2023 Top Colleges in Minnesota

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Carleton College | Macalester College | Southwest Minnesota State University | St. Cloud State University | University of Minnesota Duluth | University of Minnesota Rochester | University of St. Thomas | Frequently Asked Questions

Colleges of Distinction has hand-picked a selection of top schools that are well equipped to provide a personalized education catered to students’ interests. Through a rigorous vetting and interview process for the 2022-2023 academic year, we have refreshed and reaffirmed that these institutions strive for excellence in line with the four overarching distinctions—Student Engagement, Teaching, Community, and Outcomes.

These schools vary in size, cost, location, academic offerings, and more, but they are all distinguished by their commitment to the undergraduate experience. The diversity of the college list is intentional, giving students and parents a variety of public and private universities to consider. No matter what, they all exhibit the foundational qualities of a fulfilling undergraduate education.

Carleton College logo

Carleton College

Northfield, MN ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Carleton College is committed to providing a true liberal arts education—a curriculum that challenges students to learn broadly and think deeply. Instead of training for one narrow career path, Carleton students develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in any walk of life.

The most important thing Carleton students gain is how to learn for a lifetime. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, effective communication: these are the tools that transform a collection of facts and figures into a way of understanding the world.

Carleton’s faculty members are highly respected scholars, researchers, and practitioners in their fields. But above all, their first priority is teaching.

Every course at Carleton is taught by a professor—not a teaching assistant—in classes small enough to offer individual attention for our students. A small student-faculty ratio ensures that Carleton students have plenty of opportunity for interaction with their professors.

Acceptance rate 21%      •      Net price $30,843      •      SAT Range 1330-1520      •      Students submitting SAT scores 52%
Total Undergrad Population 1,940      •      Setting Town      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 94%      •      Retention rate 94%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 8:1

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Macalester College Minnesota logo

Macalester College

Saint Paul, MN ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Macalester College is painting a different picture of what a liberal arts education can be—one where challenging academics inspire personal, social, and intellectual growth. With special emphasis on internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society, a Macalester education prepares students to thrive in a globally connected world.

Macalester’s unique metro location allows students to actively engage in their education through community-based learning and real-world experiences. More than 60 courses across 17 departments partner with businesses and organizations in the Twin Cities as part of the curriculum.

Acceptance rate 39%      •      Net price $35,589      •      SAT Range 1280-1450      •      Students submitting SAT scores 59%
Total Undergrad Population 2,049      •      Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 93%      •      Retention rate 90%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

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Southwest Minnesota State University SMSU in Marshall, Minnesota

Southwest Minnesota State University

Marshall, MN ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Southwest Minnesota State University is a vibrant institution of 2,500 students located in Marshall, Minnesota, named one of America’s best small cities. SMSU offers over 50 majors and minors in addition to four master’s programs. 

Affordability and value are two factors that are attractive to potential students and their parents. Most students—in-state, out-of-state, and international—pay in-state tuition. Recent SMSU graduates find jobs: 99% are employed or in graduate school soon after graduation.

Founded in 1963, the beautiful residential campus has been recognized as the safest in Minnesota and prides itself in being a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming institution for students from the region, and around the globe.

A new initiative—the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship—has been launched at SMSU. The Center emphasizes experiential learning and collaborates with the campus-housed Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center (SMAC). Students engage in real-world projects and apply their education to assist clients to find solutions.

Acceptance rate 81%      •      Net price $14,340      •      SAT Range 935-1102      •      Students submitting SAT scores 7%
Total Undergrad Population 7,259      •      Setting Town      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 47%      •      Retention rate 74%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1

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St. Cloud State logo

St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud, MN ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

St. Cloud State University offers a high-quality education with more than 200 nationally recognized and highly accredited academic programs.

Students are guided by professional advisors, academic success coaches, and inspiring faculty as they choose among a portfolio of courses, specializations, and experiential education options. Opportunities range from internships, special projects for volunteering and service, research and capstone projects aligned with real-world problem solving, and more.

The undergraduate student experience is grounded by the Husky Compact: a series of traditions that focuses on the purpose of core courses and the undergraduate degree. Huskies Advance, through its emphasis on mentoring between faculty and students, provides key connections between coursework and student passions and career interests.

Acceptance rate 73%      •      Net price $13,697      •      SAT Range 1000-1250      •      Students submitting SAT scores 4%
Total Undergrad Population 11,841      •      Setting City: Small      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 44%      •      Retention rate 67%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 19:1

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University of Minnesota Duluth logo with "Driven to Discover" subheading

University of Minnesota Duluth

Duluth, MN ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The University of Minnesota Duluth is a medium-sized regional university that nurtures students through a rigorous, robust undergraduate experience.

