Wisconsin offers geographical diversity with bustling cities and rural spaces. Relatively affordable housing and healthcare drive Wisconsin's favorable cost of living, which is 6.5% lower than the national average. The state's key industries — including aerospace manufacturing, biohealth, forest products, and food and beverage processing — rely on innovation and Wisconsin's abundance of natural resources.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of Wisconsin's top occupational groups by number of employees include office and administrative support, production and manufacturing, sales, and transportation. Pursuing a certificate or degree at any of Wisconsin's colleges or universities can help forge a career pathway to many jobs in these industries.
Top 10 Colleges in Wisconsin
|1||University of Wisconsin-Madison||Madison, WI|
|2||University of Wisconsin-La Crosse||La Crosse, WI|
|3||University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire||Eau Claire, WI|
|4||Beloit College||Beloit, WI|
|5||Lawrence University||Appleton, WI|
|6||University of Wisconsin-Whitewater||Whitewater, WI|
|7||University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point||Stevens Point, WI|
|8||College of Menominee Nation||Keshena, WI|
|9||University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh||Oshkosh, WI|
|10||University of Wisconsin-River Falls||River Falls, WI|
The notable University of Wisconsin System — totaling 13 individual institutions — serves as one of the largest public higher education systems in the country. Additionally, the state boasts many private universities, technical schools, and public options beyond the UW System.
The following ranking reviews 25 of the Badger State's best colleges. Each school description offers relevant information regarding program offerings, admission requirements, campus history and culture, and a variety of other school-specific details.
2020 Best Accredited Colleges in Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin-Madison
|Madison, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 87%||
Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin Madison is the flagship campus of the extensive UW System. The oldest and largest public university in the state, UW covers 936 acres and welcomes more than 40,000 students each year.
Highly respected as a Public Ivy university, UW engages in extensive research activities, with nearly 100 scientific centers and programs dedicated to agriculture, arts, education, engineering, and other major fields. Students can choose from a large catalog of more than 200 undergraduate majors and certificates, in addition to more than 250 master's, doctoral, and professional programs. Outside of class, students can take advantage of NCAA athletics, Greek life, three museums, nearly 900 student organizations, and arts and culture events.
Required first-year application materials include official test scores, two essays, and a letter of recommendation. UW looks for students with academic success along with demonstrated qualities of leadership, community involvement, and achievement.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
|La Crosse, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
The University of Wisconsin La Crosse boasts an annual enrollment of more than 10,000 students, a 128-acre residential campus, and one of the largest operating budgets in the UW System. Involvement opportunities include NCAA athletics, recreational sports, cultural events, student organizations, and campus activities scheduled throughout the week.
Organized into three colleges and two schools, UW-La Crosse offers 101 undergraduate programs, 28 graduate programs, and two doctoral programs in physical therapy and student affairs administration/leadership. Students can major in areas like biochemistry, communication, sports science, international business, and public health. Students who prefer or require the flexibility of online learning can pursue individual courses or one of 14 complete programs through distance learning.
To be considered for admission, incoming first-year students must provide test scores, transcripts, and two essays. UW-La Crosse looks for students with strong academic achievement, demonstrated leadership ability, extracurricular involvement, and other special talents.
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
|Eau Claire, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire's campus is located on 333 acres near the banks of the Chippewa River. The school serves as home to 28 major buildings and a vibrant student community numbering more than 10,000 individuals. Off campus, the university also owns nearly 500 acres of forest and marshland, which are utilized for class use and environmental research.
Four colleges offer more than 80 undergraduate programs in areas like business, arts, sciences, education, human services, nursing, and health sciences. Graduate students can pursue 12 different options, including several master's degrees, a doctor of nursing practice, and an education specialist degree in school psychology. Several certificates, degrees, and individual courses use an asynchronous online format.
UWEC's admissions office considers academic performance and experience outside the classroom. Prospective students must submit test scores and high school transcripts.
|Beloit, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 86%||
Beloit College is the oldest continually operated college in Wisconsin. It was founded In 1846, two years before Wisconsin achieved statehood. This private liberal arts institution enrolls approximately 1,400 students each year. The 65-acre campus offers student housing, Greek life, varsity athletics, and accredited art and anthropology museums.
