Best Colleges in Wisconsin

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Home to 88 higher education institutions, Wisconsin is a beautiful state with a variety of high-quality options for aspiring college students. However, with so many choices offering different focuses, it can be difficult to decide where to go. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Wisconsin, including the top four-year schools.

Wisconsin offers a wide variety of private and public four-year schools for prospective students to choose from. The University of Wisconsin system, one of the premier public institutions in the world, serves 180,000 students on average. Unfortunately, there have been recent budgeting issues within the state government, and higher education is the first to be targeted with a projected $150 million dollar cut in state funding. The bright side is that in-state students will benefit from a "tuition-freeze," meaning rates will stay the same for at least another two years. However, out-of-state students can expect theirs to go up.

Despite the challenges facing Wisconsin, getting a 4-year degree is beyond valuable. Research shows that the unemployment rate of workers with at least a 4-year degree is 2.8% vs. the standard 5.7%. Beyond that, companies are so desperate for educated hires, they are spending 58% of their training expenses on people with degrees. Given the demand, there is no better time to launch your education and choose the right 4-year program for you. Here's our comprehensive ranking of the top colleges to help you out.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Location Description
1 University of Wisconsin-Madison RANKING SCORE 87.10 COST Graduation Rate 85% LOCATION Madison, WI

UW-Madison, one of the best colleges in Wisconsin, serves almost 30,000 undergraduate and 10,000 graduate students. Each year, the school spends about $1 billion to support research, and its campus includes the UW Arboretum, a 1,200 acre natural space incorporating prairie, savannah, woodland, and wetland habitats, including a famous lilac collection. Famous alumni include Pulitzer Prize winner Eudora Welty, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and famed glass artist Dale Chihuly.

UW-Madison offers more than 200 undergraduate programs. The school supports an array of biology majors, including biological systems engineering, conservation biology, and neurobiology. The university has a renowned English program with multiple tracks, including creative writing, language and linguistics, and literature. More than 1,000 UW students study abroad each year, taking advantage of the school’s over 200 programs in more than 60 countries. The school has an average class size of 29 students.

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2 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse RANKING SCORE 74.90 COST Graduation Rate 68% LOCATION La Crosse, WI

Wisconsin-La Crosse serves almost 10,000 undergraduate students annually. The university supports innovative research programs, including the First Year Research Exposure, an opportunity for freshman students of color to engage in collegiate research, receive free academic support, and explore different STEM career options. UW-La Crosse is among Wisconsin colleges with successful sports teams, having won nearly 70 NCAA Division III National Championships. Famous alumni include martial artist Ernest Emerson, radio host Mark Belling, and former football player Bill Schroeder.

UW-La Crosse offers nearly 100 undergraduate programs. The school’s exercise and sport science program is popular, and students can choose from a variety of tracks, including coaching competitive athletics, sport management, and physical education. One of the school's popular education programs is in early childhood-middle childhood. UW La Crosse offers dual degrees in biology/physical therapy, computer science/software engineering, chemistry/engineering, and more. Graduate and minors programs are available. Online students use the Desire2Learn platform.

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3 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater RANKING SCORE 67.10 COST Graduation Rate 57% LOCATION Whitewater, WI

Originally part of the Wisconsin State University system, Whitewater was incorporated into the University of Wisconsin in the 1970s. UW-Whitewater is one of the most athletically accomplished colleges in Wisconsin, winning multiple national championships in football, baseball, basketball, gold, volleyball, and gymnastics. On-campus students enjoy Warhawk Alley, the campus’ state-of-the-art entertainment space complete with a bowling alley, billiard tables, video games, and more.

UW-Whitewater serves over 11,000 undergraduate students with degree programs in its four major colleges: arts and communication, business and economics, education and professional studies, and letters and sciences. The business and marketing education program prepares students to teach business at the K-12 level in a variety of concentrations. UW-Whitewater also has a finance program with many emphases, like real estate and insurance. Famous alumni include former U.S. representative Mark Neumann, comedian John Belushi, and former NFL punter Matt Turk.

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4 University of Wisconsin-River Falls RANKING SCORE 63.35 COST Graduation Rate 54% LOCATION River Falls, WI

Wisconsin-River Falls ranks with the best colleges in Wisconsin in several categories, including sustainability, teaching, and undergraduate research. The university has been recognized by the Military Times as a “Best for Vets College,” and supports sustainability operations and initiatives in waste minimization, energy, composting, recycling, and more. Almost 75% of students receive some form of financial aid. UW-River Falls’ over 200-acre campus is within 30 minutes of the Twin Cities.

UW River Falls offers more than 50 undergraduate majors. The school has the specialized animal science-companion animal major, which prepares students for careers in animal management and care. The university’s social work program connects students to one of over 80 internship experiences in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. UW-River Falls is also strong in agricultural sciences, offering degrees in crop and soil science, dairy science, horticulture, and more.

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5 Lawrence University RANKING SCORE 61.48 COST Graduation Rate 79% LOCATION Appleton, WI

Lawrence is a liberal arts college and music conservatory focused on Engaged Learning, a concept that encourages students to translate their education to the surrounding and international community. Lawrence’s 8.5:1 student-to-faculty ratio, one of the smallest ratios in the country, places it among the best colleges in Wisconsin. The university’s campus has many unique features, including Björklunden, an over 400 acre estate on Lake Michigan used for weekend faculty and student seminars.

