Top Colleges in Missouri

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Colleges of Distinction has hand-picked a selection of top Missouri schools that are well equipped to provide a personalized education catered to students’ interests. Through a rigorous vetting and interview process 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.

Evangel University

Springfield, MO ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Offering more than 70 academic programs, Evangel University is on the cutting edge of today’s professional fields and vocational ministry training. Its commitment to the integration of faith, learning, and life attracts students from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds. These students have a strong commitment to academics and an even stronger desire to combine their Christian faith with every aspect of their lives.

When Evangel University opened its doors in 1955, it distinguished itself as the first Pentecostal liberal arts college chartered in America. Evangel is a coeducational university focused on developing students’ God-given calling through a faith-based education that also prepares them for their career.

Beyond academics, Evangel proudly provides opportunities for students to learn and grow by giving back to the community. One of the most exciting opportunities involves the university’s new partnership with Convoy of Hope. This collaboration is set to establish a new “Center for Compassion” in order to expand learning and service opportunities available to students. As a dedicated Center for service, this initiative will be an excellent training ground for those interested in compassion ministries.

Acceptance rate 95%      •      Net price $23,219
Total Undergrad Population 1,999      •      Setting City: Midsize      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 48%      •      Retention rate 80%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1

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lindenwood university seal

Lindenwood University

St. Charles, MO ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Founded in the mid-1800s, Lindenwood is a dynamic four-year institution dedicated to excellence in higher education. Students can choose from over 100 degree programs, each offering unique opportunities for research and professional development. Through on-ground, hybrid, and online programs, Lindenwood’s rigorous curriculum and robust student life aim to develop the whole student. The University prides itself on its commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship, and student success. At Lindenwood, real experience means real success.

In addition to various study abroad programs and faculty-led trips, Lindenwood offers an Intercultural Fluency Certificate. In an era of globalization, intercultural fluency—the ability to communicate, organize, and collaborate across cultural lines—is one of the most powerful skill sets one can have. Students can add this certificate to their major by completing 15 credit hours over a range of topics, such as international marketing, international management, international relations theory, and more. These courses allow students to hone their intercultural skills, increase their global awareness, and prepare them to live and work internationally.

Acceptance rate 92%      •      Net price $18,054      •      SAT Range 990-1180      •      Students submitting SAT scores 25%
Total Undergrad Population 7,382      •      Setting City: Small      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 47%      •      Retention rate 75%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

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Saint Louis University logo

Saint Louis University

St. Louis, MO ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit University ranked among the top research institutions in the nation. The University fosters the intellectual and character development of more than 13,000 students. Founded in 1818, it is the oldest university west of the Mississippi and the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. Through teaching, research, health care, and community service, SLU has provided a one-of-a-kind education for nearly two centuries.

Themed houses feature French, German, and Spanish language floors with resident faculty members. Other themed housing includes several floors for Micah Program participants and Learning Community options for students who prefer to live among peers who share the same major. These allow students to transition to SLU in a supportive, creative environment and offer them an early bond that will promote their comfort as well as encourage their excitement for learning. SLU’s variety of housing options contributes to the overall feeling of community.

Acceptance rate 56%      •      Net price $27,872      •      SAT Range 1160-1370      •      Students submitting SAT scores 35%
Total Undergrad Population 12,229      •      Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 80%      •      Retention rate 90%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 9:1

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Southwest Baptist University SBU in Bolivar, Missouri

Southwest Baptist University

Bolivar, MO ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Find meaning and purpose for a lifetime of success at Southwest Baptist University. Choose from more than 100 academic programs as a foundation for being a servant leader in a global society. At SBU, students thrive in their faith journey through discipleship, worship, and ministry experiences.

SBU was founded in 1878 and is rooted in the Baptist faith, affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention. The University has four physical campuses and an online campus. The main, residential campus is in Bolivar, Mo.

Through coursework and co-curricular events, service learning opportunities are threaded throughout the student journey at SBU. The SBU experience is grounded in servant leadership and a Christian worldview. Service-learning is a core component in academic experiences and extracurricular activities.

Opportunities for service-learning begin during Welcome Week with the “B-Town Excursion” through which they engage in a service project for a community organization or church. Students also engage in public service in a variety of ways, from accounting students helping prepare income tax returns for domestic and international students to social work students volunteering with local organizations providing assistance to community members in need.

Another foundational component of the SBU experience is spiritual growth, which is fostered both out of the classroom and in academics. The Community Life + Worship program, for example, sets a graduation requirement for spiritual development through the participation in small groups, mission projects, approved community service activities, and Chapel services. Chapel services meet twice weekly and include challenging speakers, encouraging worship, scriptural teaching, engaging messages.