The school's undergraduate catalog encompasses dozens of majors and minors, including comparative literature, critical identity studies, geology, physics, and theatre. The college also encourages hands-on practice, internships, and field work. Everyone begins their first semester with the Spark program, where they are paired with a faculty member advisor who assists each student in designing their course of study and finding community experiences that connect well with coursework.
Undergraduate admission requires high school transcripts, a secondary school report, and a teacher recommendation. Optional components include test scores, additional recommendations, and art portfolios.
|Appleton, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Lawrence University is a residential liberal arts college and a conservatory of music. The university has a main campus in Appleton; a center in London, England; and a 441-acre estate on Lake Michigan, which serves as a destination for retreats, seminars, concerts, and theatre performances.
Approximately 1,500 students attend Lawrence each year, where they pursue 35 bachelor of arts options, four bachelor of music options, and a five-year bachelor of arts and bachelor of music dual degree. Available areas of study include computer science, economics, film studies, linguistics, and pre-law. The conservatory offers majors in music, music composition, music education, music performance, and music theory. Lawrence students can engage in off-campus study at various domestic and international destinations.
General undergraduate admission requirements include transcripts, an essay, and a teacher recommendation. Prospective conservatory students must also provide a music teacher evaluation, submit a music resume, and attend an audition.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
|Whitewater, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Founded in 1868, the University of Wisconsin Whitewater officially joined the UW System in 1971. The university serves a diverse student body of about 13,000 individuals. The campus hosts frequent events, Greek life, an independent newspaper, a student-run radio station, and NCAA athletics.
UWW organizes academics into six main colleges, including its graduate school. Undergraduates can select their program of study from more than 50 majors and 119 minors. The most popular options at UWW -- accounting, marketing, finance, elementary education, and business -- align with the school's reputation as a top business school and its history as the oldest teacher's college in Wisconsin. Graduate academic options include 16 certificates, 15 master's degrees, and one doctoral degree.
UWW evaluates applicants based on various academic and nonacademic factors, including leadership, community service, and creativity. Prospective first-year students who plan to attend classes on campus must provide high school transcripts and ACT/SAT scores.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
|Stevens Point, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is a public university with three campuses located in Stevens Point, Marshfield, and Wausau. The main UWSP campus attracts more than 7,000 students each year and offers residence halls; Greek life; extracurricular activities; NCAA athletics; and student-run television, newspaper, and radio projects.
UWSP grants associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The undergraduate catalog offers more than 40 majors and 70 minors. Students interested in earning a bachelor's and master's simultaneously can pursue one of the college's five-year, dual-degree programs. These are available in dietetics, business administration, natural resources, and sustainable food and nutrition. USWP also offers extensive online options, including four undergraduate programs and 10 graduate programs.
Prospective undergraduates can apply online by filling out the Common Application or the UW System Application. Required components include high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Aspiring music, dance, and theatre arts majors must complete an audition and/or interview.
College of Menominee Nation
|Keshena, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 15%||
With campuses in Keshena and Green Bay, the College of Menominee Nation is a tribal institution serving a diverse student body of American Indian and non-Indian students. The 52-acre, nonresidential main campus on the Menominee Indian reservation provides academic and recreational spaces for student and community use.
CMN works to meet the academic and professional needs of all learners by offering continuing education courses, trade and technical diplomas, career- and transfer-ready associate degrees, and bachelor's programs. Available areas of study include pre-engineering technology, substance abuse counseling, digital media, education, and public administration. Outside the classroom, students can get involved in a variety of clubs and organizations.
As an open-enrollment institution, CMN charges no application fee and guarantees admission to all prospective students who possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. ACT scores or alternative placement testing may be required in some cases.
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
|Oshkosh, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh originally opened in 1871 as Wisconsin's third normal school, dedicated solely to teacher training. A century later, after the addition of a liberal arts curriculum, UW-Oshkosh joined the UW System. Today, about 14,000 students attend its campuses in Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, and Fox Cities each year.