Lawrence offers its 1,500 students over 30 undergraduate degrees. The university’s innovation and entrepreneurship degree fosters creativity. Lawrence has a world-renowned music conservatory that supports three music majors, including a bachelor of music degree, a five-year BA and BA in music degree, and a bachelor of arts in music. All students complete a Freshman Studies course, a small class that introduces freshmen to key concepts like critical thinking, class engagement, and collegiate writing.

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6 University of Wisconsin-Platteville RANKING SCORE 60.97 COST Graduation Rate 54% LOCATION Platteville, WI

Wisconsin-Platteville, founded in 1866, has roots as a mining school, and the campus’ massive “M” (renowned as the largest in the world) celebrates this tradition. UW-Platteville is one of the best colleges in Wisconsin for non-traditional undergraduates. The Center for Non-Traditional and Veteran Students provides many valuable resources, including separate study spaces. The university’s more than 800 acre campus includes the Pioneer Farm, a major center for applied agricultural research.

UW-Platteville offers its undergraduate students 42 major and 64 minor programs. The university has a thriving agribusiness program with emphases in communications and marketing, agricultural engineering and technology, and more. UW-Platteville runs a sustainable and renewable energy systems major that takes an in-depth look at energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. Pre-professional programs are available, including ministry, chiropractic, and occupational therapy tracks.

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7 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh RANKING SCORE 60.58 COST Graduation Rate 53% LOCATION Oshkosh, WI

Students at Wisconsin-Oshkosh are known for community service: it’s estimated that students contribute more than $2 million to charity and over 50,000 volunteer hours per year. Among Wisconsin colleges, UW-Oshkosh has a vibrant student club culture with over 160 organizations, including its award-winning student newspaper, The Advance Titan, and Model UN. The campus has a number of health and wellness facilities, and its services include affordable massage therapy for all students.

UW-Oshkosh offers its nearly 13,000 undergraduates almost 200 majors, minors, and emphases. The school’s education department offers majors in elementary education, secondary education, special education, and more. Students can complete a dual education program in the elementary and special emphases. Oshkosh also has a renowned nursing program, and students who already hold a bachelor’s degree can complete an accelerated BSN program in one-year.

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8 Maranatha Baptist University RANKING SCORE 59.55 COST Graduation Rate 52% LOCATION Watertown, WI

Maranatha Baptist is among Christian, Wisconsin colleges. It aims to develop ministry and church leaders. The school focuses on service, with many students serving in churches, the local community, and even across the world. About 33% of the student body participates in Global Encounters, a mission trip to diverse locations, which include Asia and Uganda. Old Main Cafe is a popular campus feature, as it incorporates study spaces, a coffee shop, and space for relaxing.

Maranatha offers over 40 degrees in many fields, including education, business, the humanities, nursing, and Bible and church ministries. Liberal arts programs include biology, music, and English. Maranatha’s faith-based curriculum is expansive, offering degrees in Biblical languages, Biblical counseling, youth ministries, and more. Students can complete innovative business degrees in fields like digital media marketing. Master’s programs are offered in organizational leadership, teaching and learning, and seminary.

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9 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point RANKING SCORE 59.35 COST Graduation Rate 63% LOCATION Stevens Point, WI

Wisconsin-Stevens Point began as a teaching college in 1894, and since then it has expanded to serve almost 10,000 students in 120 undergraduate programs. More than 20% of the school’s students participate in one of more than 20 study abroad programs, visiting countries like France, China, Ireland, and Mexico. UW-Stevens Point is among veteran friendly colleges in Wisconsin, and it encourages all students and employees to take an online course to better understand student veterans.

UW Stevens Point offers almost 50 majors and over 70 minors. The wildlife ecology major is popular, and its students learn about conservation, environmental law enforcement, and more. The university supports a physics and astronomy program which allows students to work directly with faculty in fields like astrophysics, while also taking advantage of unique facilities like the school Planetarium and Observatory. Famous alumni include actor Andrea Anders, baseball pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, and writer Patrick Rothfuss.

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10 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire RANKING SCORE 57.87 COST Graduation Rate 68% LOCATION Eau Claire, WI

Wisconsin-Eau Claire supports distinguished academic facilities, such as the Materials Science Center and the Speech Pathology Lab. UW-Eau Claire is one of the most active colleges in Wisconsin: over half of its student body participates in one of the more than 20 club sports, one of the 10 intramural activities, or in one of the outdoor trips through the Adventure Center. Famous alumni include multi-instrumentalist Justin Vernon, photographer Tony Duran, and poet Denise Sweet.

UW-Eau Claire offers over 80 majors and minors, including business administration, human performance, and journalism. The music department is extensive, offering degrees in composition, instrumental and general music teaching, and more.The university's focus on music is represented through the more than 20 student groups in band, orchestra, and vocal and jazz ensemble. UW-Eau Claire materials sciences programs are popular, and include concentrations in geomaterials and nanomaterials.