UMD is a community of learners and scholars that promotes student success, provides an enriching experience, and commits to core values that shape every aspect of the university and its purpose. Founded on the pillars of discovery, engagement, inclusivity, and excellence, UMD continues to prepare successful leaders of society.

The Career & Internship Services office empowers both students and alumni to discover, develop, evaluate, and implement their unique professional goals as they prepare for careers in an evolving global workforce. All UMD students are prepared to embrace their futures with confidence knowing they have the skills and experience to succeed.

Students are encouraged to make appointments with professionally trained counselors who are available to assist in all aspects of the career-planning process. Services include major and career exploration, internship and job search, and graduate school preparation.

Acceptance rate 79%      •      Net price $18,211      •      SAT Range 1050-1240      •      Students submitting SAT scores 3%
Total Undergrad Population 10,275      •      Setting City: Small      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 61%      •      Retention rate 79%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Click here for available majors

UMR seal

University of Minnesota Rochester

Rochester, MN ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) offers distinctive health sciences and biosciences education to prepare students for a broad spectrum of current and emerging careers, ranging from patient care to pure and applied research, to help solve the grand health care challenges of the 21st century.

The campus community serves approximately 750 undergraduate and graduate students in the heart of downtown Rochester, Minnesota. By continuing to meet the needs of the state of Minnesota through its programmatic offerings, UMR proudly leads the way to a brighter future for our community, our state, and our world.

UMR is located right next door to Mayo Clinic, the top-ranked hospital in the United States, giving students a direct connection to cutting-edge medical practices and research. Mayo staff, in addition to UMR’s world-class faculty, open up a world of opportunities for students to take part in in-depth, hands-on research. 

In Directed Study and Research courses, students can either take on an independent project or support faculty in their existing research. Directed research offers students a close relationship with their professors, which can lead to further employment opportunities or the development of a valuable professional network.

Acceptance rate 74%      •      Net price $15,469      •      SAT Range 1058-1331      •      Students submitting SAT scores 6%
Total Undergrad Population 632      •      Setting City: Midsize      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 54%      •      Retention rate 80%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 15:1

Click here for available majors

University of Minnesota Twin Cities Logo

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

With a history dating back to 1851, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is a pillar of academic excellence and innovation in the Midwest. Offering over 150 undergraduate majors and minors and 250 graduate degree programs, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is home to a diverse student body of over 50,000 students from around the world. Its academic offerings span a wide range of disciplines, including top-ranked programs in fields such as business, engineering, law, and medicine. The university is also a leader in cutting-edge research, with a vast network of research centers and institutes that tackle global challenges such as climate change, healthcare, and social justice. 

Students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities can take advantage of a vibrant campus culture that includes over 800 student organizations, NCAA Division I athletics, and a thriving arts and culture scene. Whether you’re exploring the renowned Weisman Art Museum, cheering on the Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium, or engaging in community service through the university’s civic engagement programs, there’s always something new to discover at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Acceptance rate 70%      •      Net price $17,729      •      SAT Range 1240-1460      •      Students submitting SAT scores 14%
Total Undergrad Population 36,061       •       Setting City: Large       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 84%      •      Retention rate 93%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Click here for available majors

University of St. Thomas Minnesota logo

University of St. Thomas

Saint Paul, MN ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educated students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good.

Talking Circles is a retreat for first year students interested in service and enacting change. The name of the retreat comes from the Native American tradition of the talking circle, in which members would gather to discuss issues and possible solutions. The retreat takes place at the end of January Term and lasts for three days.

The Fall Leadership Institute (FLI) is an annual event for undergraduate students. The conference explores the foundations of successful leadership and examines ways that students can develop their own skills. FLI is highly collaborative, with students and experienced faculty working together to find solutions and break new ground. Some of the concepts covered at the conference include: marketing, time management, and fiscal management. 

Acceptance rate 87%      •      Net price $31,799      •      SAT Range 1130-1340      •      Students submitting SAT scores 8%
Total Undergrad Population 9,792      •      Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 80%      •      Retention rate 87%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

What it’s like to attend schools in Minnesota and other FAQ:

What are average tuition costs in Minnesota?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Minnesota is $7,056 for in-state students at public institutions, $18,121 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $26,002 for students at private institutions.

Cheapest degree program in Minnesota

St. Cloud State University has an average net price of $13,697, making it the least expensive institution in Minnesota that made our list.

Easiest degree program to get into in Minnesota

University of St. Thomas has an acceptance rate of 87% and a test-optional admissions policy, making it the least exclusive college in Minnesota on our list.

Degree program with lowest student debt in Minnesota

Carleton College has a median total debt after graduation of $17,287. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

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Best Colleges by State

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