UW-Oshkosh offers NCAA athletics, Greek life, diverse clubs, and student-run media organizations. Undergraduates can select from nearly nearly 200 majors, minors, and concentrations. The graduate school serves as home to 15 master's and two doctoral programs.
Available areas of study include the second-largest nursing program in the state, along with disciplines like criminal justice, education, kinesiology, and management. Sixteen programs feature online or hybrid formats.
General first-year admission requirements include high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls
|River Falls, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Situated on 226 acres near the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, the University of Wisconsin River Falls enrolls more than 6,000 students each year. Programs at this liberal arts institution hold accreditation from many major organizations, including the National Association of Schools of Music and the Council of Social Work Education.
The university boasts more than 70 available areas of undergraduate study, like agricultural business, animal science, conservation and environmental planning, literature, mathematics, and stage and screen arts. UWRF also offers 22 graduate degrees, certificates, and licenses, including Montessori teacher education programs. Outside of the classroom, students can engage in an active residential community, filled with opportunities for global travel, socialization, sports and athletics, and campus activities.
UWRF welcomes about 1,250 new first-year students to campus each year. To apply, prospective learners must submit transcripts and test scores. Individuals pursuing music majors must also complete an audition.
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
|Platteville, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
The University of Wisconsin Platteville grew out of a 1959 merger between Wisconsin State College Platteville and the Wisconsin Institute of Technology. Today, this public university enrolls more than 8,000 students in its on-site and online programs. The school's 820-acre campus boasts an art gallery, 16 NCAA athletics teams, and more than 80 annual events.
The university's comprehensive academic offerings include certificate options as well as associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in fields like accounting, criminal justice, engineering, fine arts, and health and human performance. Additionally, UW-Platteville is the only public institution in the Midwest granting a bachelor of science in forensic investigation. Students in this program connect classroom learning with hands-on work in simulated crime scenes. Furthermore, UW-Platteville offers more than two dozen programs in a flexible online format.
Admission requirements vary by student status. Prospective first-time students must provide high school transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores.
|Waukesha, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
Wisconsin's first four-year higher education institution -- known today as Carroll University -- was established in 1846. More than 3,000 students attend class each year at Carroll's facilities in Waukesha, including a center for graduate studies. The university also owns a 64-acre field research station in Genesee.
Carroll offers more than 95 study areas for undergraduates to explore, including majors in animal behavior, communication, freshwater sciences, music therapy, and information technology. The most popular choices include biology, business, exercise science, and nursing. Twenty-six bachelor's programs offer an accelerated three-year pathway to graduation. For graduate students, Carroll offers a doctor of physical therapy and several master's degrees in business administration, education, nursing, and health sciences fields.
Admission requirements for first-time undergraduates include high school transcripts and standardized test scores. Carroll accepts applications on a rolling basis.
|Milwaukee, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Marquette University is a Jesuit research university located in Milwaukee. The school became the world's first coeducational Catholic university when its first class of women students were admitted in 1909. Today, the university welcomes more than 11,000 undergraduate and graduate learners each year.
Marquette serves as a popular destination for pre-professionals; it is home to the only dental school and one of only two law schools in the state of Wisconsin. Other available undergraduate areas of study include theology and religion, biophysics, military history, engineering, and real estate. Marquette also offers more than 70 master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and graduate certificates. Five of these can be completed entirely online, and two dozen offer accelerated, dual-degree completion options for qualified undergraduates.
Materials required for admission include official high school transcripts, an essay, a school counselor recommendation, and a list of extracurricular activities. The university does not require students to submit ACT and SAT scores.
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
|Kenosha, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 34%||
The University of Wisconsin Parkside sits on 700 acres in Kenosha. Roughly 4,300 students enjoy a vibrant residential campus with more than 70 clubs and organizations, NCAA athletics teams, arts and culture events, and several dining options.