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11 Marquette University RANKING SCORE 55.23 COST Graduation Rate 81% LOCATION Milwaukee, WI

Marquette is located on a historic campus in Milwaukee. The school has a focus on service. Over 80% of the student body participates in service activities, and each semester more than 1,000 students complete service learning activities with community partners. Marquette supports many academic centers, such as the Center for Peacemaking, an innovative institute that aims to foster and promote nonviolent responses to conflict by cultivating partnerships with local and global organizations. Famous alumni include actor Chris Farley, basketball player Dwyane Wade, and Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker.

Marquette is the premier institution among Catholic Wisconsin colleges, and it offers 80 undergraduate majors and over 70 minors. The school offers several joint and dual degree programs, such as the innovative physics and electrical engineering program, which allows students to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five-years. The university also offers popular pre-professional programs in dentistry, law, and medicine.

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12 St. Norbert College RANKING SCORE 54.26 COST Graduation Rate 73% LOCATION De Pere, WI

With an emphasis on critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication and leadership skills, St. Norbert College offers its students academic excellence, individual attention and a faculty committed to student success.

St. Norbert is a private, coeducational institution with more than 40 fields of study, including several pre-professional programs, all of which can be enhanced by its honors program, student-faculty collaborative research (as early as freshman year), professional internships and study-abroad program. With a four-year graduation guarantee and very strong career and grad-school placement rates, St. Norbert offers students a true educational value.

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13 Ripon College RANKING SCORE 54.26 COST Graduation Rate 68% LOCATION Ripon, WI

Ripon ranks as a tier 1 liberal arts college by US News and World Report and is among The Princeton Review’s Best 381 Colleges. The school maintains the Ceresco Prairie Conservancy, a 130-acre expanse of oak savannah, and wetland habitats and a major research resource for students and faculty.

Ripon serves about 1,000 undergraduate students with varied liberal art and science degree programs. Degrees include the global studies program, which aims to understand major cultural, social, political, and economic trends. Ripon is among Wisconsin colleges with an ROTC program. It’s designed for students who want to be Army officers and expand their leadership skills. Learners might choose to participate in a Liberal Arts In Focus course, an intensive summer class in which participants travel to diverse locations in the US or abroad. Famous alumni include actor Harrison Ford, singer Al Jarreau, and actor Frances Lee McCain.

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14 Viterbo University RANKING SCORE 53.74 COST Graduation Rate 46% LOCATION La Crosse, WI

Located close to the bluffs of the Mississippi River, Viterbo is one of the most scenic Wisconsin colleges. While maintaining a small 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Viterbo also has the resources and attractions of a larger university. The school’s Fine Arts Center is visited by almost 100,000 patrons each year. Students can get involved with one of the university’s two publications: Lumen, the student newspaper, and Touchstone, the literary arts magazine.

Viterbo offers more than 70 programs. The school’s nursing program has a 100% placement rate, access to clinical experience and simulations, and opportunities to participate in summer research programs. The biopsychology major allows students to apply for valuable internship experiences at the Mayo Clinic Health System, the Gundersen Health System, and more. Viterbo provides undergraduate research opportunities through programs like the Seven Rivers Undergraduate Research Symposium. Famous alumni include baseball player Damian Miller and politician Mandy Wright.

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15 University of Wisconsin-Parkside RANKING SCORE 53.68 COST Graduation Rate 24% LOCATION Kenosha, WI

Wisconsin-Parkside’s Kenosha location is beautiful: the institution’s 700-acre campus has a backdrop of woodlands and prairie. It’s one of the best colleges in Wisconsin and has a hands-on educational approach. Almost half of its student body participates in some form of internship, field, clinical, or student teaching experience. The campus is known as a regional center for the performing arts. The school’s Rita Tallent Picken Center for Arts & Humanities is renowned for its music hall, black box studio theatre, and art galleries.

UW-Parkside offers 41 majors and almost 50 minors. The criminal justice major is one of the school’s most popular, and it gives students the opportunity to complete internships in the Milwaukee-Chicago area, while also conducting and presenting original research in professional settings. Art is also popular, as students have the opportunity to learn from the artists who display work at the school’s galleries.

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16 University of Wisconsin-Stout RANKING SCORE 52.13 COST Graduation Rate 54% LOCATION Menomonie, WI

Wisconsin-Stout is the premier polytechnic institution among Wisconsin colleges. Emphasizing hands-on experience, UW-Stout maintains numerous research facilities and centers on campus, such as the Center for Nutrition Education and the Nakatani Center for Learning Technologies. The Stout Adventures program provides unique recreational activities through its indoor climbing gym, Freshman Wilderness Experience, and more.

UW-Stout supports bachelor of science programs for undergraduates. The engineering technology degrees has students choose from several emphases, including production operations, mechanical design, plastics, and more. Students can pursue the bachelor’s in health, wellness, and fitness to learn the skills necessary to become a fitness professional. The university also offers some bachelor in fine arts degrees by focusing on the applied uses of art in disciplines like interior design or studio art. Famous alumni include former NFL cornerback Tony Beckham, Minnesota Twins coach Joe Vavra, and champion log roller J.R. Salzman.

