2023 Top Colleges in Wisconsin
Published: September 1, 2022
By: Colleges of Distinction Staff
Jump to: Carroll University | Lawrence University | Marquette University | Northland College | St. Norbert College | University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire | University of Wisconsin—La Crosse | 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.
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
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.
LIBERAL LEARNING 101
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
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.
LIVE IT, LOVE IT
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
Ashland, WI ‧ Private ‧ 4-year
Located on the shore of Lake Superior, amid the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, three tribal communities, a vibrant farming community, and a post-industrial small city, Northland researchers and students have access to an unparalleled living laboratory.
The College takes advantage of its unique location with a focus on place-based learning, continually renewing its educational programs to address the challenges of modern times while still maintaining the fundamentals of the liberal arts.
In the last decade, Northland has developed one of the first sustainable community development undergraduate programs in the country; created the Center for Rural Communities with a polling laboratory to provide science and guidance to rural cities, agencies, and government; launched the Indigenous Cultures Center, the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation, the Hulings Rice Food Center; and reimagined the forty-year-old Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.
These learning centers altogether enhance the student experience by enabling them to explore, understand, and advocate for effective solutions to complex climate and social justice problems.
Acceptance rate 64% • Net price $20,340 • SAT Range 1018-1183 • Students submitting SAT scores 19%
Total Undergrad Population 570 • Setting Town • Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 56% • Retention rate 66% • Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1
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
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
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
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
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
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
What it’s like to attend schools in Wisconsin and other FAQ:
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.
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.
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.
University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire has a median total debt after graduation of $21,500. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.
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