UW-Parkside boasts four colleges: arts and humanities; business, economics, and computing; natural and health sciences; and social sciences and professional studies. Undergraduates can choose from 35 certificates, 14 pre-professional programs, seven associate degrees, and nearly 100 majors and minors for bachelor's degree customization. The graduate school features 12 master's degrees, many of which offer flexible online formats.
Prospective students must supply official high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. UW-Parkside accepts applications on a rolling basis.
Saint Norbert College
|De Pere, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
Saint Norbert College is a Catholic liberal arts school located in De Pere. As the only Norbertine college in the world, St. Norbert follows the tradition of radical hospitality, welcoming nearly 2,200 students of all backgrounds and personal beliefs. St. Norbert offers a four-year graduation guarantee and a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Undergraduates can access more than 40 academic and pre-professional programs. Represented areas of study include accounting, global business, German education, music performance, and psychology. St. Norbert also offers graduate education leading to three master's degrees: liberal arts, business administration, and theological studies. The school encourages students to get involved in extra- and co-curricular activities, including clubs, organizations, the honors program, study abroad programs, and faculty-led research opportunities.
Required submission materials include high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and a letter of recommendation.
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
|Green Bay, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
The University of Wisconsin Green Bay hosts a main campus and three regional campuses in Marinette, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan. Altogether, these locations enroll approximately 8,400 students each year.
Situated along one of the world's largest freshwater ecosystems, UW-Green Bay offers notable field study opportunities for biology students -- the school's most popular major. Other top undergraduate majors include business administration, computer science, and democracy and justice studies. A variety of undergraduate certificates as well as associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees feature fully online formats. Online options include a flexible associate of arts and sciences, an RN-to-BSN track, and a master of science in sustainable management.
First-year admission requirements include an essay, high school transcripts, and ACT or SAT scores. UW-Green Bay accepts applications on a rolling basis.
Maranatha Baptist University
|Watertown, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Located in Watertown, Maranatha Baptist University offers a private liberal arts education to about 1,100 students each year. Undergraduates join one of 10 campus societies, which encourage relationship development and community engagement through intramural sports, ministry, and other society-sponsored activities.
MBU's academic catalog encompasses 39 bachelor's degrees and nine master's degrees. Alongside traditional liberal arts programs in the arts, sciences, humanities, health, and education fields, MBU offers extensive degree options in biblical studies and church ministry. Undergraduate majors include biblical counseling, biblical languages, medical missions, and pastoral studies. MBU's campus also serves as home to a seminary and offers graduate education opportunities like a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry.
MBU bases admission on academic transcripts, ACT scores, character references, and a salvation testimony. Prospective students may also need to fill out church attendance forms and agree to a student conduct statement.
|Ripon, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
Ripon College is a private liberal arts college located in the historic city of the same name. Just over 800 undergraduates attend each year, the majority of whom live on campus. Ripon offers engagement opportunities through NCAA athletics, Greek life, and more than 60 student clubs.
Ripon's innovative Catalyst curriculum includes five required seminar courses. Catalyst students develop independent and collaborative skills, working with faculty to propose solutions to large, open-ended questions. The Catalyst curriculum culminates in an applied innovation concentration.
Students can further customize their bachelor's degree by choosing from 31 majors, 42 minors, and pre-professional tracks. Available disciplines include communication, educational studies, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical science.
Incoming first-year students must supply high school transcripts. ACT or SAT test scores, personal statements, and interviews are optional. Ripon waives the application fee for all students who apply before the priority scholarship application deadline.
|Madison, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Edgewood College is a Catholic school located on a 55-acre suburban campus in Madison. In the Dominican tradition, each member of EC's faculty, staff, and student body commits to a lifelong search for truth and the pursuit of a just, compassionate world.
Approximately 2,200 students attend EC each year, pursuing on-site and online bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Four main schools offer degrees related to the arts and sciences, business, education, and nursing. A fifth school -- the School of Integrative Studies (SoIS) -- offers more than a dozen programs designed to create intellectually engaged and ethical problem solvers. Notable SoIS options include an ethnic studies major, a global studies minor, and a master of arts in social innovation and sustainability leadership.