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17 Carroll University RANKING SCORE 51.48 COST Graduation Rate 63% LOCATION Waukesha, WI

Carroll, the oldest of all four-year Wisconsin colleges, is nicknamed the “pioneer college.” The university has a rich Greek life that is more than 100 years old. Students can participate in many clubs and organizations, including the Women’s Equality And Empowerment Club and the Global Pioneers International Association. Carroll is in the process of renovating, adding a state-of-the-art academics building for the nursing, exercise science, physics, and engineering programs.

Carroll serves more than 3,000 students with majors in the colleges of arts and sciences, health sciences, and business, accounting and economics. The health care administration program is popular, teaching students comprehensive knowledge of the health care system and preparing them for management roles. Carroll partners with UW-Milwaukee through the freshwater sciences program, allowing students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. Famous alumni include former Target President Gregg W. Steinhafel, former Safeway CEO Steven Burd, and politician Paul Farrow.

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18 Mount Mary University RANKING SCORE 51.35 COST Graduation Rate 43% LOCATION Milwaukee, WI

Affiliated with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Mount Mary is unique among colleges in Wisconsin for focusing on programs for women. Many national and international work opportunities are available. History students can visit the United Nations, while interior design students can work with nonprofits to design shelters for homeless women. Mount Mary has dining options on campus, including two coffee shops, a cyber cafe, and the Parkway Place lounge and grill.

Mount Mary provides its students with more than 30 undergraduate majors and pre-professional programs. Students in the dual degree public health program can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five-years. Learners in the bachelor of arts in art therapy program graduate with the qualification necessary to become a registered art therapist. The program includes opportunities for field experience and community art activities.

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19 Edgewood College RANKING SCORE 50.77 COST Graduation Rate 63% LOCATION Madison, WI

Edgewood is a private, Catholic institution based on Dominican traditions. The school is among the best colleges in Wisconsin when for academic and career support. The campus’ Academic Success and Career Development Center assigns each incoming Freshman a personal academic and career counselor. Almost 100% of all incoming freshmen receive some kind of grant or scholarship.

Edgewood’s almost 3,000 students choose from more than 60 major and more than 40 minor programs. The school’s unique cytotechnology degree prepares students to recognize malignant diseases at the cellular level. Students in this program can complete an internship at Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene during their senior year. The natural science degree familiarizes students with biology, chemistry, physics, and geoscience. The college’s adult students benefit from accelerated programs in education, business, computer information systems, and more. Famous alumni include former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, politician Dianne Hesselbein, and Wisconsin State Assembly member Sondy Pope.

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20 Beloit College RANKING SCORE 50.45 COST Graduation Rate 73% LOCATION Beloit, WI

Beloit’s forested campus is home to four buildings listed on the National or State Registers of Historic Places. The campus is the location of 20 Indian mounds built between 400-1200 CE. The Beloit Residencies Program welcomes innovative scholars, artists, and thinkers to live on campus, teach students, and work with faculty. Past participants include Nobel Prize winner Douglass North and Iraq’s Former Finance, Trade, And Defense Minister Ali Allawi.

Beloit is among the best liberal arts colleges in Wisconsin and offers 50 undergraduate majors. Programs include economics, international political economy, and business economics. These majors are supported by the Miller Upton Programs, a collection of visiting speakers, scholarships, and senior seminars that engage with fundamental economics questions. Students at Beloit can also design their own major by working with faculty members to combine courses and independent studies into an appropriate curriculum.

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21 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay RANKING SCORE 49.35 COST Graduation Rate 49% LOCATION Green Bay, WI

Among colleges in Wisconsin, UW-Green Bay is known for The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. The center aims to help preserve Great Lakes flora and fauna, supporting important resources like the Cofrin Arboretum and the University Herbarium. The school is also home to the nine-hole Shorewood Golf Course.

UW-Green Bay’s urban and regional studies degree is a unique program that teaches students how to improve the lives of those living in metropolitan and rural communities. Other programs include democracy and justice studies, information sciences, human biology, and theatre. The school’s First Nations studies program gives students the chance to study the art, history, music, and languages of North American Indians. Learners enjoy the 100 student organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, a wetland conservation society. Famous alumni includes college basketball coach Tony Bennett, state senator Dave Hansen, and women’s basketball coach Kathi Bennett.

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22 Bellin College RANKING SCORE 49.35 COST Graduation Rate 54% LOCATION Green Bay, WI

Bellin is among the best colleges in Wisconsin when it comes to preparing for healthcare careers. The nonprofit institution was founded in 1909. The campus has a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Resource Center with the equipment for multiple simulations and hands-on experiences. This center comes equipped with the technology to support a surgery suite, birthing suite, radiology labs, an emergency and intensive care suite, and more.

Bellin specializes in medical imaging and nursing education, which includes three undergraduate programs in nursing, radiologic science, and diagnostic medical sonography. The diagnostic medical sonography degree can be completed in three-years and prepares students to take certification tests, including the OB/GYN and Sonography Principles and Instrumentation exams. The university works with more than 80 clinical partners, making it easy for students to gain experience in a variety of settings. A master’s of science in nursing is offered.

