educating many of St. Louis’ leaders, businesspeople, healthcare practitioners, religious figures, and educators.
With 13,000 students, Saint Louis is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, bringing students from all 50 states and nearly 150 countries to a vibrant, diverse campus. Saint Louis opened the West’s first medical school, law school, and business school, shaping the leadership of the region from an early date. As a Jesuit institution, Saint Louis emphasizes academic excellence, character development, and ethical leadership, proving its mission with more than one and a half million hours of community service annually, and dozens of service-learning courses. Students come to Saint Louis for excellence, and Saint Louis defines it.
Missouri State University-Springfield
Missouri State University is the state’s largest regional public university, second only to the University of Missouri in student population. Originally a normal school, Missouri State grew from its founding in 1905 into a significant force for professional education, following an official mission dedicated to public affairs. As such, MSU is recognized for their diversity, having won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, and for their commitment to community engagement, as a part of the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll for Community Service. MSU has also been named one of the best colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review.
MSU’s official mission makes it Missouri’s Public Affairs university, and the curriculum is devised around the themes of Ethical Leadership, Cultural Competence, and Community Service. Many of Missouri State’s most popular and respected programs are related to the public affairs orientation, including the programs from MSU’s College of Business, one of the largest and most prestigious in the Midwest. MSU also has a high proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and international students, adding diversity and global perspective. MSU has also become a noted online educator, with more than 30 fully online degrees and certificates and acclaim as one of the best values in online education.
Founded in 1833, Stephens College is the second-oldest women’s college in the nation, maintaining a rich tradition of support, uplift, and pioneering innovation for women in academia and the workplace. Stephens puts particular emphasis on women’s leadership, providing strong female role models for students, and shaping students into strong leaders themselves through academic and professional programs. Stephens has been named one of the top regional colleges in the Midwest by both U.S. News & World Report, and the Princeton Review, and its commitment to the power of women only resonates more and more in the 21st century.
Stephens College is primarily a traditional liberal arts college, with a small student body (less than 1000), small classes, and a low student:faculty ratio. Most of Stephens’ major degree programs are in the humanities and social sciences, including numerous digital humanities programs like Digital Filmmaking and Graphic Design Communications. Besides its conventional academic programs, Stephens is a national leader in Equestrian Studies. Stephens has been named the most pet-friendly campus in the US (students can even earn scholarships by fostering shelter pets), and is the first women’s college to joint the National Association of Collegiate eSports at the varsity level.
William Woods University
William Woods University was founded by the Christian Church of Missouri in 1870 as a school for girls who had lost their parents to the Civil War. While William Woods has grown in a far different direction over a century and a half, one thing remains – William Woods University is dedicated to opportunity. First as a teacher’s college, then as a full 4-year college, William Woods helped women find their place in the world and the workforce, before responding to a changing culture – and the growing need for professional education in Missouri – by becoming a coed master’s university in 1993. Today, William Woods is recognized as one of the best regional Midwestern universities by U.S. News and the Princeton Review, with a growing national reputation.
William Woods is particularly known for their excellence in Equestrian Studies and American Sign Language (ASL), and both are a big part of student life, with numerous clubs dedicated to both. However, in recent years the university has largely expanded its master’s and online degree offerings, building a strong reputation in the region among working adults, career-changing professionals, and other nontraditional students. William Woods is also proud to have the second-lowest graduate debt rate in the Midwest, a sign of both its affordability, and its success in placing students into their careers.