Undergraduate admission requirements include high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Additional entrance requirements may apply for applicants interested in nursing or education. Students from all spiritual backgrounds may apply.
|La Crosse, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
Viterbo University is a Roman Catholic liberal arts institution located in La Crosse. The university is one of 24 members in the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities. The school attracts a coeducational student body of approximately 2,600 learners each year and offers small class sizes, NAIA athletics, on-site housing, and more than 80 organizations.
Viterbo offers more than 40 academic programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Represented disciplines include nursing, health and human behavior, business, education, humanities, performing arts, and STEM. Viterbo emphasizes the importance of hands-on education and provides meaningful internship, research, service learning, and study abroad opportunities. Online options include three bachelor's completion programs and four master's degrees.
Viterbo charges no application fee. Prospective first-year students must provide high school transcripts and test scores. The university also encourages applicants to submit letters of recommendation and personal statements. Additional entrance requirements apply for nursing, music, and theatre students.
|Ashland, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Each year, Northland College offers approximately 600 full-time undergraduates a liberal arts education with a progressive focus on the environment and sustainability. The school's 220-acre residential campus in Ashland offers NCAA athletics, various clubs and organizations, and easy access to outdoor recreation.
Many of Northland's academic programs focus directly on the environment, including majors like climate science, ecological restoration, forestry, and water science. Other programs include Native American studies, psychology, education, and writing. Students can access top internships, hands-on engagement opportunities, and unique Northland offerings like "pens and paddles" -- an experiential English course combining literary study and wilderness fieldwork. Undergraduates can also engage in graduate-level research related to freshwater issues, biology, rural communities, geosciences, and other fields.
Northland accepts applications on a rolling basis. Prospective first-year students must supply high school transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores.
University of Wisconsin-Stout
|Menomonie, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
The University of Wisconsin Stout is located in Menomonie. It serves as a public, polytechnic school dedicated to developing career-ready graduates through a combination of liberal arts education and applied learning.
Academic offerings at UW-Stout include art, design, and graphics; business and management; education; human and social sciences; information technology and communication; and STEM. Students can select from 50 undergraduate degrees and more than 20 graduate degrees. Fields include plastics engineering, game design and development, dietetics, and counseling. More than 50 certificates and degrees also feature online learning methods.
Prospective students must submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. UW-Stout encourages early applications to increase scholarship eligibility.
Mount Mary University
|Milwaukee, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Founded in 1913, Mount Mary University was Wisconsin's first four-year Catholic college for women. Today, this Milwaukee institution enrolls approximately 1,400 students each year. While Mount Mary's 30 undergraduate tracks remain open exclusively to women, the school's nine graduate programs are coeducational.
Mount Mary welcomes students of all faiths and beliefs. Its 80-acre campus offers on-site housing, dining, clubs and organizations, and NCAA athletics. Mount Mary serves as home to several notable degree programs, including a professional doctorate of art therapy -- the first program of its kind in the U.S. Other available fields of study include creative writing, food science, interior design, and public relations.
Prospective first-time students can apply by submitting the Common Application or by visiting Mount Mary's online portal. The school requires students to submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Undergraduates interested in the RN-to-BSN completion program must complete a separate application process.
Wisconsin Lutheran College
|Milwaukee, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
Affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Wisconsin Lutheran College sits on 40 acres between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. Approximately 1,200 learners enroll each year, partaking in residence life, clubs and organizations, NCAA athletics, and abundant ministry and service opportunities.
All first-year students at WLC take strength-based evaluations and participate in seminar courses to assist with academic and career planning. Available undergraduate majors include art and graphic design, criminal justice, English, marine biology, and sport and exercise science. WLC also offers two accelerated bachelor's degrees for adults, four master's degrees, and 11 dual-degree programs in partnership with other institutions. Dual-degree disciplines include chiropractic studies, dentistry, law, and physical therapy.
WLC accepts applications on a rolling basis. The college requires applicants to submit official transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.