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23 Concordia University-Wisconsin RANKING SCORE 47.35 COST Graduation Rate 56% LOCATION Mequon, WI

The Concordia University System is a 10-member group of Christian colleges associated with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Located in Mequon, CUW serves around 7,700 students. The school, one of the top Christian colleges in Wisconsin for both undergraduate and graduate studies, offers 77 bachelor's programs, 42 master's programs, and four doctoral programs. The degrees explore topics as diverse as church music, business communication, and German education.

Much of CUW's campus life is centered around Christian faith, values, and education. The school hosts events on and off campus, including worship services, service activities, and ministries. Service opportunities include community volunteer opportunities and service learning activities incorporated into academic courses. The CUW Campus Ministry Leadership Team gives students the opportunity to perform ministry outreach on campus, in the local community, across the country, and around the world.

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24 University of Wisconsin-Superior RANKING SCORE 47.10 COST Graduation Rate 43% LOCATION Superior, WI

UW-Superior, founded in 1893 as a teacher's college, joined the UW System in 1971. Today, the school serves around 2,500 students from its campus in northwestern Wisconsin. Though it is one of the smaller schools in the state system, UW-Superior is home to a wide selection of academic programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Students can pursue unique degrees such as transportation and logistics management, plant sciences, art therapy, and exercise science.

Most of UW-Superior's graduate programs are available in an online format. The school offers an on-campus master’s degree in education and counseling. UW-Superior boasts an active community and numerous opportunities for involvement through student clubs, intramural sports, professional organizations, and service learning activities. UW-Superior also provides student support services and resources, including the Gender Equity Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the First Nations Center.

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25 Wisconsin Lutheran College RANKING SCORE 45.48 COST Graduation Rate 61% LOCATION #N/A, #N/A

Wisconsin Lutheran, one of the best colleges in Wisconsin, is also ranked as one of the top 20 colleges in the Midwest by US News and World Report. Through Warrior Career Connect, students can find internships for credit and career opportunities. The campus’ Center for Christian Leadership is an important part of the college’s faith-based learning experience, as it helps develop Christian leaders focused on service.

Wisconsin Lutheran offers many undergraduate degree programs to its 1,200 students. The college’s marine biology program is unique, giving students the chance to apply their learning and complete research in international locations like Jamaica, Florida, Australia, or Grenada. Students can also design their own interdisciplinary degree. The program requires students to complete a culminating project or thesis; their curriculum must be approved by a special committee. Athletic programs include baseball, basketball, golf, and tennis.

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For many, the biggest benefits of two-year colleges are small class sizes, affordability, convenience and a faculty committed to teaching. Graduates also fare well: in 2014, according to the 2014 Graduate Outcome Survey for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), 92% of graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation, and 76% of them are in a field related to their education. In fact, the average employment percentage of 86% has been the same for sixteen years.

More and more students from all walks of life are taking the plunge into a two-year education. 2014 had 25,848 graduates among the 16 colleges in the WTCS. There were 6,883 more females than males, and minorities represented 14.93% of all graduates. Yet, only 38% of adults 25 years and over have an associate degree or higher in Wisconsin, which offers a big opportunity for new graduates.

Not only is it beneficial to obtain an associate degree, Wisconsin is eager to hire qualified graduates in liberal arts, health and business, according to the NCES. 88% of technical college graduates stayed in Wisconsin for work. Common available jobs include RNs, managers, accountants and diagnostic-related technologists. With so many opportunities, now is the perfect time for prospective students to make the most of this ranking and pick the perfect school.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Location Description
1 Moraine Park Technical College RANKING SCORE 87.28 COST Graduation Rate 57% LOCATION Fond du Lac, WI

Another member of the Wisconsin Technical College System, Moraine Park Technical College offers its students 13 programs accredited by third-party professional associations and licensing boards. Subject areas featuring these advanced accreditations include clinical laboratory sciences, culinary arts, health information management, nursing, and surgical technology. In addition, MPTC is a recognized leader in preparing students for successful careers in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. In total, students can choose from academic programs covering more than 100 subjects and career paths. The school is also among the top Wisconsin community colleges for veterans, holding membership in the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board for Veterans Training.

Moraine Park Technical College credits are readily transferrable to four-year degree-granting higher education institutions, delivering added value to students who wish to pursue further study at the university level.

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2 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College RANKING SCORE 77.17 COST Graduation Rate 60% LOCATION Fennimore, WI

Accredited in 1976, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College is located on U.S. Highway 18, near the town of Fennimore. The school currently offers a total of 33 academic pathways that lead to associate degrees, as well as dozens of diploma and certificate programs. SWTC’s pedagogical approach is built around helping students develop six core competencies: professionalism, effective communication, productivity, cooperation, problem solving, and a commitment to lifelong learning. This strategy was developed through extensive consultation with local employers working in a broad cross-section of industries.

SWTC also offers a flexible and generous credit program for prior learning that covers knowledge gained both inside and outside the classroom. The school also supports a thriving extracurricular activity scene, including dozens of clubs, student organizations, and intramural sports teams. The school is also one of the only two-year colleges in Wisconsin with a golf team that participates in National Junior College Athletic Association competitions.

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3 Lakeshore Technical College RANKING SCORE 75.17 COST Graduation Rate 46% LOCATION Cleveland, WI

Lakeshore Technical College is considered one of the top community colleges in Wisconsin for adults looking to upgrade their academic achievement and professional skills. With over 100 career programs, Lakeshore Technical College provides practical education with a strong focus on three specific areas: basic skills education and training, enriched continuing education, and intensive programs for entry into particular industries and business sectors. LTC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and graduates enjoy very high rates of employment in their chosen fields.