Acceptance rate 73%      •      Net price $18,202      •      SAT Range 950-1153      •      Students submitting SAT scores 14%
Total Undergrad Population 3,039      •      Setting Town      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 48%      •      Retention rate 64%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

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Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri

Stephens College

Columbia, MO ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1833 with the goal to educate and inspire young women, Stephens College has evolved into an innovative, independent, and spirited institution with a women’s education that is truly unparalleled. Since Lucy Ann Wales stood before a small classroom of eager young women nearly 200 years ago, her mission to incite a tenacious sense of curiosity in students continues to inform everything on Stephens College’ campus. Stephens College is characterized by the kind of intellectual rigor, creative expression, and professional practice that enable students to thrive.

Research demonstrates the impressive benefits of attending an all-female college. On average, graduates from women’s colleges see more success than those who had attended co-ed colleges, taking on more leadership roles and excelling far into senior-level positions.

Such measurable differences are likely the result of the rigorous, empowering culture that schools like Stephens foster. Students are heard, valued, and challenged as they grow to be the best they can be.

The Marshall Lecture Series is a Stephens tradition that promotes interest and awareness in international affairs. Knowledgeable, passionate thought-leaders give fascinating presentations about important political, humanitarian, and social issues facing different populations around the world.

Acceptance rate 64%      •      Net price $22,641      •      SAT Range 950-1120      •      Students submitting SAT scores 24%
Total Undergrad Population 622      •      Setting City: Midsize      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 59%      •      Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here for available majors

Truman State University logo

Truman State University

Kirksville, MO ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Truman State University believes in the joy of learning. Your college experience will be more than memorizing facts. You’ll enjoy small classes, participate in discussions, discover real opportunities, and learn from the people around you. You’ll join campus groups and make friendships that last a lifetime. Most of all, you’ll receive an education that prepares you to excel in any field.

The liberal studies program is at the heart of all of Truman’s academic majors. This unique program develops and strengthens skills essential to lifelong learning, ranging from writing and speaking to solving mathematics-based problems and understanding personal and social health issues.

The portfolio project at Truman is a great way for students to keep track of their achievements. Students keep an evolving record of projects in several areas, including critical thinking, interdisciplinary thinking, historical analysis, scientific analysis, aesthetic analysis, and creative work and reflection. Students can track how they have grown and developed over the course of their college experience.

Acceptance rate 72%      •      Net price $12,621      •      SAT Range 1080-1330      •      Students submitting SAT scores 9%
Total Undergrad Population 4,655      •      Setting Town      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 75%      •      Retention rate 88%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

Mizzou University of Missouri logo

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The University of Missouri is a public research university in Columbia, Missouri. Over 20,000 undergrads can explore nearly 100 majors.

Established in 1839, the University of Missouri knows what it means to be first. It was first public university west of the Mississippi River, home to the world’s first journalism school, and the first to begin the tradition of homecoming. Its flagship, land-grant institution is a campus where empathy, innovation, and hard work combine to solve the world’s grand challenges.

Mizzou’s community of students, faculty, and staff enhances bovine reproduction, composes award-winning music, and generates life-saving radioisotopes in the most powerful university research reactor in the country. It tackles diverse problems because Missouri is a diverse state—from the southern Ozarks to the northern plains.

Acceptance rate 82%      •      Net price $16,930      •      SAT Range 1110-1320      •      Students submitting SAT scores 9%
Total Undergrad Population 31,089      •      Setting City: Midsize      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 73%      •      Retention rate 89%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 18:1

Click here for available majors

university of missouri kansas city umkc logo

University of Missouri–Kansas City

Kansas City, MO ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Find unparalleled opportunities for learning at University of Missouri-Kansas City. UMKC is a Public school in Kansas City, Missouri, with many undergraduate degrees to choose from.

As an urban research university, the mission at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is to promote learning through the discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowledge of public value across a broad spectrum of disciplines and fields of study. UMKC celebrates the individual and embodies diversity and inclusion by intertwining these goals with innovation to enable transformational impact aimed at bringing cultural, social, health and economic prosperity to the metropolitan, regional, and global communities it serves.

Acceptance rate 63%      •      Net price $16,016      •      SAT Range 1000-1315      •      Students submitting SAT scores 3%
Total Undergrad Population 16,147      •      Setting City: Large      •      Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 51%      •      Retention rate 75%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1

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

What are average tuition costs in Missouri?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Missouri is $8,846 for in-state students at public institutions, $16,504 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $18,668 for students at private institutions.

Cheapest degree program in Missouri

Truman State University has an average net price of $12,621, making it the least expensive institution in Missouri that made our list.

Easiest degree program to get into in Missouri

Culver-Stockton College has an acceptance rate of 98%, with an SAT range of 950-1110, making it the least exclusive college in Missouri on our list.

Degree program with lowest student debt in Missouri

University of Missouri-Kansas City has a median total debt after graduation of $18,751. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.