Spring Arbor University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Spring Arbor University
“Spring Arbor University combines rigorous academics and career preparation with an intentionally Christian perspective....

Spring Arbor University

Spring Arbor, Michigan

At Spring Arbor University’s core is a dedication to help students pursue a life of wisdom, grounded in a Christian liberal arts education and the cultivation of academic and spiritual growth. Since its founding in 1873, Spring Arbor University has developed this culture. That commitment continues today. “The Concept” guides the university, serving as the cornerstone of academic and spiritual life on campus and beyond:


“Spring Arbor University is a community of learners distinguished by our lifelong commitment to the study and application of the liberal arts, total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning, and critical participation in the contemporary world.”

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
2,418 undergraduate students
72% of undergrad students are full time
40% male 60% female
7% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
84 full-time faculty
54 part-time faculty
16.7 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2015
90% of first year students live on campus
80% of all students live on campus

School Location

Nestled within the town of Spring Arbor, Michigan, the 100-acre campus of Spring Arbor University embodies both the pastoral and the academic, and sits next door to the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. Nearby Jackson, Michigan, is home to a vibrant downtown, featuring distinct restaurants, coffee shops, boutique stores and a historic theatre. Multiple dining and shopping options are available throughout Jackson.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences x
Common Intellectual Experiences x
Learning Communities x
Writing-Intensive Courses x
Collaborative Assignments and Projects x
Undergraduate Research x
Diversity/Global Learning x
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning x
Internships/Coops/Practicums x
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience x

Retention Fall 2015

79% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full time, first time freshmen)

6 Year Graduation Rate 2015

52% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 0%
Hispanic/Latino 2%
Black or African American 8%
White 81%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 2%


NAIA Division II
Seven men’s sports: baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, track & field
Eight women’s sports: basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field, volleyball

Colors: blue and gold

Other Information

Spring Arbor University is a 4-year, liberal arts college affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, founded in 1873. 

More Distinctions

  • Michigan’s largest evangelical Christian university

  • Ranked in the top tier by U.S. News and World Report for “Midwest Regional Universities” in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. 

  • Ranked by The Economist as No. 2 among all universities in Michigan for long-term economic value — No. 1 among Christian universities in the region. 

  • Over 70 undergraduate majors and programs

  • The SAU women’s soccer team won the NAIA National Championship in 2015. 

  • Accredited by:
    Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
    Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)
    Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

  • Memberships:
    Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
    Spring Arbor University is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church of North America

    Athletic memberships:
    National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
    National Christian College Athletic Association
    Crossroads League


SAU students both live and learn in community. Whether they hear their favorite professor give a multi-disciplinary lecture, take a day off from regularly scheduled classes to highlight a contemporary issue at the annual FOCUS series, or continue their classroom discussions in the dining commons, SAU students incorporate learning and understanding into their lives. The result of this is a student body dedicated to academic, spiritual and social excellence, striving to pursue wisdom well beyond the classroom.

Total Commitment to Jesus Christ

Spiritual life is a priority across campus. The faculty foster the rigorous classroom experience as an opportunity for growth in both wisdom and knowledge. Outside of the classroom, the entire student body gathers on Mondays and Wednesdays for chapel services, participating in worship and listening to engaging messages from a variety of speakers from across both campus and the nation. Other worship opportunities include Worship Arts Vespers Experience (WAVE), which is led by worship arts majors. Students also take advantage of local ministry opportunities, small groups and annual retreats in pursuit of deepening and strengthening their relationship with Christ.

Critical Participation

Whether students are volunteering for Spring Break mission trips, serving SAU’s Center for Autism Spectrum Enrichment or raising funds and awareness for international justice programs, their heart for the Kingdom of God and the restoration of a broken world is readily apparent. SAU offers a number of opportunities for local and worldwide involvement, but the students themselves often take up worthwhile causes of their own volition, garnering support from their classmates and working to bring meaningful and redemptive change to the world.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries x
Choral groups x
Concert band x
Drama/theater x
International Student Organization x
Jazz band x
Literary magazine x
Marching band  
Model UN  
Music ensembles x
Musical theater x
Pep band  
Radio station x
Student government x
Student newspaper x
Student-run film society x
Symphony orchestra  x 
Television station  

Engaged Faculty

At Spring Arbor, faculty members do more than lecture; they participate in the lives of their students. Faculty serve as guides for students as they progress through academic and spiritual challenges. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1, professors have time to give students the attention they need in order to succeed, transcending their offices and classrooms to become lifelong mentors and friends.