Measured on a per-credit basis, LTC has some of the lowest tuition rates of any accredited community college in the state, with average costs coming in at less than half of what in-state students would pay to attend a four-year public university. The school also offers an inclusive financial aid program to qualified applicants.

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4 Shepherds College RANKING SCORE 75.11 COST Graduation Rate 89% LOCATION Union Grove, WI

Shepherds College is widely regarded as one of the best community colleges in Wisconsin for students with intellectual disabilities. Founded by the Baptist-affiliated Shepherds Ministries in 1964, Shepherds College offers a three-year postsecondary program designed to help students improve their academic, social, emotional, and daily living skills in the context of a Christian community. Shepherds College also teaches practical proficiencies and promotes independence by providing job search, computing, and money management skills.

Prospective students at least 18 years of age with at least four years of secondary schooling and a diagnosed intellectual or developmental disability are encouraged to apply. Incoming students must also read and perform arithmetic at a third-grade level or better. Because Shepherds College is uniquely designed for the educational needs of intellectually challenged students, applicants must also meet other specific criteria.

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5 University of Wisconsin Colleges RANKING SCORE 74.56 COST Graduation Rate 23% LOCATION Madison, WI

The University of Wisconsin Colleges, a component of the University of Wisconsin system, is comprised of a network of a total of 14 two-year colleges in Wisconsin. Beyond maintaining the lowest tuition rates in the entire University of Washington network, the UWC also offer a “Guaranteed Transfer Program.” All graduates have the option of continuing their studies at the four-year University of Wisconsin school of their choice. UW colleges also offer highly flexible study options, such as hybrid programs that combine traditional in-class learning with online study, as well as partnerships with multiple community campuses and four-year schools.

In addition to offering academic programs that lead to over 200 degrees, certifications, and career paths, UW colleges are also an excellent option for adults looking to return to school to upgrade their professional skills and qualifications. About one-quarter of all students at UW colleges are age 22 or older. Class sizes are also small, averaging about 20 students and encouraging close collaboration between students and faculty.

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6 Western Technical College RANKING SCORE 69.11 COST Graduation Rate 33% LOCATION La Crosse, WI

Western Technical College specializes in providing students with hands-on learning opportunities that prioritize the value of practical experience. The school’s lineup of academic programs includes over 100 options available at five campus locations throughout the state. Western Technical College also has a leading reputation among Wisconsin community colleges for innovation and leadership. In 2010, the college established a 10-year strategic plan known as “Vision 2020,” which reshaped the school's curricular focus to help students prepare for the jobs of the future. The school takes a collaborative, teamwork-oriented approach to learning, and values student diversity.

Prospective applicants seeking on-campus living facilities will also appreciate that Western Technical College is one of the only two-year colleges in Wisconsin that offers student residences. The school also offers enhanced, comprehensive aptitude testing programs that help students connect with career paths well-suited to their strengths and skill sets.

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7 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College RANKING SCORE 66.33 COST Graduation Rate 55% LOCATION Shell Lake, WI

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College was originally founded in 1912 as the Industrial, Commercial, Continuing Evening School, making it one of the oldest continuously operating community colleges in Wisconsin. The school enrolls to over 20,000 students, with 95% of graduates from credit-granting programs going on to secure employment within six months. Administrators distribute annual surveys to track the career progress of their graduates, and regularly update their courses and pedagogical approaches to reflect changes in the job market.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College currently offers 57 academic programs that lead to associate degrees or recognized technical diplomas, seven of which are found at no other two-year college in the state. These programs have a strong practical focus, training students for careers in highly specialized and in-demand fields. The institution is spread across four campuses: Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake, and Superior.

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8 Waukesha County Technical College RANKING SCORE 63.17 COST Graduation Rate 38% LOCATION Pewaukee, WI

Waukesha County Technical College in structured across four schools: the School of Applied Technology, the School of Business, the School of Health, and the School of Protective and Human Services. These faculties combine to offer students over 150 different academic programs leading to associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates. The institution is regarded as one of the top two-year colleges in Wisconsin for vocational training in law enforcement and emergency response services. WCTC was founded in 1923, making it one of the oldest community colleges operating in the state.

An early adopter of Internet-based learning technologies, WCTC continues to operate at the forefront of innovation. The school boasts state-of-the art graphic design and industrial technology facilities, and the school’s tobacco-free campuses serve as the home of a student community that includes more than 23,000 members. With a median student age of 26, WCTC is also an excellent choice for adults choosing to continue their education.

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9 Nicolet Area Technical College RANKING SCORE 62.17 COST Graduation Rate 40% LOCATION Rhinelander, WI

Nicolet College Technical College is one of only three technical-oriented community colleges in Wisconsin that offers vocational training as well as liberal arts education that qualifies for transfer credit programs at four-year universities. NATC has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission for more than 30 years, and is one of 16 schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The college has one of the most beautiful campuses of any technical school in the state, with a collection of six academic buildings spread across a serene 280-acre woodland. It is also highly active in the local arts and culture scene, maintaining a popular Creative Arts Series program that offers live theater, visual arts, music, and literature-oriented events throughout the academic year. Students and the public alike also enjoy access to the school’s Nicolet Art Gallery, which showcases the talents of artists with both regional and national profiles.

