2023 Top Colleges in Wisconsin

Colleges of Distinction: Wisconsin

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Carroll University | Lawrence University | Marquette University | St. Norbert College | University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire | University of Wisconsin–La Crosse | University of Wisconsin–Madison University of Wisconsin–Whitewater | Viterbo University | Wisconsin Lutheran College | 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.

carroll university logo

Carroll University

Waukesha, WI ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Start your future at Carroll University, a private four-year institution in Waukesha, Wisconsin. With over 95 areas of study you’re sure to find your passion.

A true Pioneer, Carroll University is Wisconsin’s first four-year institution of higher learning. It is both grounded in the liberal arts tradition well as a leader in the health sciences. Carroll offers more than 95 areas of study, including a variety of graduate programs and a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. From 1846 forward, the University has prepared its students to live a life of purpose and meaning through learning opportunities and experiences in a diverse and global society.

Acceptance rate 72%      •      Net price $24,094      •      SAT Range 1050-1233      •      Students submitting SAT scores 20%
Total Undergrad Population 3,451      •      Setting City: Small     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 70%      •     Retention rate 82%      •     Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here for available majors

Lawrence University Logo

Lawrence University

Appleton, WI ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Lawrence provides a quality education, outstanding faculty, close faculty-student collaboration, and a tradition of excellence in music and the arts. It is unmatched by any other college of its size.

The heart of the Lawrence program is teaching students to “learn to learn.” Faculty help students to understand contexts, learn problem-posing and problem-solving skills, and develop the ability to communicate both orally and in writing. Rather than major in business, for example, Lawrence students acquire the strategies and abilities that will allow them to efficiently address problems that they will encounter in business. For practical experience, Lawrence encourages students to pursue internships.

After building a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, students at Lawrence have extraordinary opportunities for individualized learning. Nearly 90% of its students take at least one course in which they are the only students in the class.

Acceptance rate 69%      •      Net price $26,594      •      SAT Range 1190-1410      •      Students submitting SAT scores 45%
Total Undergrad Population 1,430     •     Setting City: Small     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 79%      •      Retention rate 87%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 8:1

Click here for available majors

Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Marquette University

Milwaukee, WI ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Marquette’s challenging curriculum and commitment to excellence in all things helps produce some of the most talented and successful graduates in the nation. But that’s just the beginning; Marquette works to develop in its students an intellectual curiosity that not only asks questions, but also demands right action. And this aligns with the university’s belief that the mind is nothing without the heart.

Marquette is located on a ninety-acre campus in an urban setting. With unlimited use of public transportation, Marquette students find it easy to enjoy Milwaukee’s cultural, educational, and entertainment opportunities. The Lake Michigan shoreline is just two miles from campus.

As it has expanded through the years, Marquette has absorbed several nearby buildings—a hospital, the downtown Milwaukee YMCA, and several hotels—and converted them into attractive residence halls. About 94 percent of students choose to live on campus or adjacent to it. Themed housing options include floors dedicated to engineering, nursing, leadership, and honors scholarship.

Acceptance rate 82%     •     Net price $34,732     •     SAT Range 1160-1340     •     Students submitting SAT scores 25%
Total Undergrad Population 11,550      •      Setting City: Large      •      Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 84%      •      Retention rate 88%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Click here for available majors

St. Norbert College

De Pere, WI ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Producing graduates with the requisite skills to succeed, lead, and serve in the world, St. Norbert provides students with a classic liberal arts education, teaching them to think critically, write clearly, and communicate effectively. Situated on a residential campus along the banks of the Fox River, St. Norbert offers an active, stimulating community environment that encourages students to learn and grow throughout their lives.

Service-learning—promoted by the leadership, service, and engagement office—is so deeply ingrained in the culture of St. Norbert that students regularly volunteer their efforts to several major projects every year. One residence hall is devoted especially to service, with each section performing its own year-long project.

Fall and spring break alternatives offer many opportunities for involvement beyond the campus. St. Norbert ranks among the nation’s leading schools for student participation. It was also admitted to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction for its strong institutional commitment to service and community partnerships by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Acceptance rate 84%      •      Net price $27,854      •      SAT Range 1020-1220      •      Students submitting SAT scores 9%
Total Undergrad Population 1,939     •     Setting Suburb     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 72%      •      Retention rate 82%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Click here for available majors

university of wisconsin eau claire logo

University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

Eau Claire, WI ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Succeed in your personal and professional life with an education from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. UW-Eau Claire is a public school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with many undergraduate degrees to choose from.

At UW-Eau Claire, it’s not a matter of if you’ll change the world but when. Because when you step on our campus, you step into endless opportunity – groundbreaking research, innovative curriculum and transformative education both in and out of the classroom.

Founded in 1916, UW-Eau Claire prides itself in creating an environment where students thrive and graduate ready to succeed in any and every endeavor. Our history speaks for itself, from our Fulbright scholars to our impressive rankings among public and private universities.

Acceptance rate 84%      •      Net price $14,276
Total Undergrad Population 11,017     •     Setting City: Small     •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%      •      Retention rate 82%      •     Student-to-faculty ratio 21:1

Click here for available majors

Logo for University of Wisconsin—La Crosse

University of Wisconsin–La Crosse

La Crosse, WI ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

UW-La Crosse is a public institution within the University of Wisconsin system. The University is hailed as a leading Midwest institution with vast opportunities in research and personal development.