CORE Program

The CORE program forms the center of academic life at SAU. Beginning freshman year, students are introduced to the program within the framework of the liberal arts. As students progress, the liberal arts provide a foundation for the discussion of contemporary social issues and the Christian’s role in society. The program also provides a segue into college life, offering students a close-knit network of peers during their freshman year and encouraging a depth in discourse with classmates in subsequent years. The program includes four classes, as well as a cross-cultural program and its preparation seminar.

Cross-Cultural Studies

The contemporary world extends beyond national borders, and so SAU students are required to visit and study a culture outside of the United States. These cross-cultural studies trips last a minimum of three weeks, but can span an entire semester. More comprehensive than a mission trip, more contextual than a vacation, these journeys abroad afford students opportunities to experience life beyond borders and beyond themselves. They’ll meet families, government officials, religious leaders and other students as they learn to see the world with global eyes.

Poling Center for Global Learning and Leadership

Dedicated in 2008, the 38,000 square foot Poling Center for Global Learning and Leadership houses the Gainey School of Business, offices for the social sciences, classrooms, meeting areas and a CP Federal Credit Union Trading Center. The facility is equipped with some of the same technology that is used daily on Wall Street and trains students for Series 7 certification, Bloomberg equities and Bloomberg fixed income products. The CP Federal Credit Union Trading Center is one of only three trading rooms found at Michigan universities, and SAU houses the only one at a private university.

E.P. Hart Honors Program

The E.P. Hart Honors Program is highly selective and is designed to provide academically gifted students with an alternative general education curriculum. The program features collaborative research assignments with senior faculty, one-on-one mentoring, and personalized advising. The E.P. Hart Honors Program strives to instill in students the desire to pursue God’s calling through exemplary and intense study and application of the liberal arts within a Christian framework.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts x
Computer literacy x
English (including composition) x
Foreign languages x
History x
Humanities x
Mathematics x
Philosophy x
Sciences (biological or physical) x
Social science x


Other: Ministries 

Community of Learners

Every month, SAU holds a Community of Learners seminar, in which faculty members present extracurricular lectures on topics they have been researching. These lectures give students opportunities to explore topics outside of their major and engage with their professors as fellow learners and academics.

FOCUS Series

Every spring, SAU students and faculty suspend classes for a single day in order to take an in-depth look at an issue facing contemporary society. Noted speakers are invited to campus for keynote addresses, while faculty members prepare morning workshop seminars. Recent topics have included sex trafficking, social media and food consumption.

Natural Science Seminars

Similar to Community of Learners events, the department of chemistry and biology hosts regular natural science seminars. Faculty, current students and alumni often participate in these events, giving science and non-science students alike a glimpse into both on-campus and off-campus research projects.

Student Media

SAU’s student newspaper, The Pulse, gives aspiring writers, editors, photographers and designers a sophisticated, practical outlet for their talents. The SAU short films class offers an experience so rewarding that video/film and drama students take part in it even when they are not taking the class for credit, causing it to double as a production club. The SAU literary journal, The Oak Tree Review, gives students a platform for their creative writing and poetry. SAU is also home to two radio stations, HOME.fm and The Message, where students produce award-winning broadcasting work alongside real professionals.

Fine Arts Events

Creativity is just as much of an academic endeavor as studying or researching. The SAU theater program hosts multiple plays and a show-stopping musical each year. The Ganton Art Gallery, one of the largest single-room galleries in Michigan, gives the community a look into both student and professional art, and White Auditorium is home to a breadth of musical performances.