The school’s comprehensive list of programs offer enhanced learning opportunities for students interested in a wide range of academic and professional fields.

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10 Fox Valley Technical College RANKING SCORE 59.33 COST Graduation Rate 41% LOCATION Appleton, WI

Fox Valley Technical College is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System, which is the single largest provider of higher education in the state. It currently serves a student body of over 50,000 people—more than any other Wisconsin community college. Despite the large student community, Fox Valley Technical College maintains a very favorable student-to-teacher ratio of about 12:1.

The school’s academic programs place a strong focus on specific industries, including agriculture, construction, engineering, financial services, health sciences, information technology, and transportation, among others. Fox Valley Technical College reports that 94% of its graduates find employment within six months, and that 98% of its graduates express satisfaction with their education in follow-up surveys. Moreover, 62 of the school’s associate degree and diploma programs have 100% employment rates, reflecting the college’s commitment to providing practical, relevant education for the modern job market.

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11 Chippewa Valley Technical College RANKING SCORE 56.67 COST Graduation Rate 42% LOCATION Eau Claire, WI

Serving a region that includes 11 counties across western Wisconsin, Chippewa Valley Technical College is based in the city of Eau Claire, with additional campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, Neillsville, and River Falls. Graduates report very high satisfaction and employment rates, and the school has 30 programs in which 100% of surveyed graduates go on to find related employment. The CVTC Foundation also offers one of the most generous financial aid systems among Wisconsin community colleges, with over 200 scholarships awarded to incoming students with a demonstrated financial need and the potential for distinguished academic achievement.

Academic programs are spread across six broad categories, including courses suitable for people returning to school after an extended layoff as well as GED/HSED, adult education, apprenticeships, certificate programs, and associate degree and technical diploma programs. The college also has an excellent track record for accommodating veterans seeking study opportunities after their military service, including a dedicated Veteran Services liaison office.

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12 Gateway Technical College RANKING SCORE 53.33 COST Graduation Rate 25% LOCATION Kenosha, WI

Gateway Technical College is one of the best community colleges in Wisconsin for delivering a strong return on students’ educational investments. Post-graduate surveys indicate the school has a student satisfaction rate of nearly 100%, with very high employment rates and a wide range of academic programs leading to associate degrees, technical diplomas, advanced certificates, and trade internships. The school specializes in fields of study that prepare students for successful careers in business, engineering, health sciences, manufacturing, and service industries.

Most of the school’s programs are structured to progress from foundational classroom-based learning to practical hands-on training in labs and other real-world settings. Learning modes include innovative nodal classrooms, and courses are offered on a flexible three-semester scheduling system that enables new students to start their programs shortly after enrollment. Gateway Technical College is one of the 16 member institutions in the Wisconsin Technical College System, which is the state’s single largest provider of postsecondary education.

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13 Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College RANKING SCORE 49.50 COST Graduation Rate 11% LOCATION Hayward, WI

Located in northwestern Wisconsin, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is a non-profit tribal institution of higher learning founded by members of the Ojibwa Native American community. The school maintains an open admissions policy, welcoming both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students alike. It also has a unique mandate among community colleges in Wisconsin, accepting all Native American students who apply regardless of their tribal heritage or community affiliation.

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College is governed by senior members of local Ojibwa tribes, and is dedicated to preserving the heritage, history, culture, and language of the Ojibwa people. The school’s academic programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. In addition to the core courses associated with specific degree programs, all students are required to take general education courses in mathematics, language arts, and the sciences, as well as at least one course in Native American Studies.

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14 Northeast Wisconsin Technical College RANKING SCORE 46.56 COST Graduation Rate 41% LOCATION Green Bay, WI

With campuses in Green Bay, Marinette, and Sturgeon Bay as well as five regional learning centers, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is one of the most accessible community colleges in Wisconsin. The school is a recognized Achieving the Dream Leader College, a national award earned by a select few community colleges with a demonstrated commitment to reducing gaps in student achievement. Of the more than 5,000 American community colleges that confer associate degrees, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College ranks among the top 1% in the fields of communication technology, computer and information sciences, engineering technology, and precision production.

In total, the school offers almost 200 different career training and academic programs. Associate degree program graduates enjoy relatively high median salaries compared to graduates from similar schools, and the college has degree transfer agreements in place with nearly 40 four-year colleges and universities throughout the region.

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15 Blackhawk Technical College RANKING SCORE 46.33 COST Graduation Rate 31% LOCATION Janesville, WI

BTC, located in Janesville, offers programs that emphasize foundational academics and practical training. Students who want to enter the workforce immediately after college can earn a two-year associate degree in multiple fields, including criminal justice, supply chain management, fire protection, nuclear technology, and radiation safety.