Undergraduate research is not only a valuable experience, but it demonstrates higher-level conceptualization and analytics skills to employers. UW-La Crosse allows students to collaborate with faculty members on research projects as early as freshman year.

Students that begin research their first year have the chance to see if they like working within a specific area of study. The experience can then lend a hand to the major a student selects later on. However, students that begin research their sophomore or junior year have the option to write for summer research grants. Sophomore and juniors may also include their experience on grad school and job applications. Students must choose a faculty mentor to supervise their project.

Acceptance rate 75%      •      Net price $12,302
Total Undergrad Population 10,531     •     Setting City: Small     •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 71%      •      Retention rate 86%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 19:1

Click here for available majors

University of Wisconsin–Madison logo and wordmark

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Madison, WI ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a renowned public research university situated in the heart of the vibrant city of Madison. With over 200 majors and certificates to choose from, UW Madison offers students a world-class education in a wide range of fields, from the humanities and social sciences to engineering and natural sciences. UW Madison is also committed to innovation and discovery, with a distinguished faculty that includes Nobel laureates and groundbreaking researchers. Beyond the classroom, students can take advantage of countless opportunities to get involved on campus and in the community, from participating in over 900 student organizations to volunteering at local nonprofits. UW Madison is also renowned for its Badger athletics, with a proud tradition of success in football, basketball, hockey, and more. 

As a sustainability leader in higher education, UW Madison is committed to reducing its environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices. Whether you’re looking to pursue cutting-edge research, engage in hands-on learning, or simply immerse yourself in the dynamic culture of Madison, UW Madison has something for everyone. Come be a Badger and discover why UW Madison is consistently praised as one of the top public universities in the country.

Acceptance rate 57%     •     Net price $14,030     •     SAT Range 1260-1460     •     Students submitting SAT scores 27%
Total Undergrad Population 32,688    •    Setting City: Large    •    Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 88%     •     Retention rate 95%     •     Student-to-faculty ratio 16:1

Click here for available majors

University of Wisconsin–Whitewater

Whitewater, WI ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1868, UW–Whitewater is a premier four-year public university located in southeastern Wisconsin. One of 13 universities in the University of Wisconsin System, it has approximately 1,400 faculty and staff members. Students have the option of 50 undergraduate and 15 master’s degree programs, an education specialist degree, and a doctorate of business administration.

UW–Whitewater is focused on hands-on learning. The most popular undergraduate majors include accounting, marketing, biology, finance, education, psychology, social work, and communication. New and trending majors include criminology, computer science, sports management, occupational and environmental safety and health, and media arts and game development.

Acceptance rate 80%      •     Net price $12,522
Total Undergrad Population 11,989      •     Setting Town      •     Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 62%      •      Retention rate 79%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 20:1

Click here for available majors

Viterbo University Logo

Viterbo University

La Crosse, WI ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

Viterbo University offers more than 70 academic programs (traditional and online) that prepare students for outstanding careers. Whether they be at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree level, classes are taught by faculty members dedicated to the success of their students. Viterbo students are known by name and build strong connections with faculty both in and outside of the classroom.

Most programs feature internships, study abroad, service, and field research opportunities that enhance the classroom experience. Viterbo also has a generous transfer-credit policy and accelerated bachelor’s degree completion programs specifically designed for working professionals. Viterbo’s beautiful campus and vibrant community are located in La Crosse—a city nestled between scenic bluffs and the Mississippi River and named the top college town in Wisconsin.

Acceptance rate 79%      •      Net price $21,095      •      SAT Range 1000-1170      •      Students submitting SAT scores 9%
Total Undergrad Population 2,516     •     Setting City: Small     •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 65%      •      Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

Click here for available majors

Wisconsin Lutheran College logo stacked

Wisconsin Lutheran College

Milwaukee, WI ‧ Christian ‧ 4-year

Wisconsin Lutheran College, a Christian college in Milwaukee, provides quality teaching, scholarship, and opportunities for service that are rooted in Holy Scripture. The College promotes the spiritual growth of students in preparation for lives of Christian leadership.

At Wisconsin Lutheran College, students not only have small class sizes and a variety of academic options, but they also can work side-by-side with professors doing groundbreaking heart disease research, teach in local schools as early as freshman year, travel to Zambia for a nursing clinical, take a British literature course in England, or conduct marine biology research in Grenada.

Taught from a Christian perspective, courses at Wisconsin Lutheran College help students develop skills they’ll need in their careers, including critical thinking, communication, teamwork, and decision making. Students also have opportunities for involvement, service, and leadership through NCAA Division III athletics, fine arts groups and ensembles, and 45+ clubs and organizations.

Acceptance rate 96%      •      Net price $21,529      •      SAT Range 990-1190     •     Students submitting SAT scores 19%
Total Undergrad Population 1,166     •     Setting City: Large      •     Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 64%      •      Retention rate 77%      •      Student-to-faculty ratio 12:1

Click here for available majors

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

What are average tuition costs in Wisconsin?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Wisconsin is $6,338 for in-state students at public institutions, $20,877 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $26,232 for students at private institutions.

Cheapest degree program in Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin–La Crosse has an average net price of $12,302 making it the least expensive business degree program in Wisconsin that made our list.

Easiest degree program to get into in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Lutheran College has an acceptance rate of 96%, with an SAT range of 990-1190, making it the least exclusive college in Wisconsin on our list.

Degree program with lowest student debt in Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin–Madison has a median total debt after graduation of $20,500. 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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