Coed dorms  
Men’s dorms x
Women’s dorms x
Apartments for married students x
Apartments for single students  
Special housing for disabled students x
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing  
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  


Students graduate from SAU ready to serve as critical participants in the world, and with 96% of recent graduates either employed or in graduate school, our students participate successfully – as doctors, lawyers, teachers, counselors and leaders; 85% report employment in a field related to their major, or enrollment in graduate school.

But numbers are just numbers. Here are a few faces to put alongside them:

  • Greg Bontrager ’83 is the chief operating officer of the American Cancer Society.
  • Matinga Ragatz ’89 was named the 2010-11 Michigan Teacher of the Year.
  • David Boss ’10 is a certified public accountant at Plante & Moran.
  • Kate Walugembe ’03 founded Northern Lights Ministries, helping the neediest people in rural Uganda.
  • Dave Sellers ’09 was recently awarded a National Science Foundation research fellowship.
  • Vanessa (Vann ’08) Hartsell is the executive director of Ignite Life Ministries, serving at-risk communities in Las Vegas, NV.
  • Rick Herter ’84 is an established aviation artist who has created commissioned paintings for the Pentagon and Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
  • Stephen White ’15 accepted a job with Microsoft as a software development engineer immediately after graduation. 


Admissions Fall 2015

1,548 Total Applicants
1,065 Total Admissions
291 Total Freshmen Enrollment

68.80% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2016-17 Admission

Rolling Admission? Yes

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores
Character/personal qualities

Class rank
Application Essay
Extracurricular activities
First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Volunteer work
Level of applicant’s interest

Rigor of secondary school record
Geographical residence
Religious affiliation/commitment
Work experience

Application Process

Students have two choices in applying for admission: The application can be filled out entirely online, or via pen and paper by downloading and printing the application available on the SAU website. To fill out an online application, students first set up a log-in account on the MySAU portal at mysau.arbor.edu. This grants access to the online application, allowing them to save the application online for completion later.

After submitting a paper application, students will need to mail in the $30 application fee (money order or check). If applying online, that fee is waived.

Finally, the student should contact their high school guidance counselor to have them send SAU the student’s high school transcripts. If the student has taken the GED test, they should have an official GED score report sent to SAU at the address listed below. Students should also ask their high school guidance counselor to send SAT or ACT scores to the university.

Transcripts or official GED score report and ACT or SAT scores can be mailed to:

Spring Arbor University
Office of Admissions
106 E. Main St.
Spring Arbor, MI 49283-9799


Net Price Calculator



Tuition $26,130
Fees $600
Total $26,730
Room and Board (on campus) $9,270
Estimated Total On Campus $36,000


After students have mailed the application, they should fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), using school code 002318. A student must have this form completed before being eligible for any financial aid.

The cost for tuition, fees, and room and board at SAU for 2015-16 is $35,700, but the average aid package was $24,560, and it will likely be higher next year. So if you’re thinking about going to a state school because it’s cheaper, consider SAU. State schools simply cannot match the average financial aid package per student. The final cost is usually fairly close to that of state schools, but the value of a Christian liberal arts education, preparing students to impact the world as people of wisdom, is invaluable.


Once a student has received an acceptance letter and financial aid package, an admissions representative will help them register for classes. The student will make a $200 housing deposit (or a $50 commuter deposit) and sign up for one of SAU’s registration days on the main campus. Students will finalize class schedules, interact with helpful faculty members, learn more about financial aid and meet future classmates, all during an eventful and active day. Parents meet with campus personnel about financial aid, paying for college, cross cultural options and student development.

SAU alumna ignites community in Las Vegas

Vanessa (Vann ’08) Hartsell is the executive director of Ignite Life Ministries in Las Vegas, Nevada. This community development program serves one of the most at-risk communities in the city, with a high school dropout...

Chemistry alum receives NSF graduate research fellowship

In October 2012, Spring Arbor University alumnus David Sellers ’09 was awarded a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship. Sellers now attends graduate school, in pursuit of a Ph.D. in synthetic organic and supramolecular chemistry...

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