BTC also offers business degrees in areas such accounting, business management, human resources, and supply chain management. Students can pursue technical careers through programs in electro-mechanics and agribusiness science, and specialized degrees also prepare budding professionals to be lab food technicians and IT-network specialists. The school maintains 70 college transfer agreements, allowing students to transfer easily to a four-year school in Wisconsin and neighboring states. BTC boasts a 95% graduate employment rate, making the school one of the top community colleges in Wisconsin for return on investment.

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If you're thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Wisconsin, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Badger State.

Wisconsin is beloved for its toll-free highways, cheese curds and huge volume of organic farms and markets. It's also home to 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers. Known as the Badger State, it's a nature-lover's dream, with four distinct seasons.

Overall, the cost of living in Wisconsin is 6% less than the national average. Specifically, housing is 13% cheaper, but utilities and healthcare are a little more expensive. State taxes are 27% higher than the national average. While the real median income from 2011 to 2013 rose by 2.7% in Wisconsin to $55,258, while it fell by 1.3% nationwide, to $51,939.

Regional Spotlight

  • Major Cities: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay
  • Attractions: Land o' Lakes, Door County, Green Bay Packers, Dells of the Wisconsin River
  • Cost of Living: Madison's Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Wisconsin ― Madison, Lawrence University, Marquette University

Considering the relatively low cost of living, the natural beauty and the potential tuition freeze for in-state students, now is a great time to consider Wisconsin state residency for discounted tuition. Of course, this process varies depending on whether or not an individual is of legal age (18). Be sure to consult your school of choice for any additional requirements.

For Minors:

If one or both of a student's parents have been residents of Wisconsin for at least 12 months before the beginning of any semester or session for which the student registers at an institution, they are considered residents. Beyond that, minor students are considered eligible if they have resided in Wisconsin while underage and for at least 12 months before any semester or session for which they are registered at a Wisconsin institution.

For Adults:

Similar to minors, you must be a resident of Wisconsin for at least 12 continuous months prior to enrollment to be eligible for resident tuition. If you move to Wisconsin to attend school, you will not automatically become a resident of Wisconsin for tuition purposes, even after living in Wisconsin for a year or more.

Any adult student who is a dependent of his or her parents is considered in-state eligible if one or both of the student's parents have been residents of Wisconsin for at least 12 months prior to the beginning of any semester or session for which the student is registered.

Rankings Archive

Best Colleges in Wisconsin of 2017
Rank School Location
1 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
2 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse La Crosse, WI
3 Bellin College Green Bay, WI
4 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
5 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI
6 Beloit College Beloit, WI
7 Lawrence University Appleton, WI
8 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
9 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI
10 Ripon College Ripon, WI
11 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Green Bay, WI
12 Saint Norbert College De Pere, WI
12 University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls, WI
14 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI
15 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
16 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Platteville, WI
17 Mount Mary University Milwaukee, WI
18 University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI
19 Wisconsin Lutheran College Milwaukee, WI
20 Silver Lake College of the Holy Family Manitowoc, WI
21 Carroll University Waukesha, WI
22 Edgewood College Madison, WI
23 Lakeland University Plymouth, WI
24 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
25 University of Wisconsin-Parkside Kenosha, WI
Best Community Colleges
1 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore, WI
2 Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College Hayward, WI
3 University of Wisconsin Colleges Madison, WI
4 Shepherds College Union Grove, WI
5 Western Technical College La Crosse, WI
6 Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI
7 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI
8 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI
9 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
10 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, WI
11 Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee, WI
12 Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander, WI
12 Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay, WI
14 Gateway Technical College Kenosha, WI
15 Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire, WI
Best Colleges in Wisconsin of 2016
Rank School Location
1 University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison, WI
2 Beloit College Beloit, WI
3 University of Wisconsin - La Crosse La Crosse, WI
4 Wisconsin Lutheran College Milwaukee, WI
5 Marquette University Milwaukee, WI
6 University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
7 Lawrence University Appleton, WI
8 University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
9 Maranatha Baptist University Watertown, WI
10 Saint Norbert College De Pere, WI
11 Mount Mary University Milwaukee, WI
12 Ripon College Ripon, WI
13 University of Wisconsin - Green Bay Green Bay, WI
14 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
15 University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Whitewater, WI
16 University of Wisconsiin - Stout Menomonie, WI
17 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
18 University of Wisconsin - Platteville Platteville, WI
19 University of Wisconsin - River Falls River Falls, WI
20 Carroll University Waukesha, WI
21 Concordia University - Wisconsin Mequon, WI
22 University of Wisconsin - Parkside Kenosha, WI
23 Northland College Ashland, WI
24 Carthage College Kenosha, WI
25 Marian University Fond Du Lac, WI
Best Community Colleges
1 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore, WI
2 Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander, WI
3 Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, WI
4 College of Meominee Nation Keshena, WI
5 Las Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College Hayward, WI
6 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake, WI
7 Western Technical College La Crosse, wI
8 Fox Valley Technical College Appleton, WI
9 University of Wisconsin Colleges Madison, WI
10 Blackhawk Technical College Janesville, WI
11 Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire, WI
12 Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee, WI
13 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI
14 Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay, WI
15 Gateway Technical College Kenosha, WI
16 Moraine Park Technical College Fond du Lac, wI
17 Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee WI
18 Mid-State Technical College Wisconsin Rapids, WI
19 Madison Area Technical College Madison, WI