If you're getting ready to join the more than 250,000 Michigan students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities, it can be helpful to have some information about how the top schools measure up. Our methodology — available below this introduction — ranks schools based on their accessibility, affordability, flexibility and demonstrated commitment to student success. We chose, for this analysis, to look only at schools where you can earn a four-year bachelor's degree, and we approached the flagship campuses and satellite locations of large universities in the state as individual institutions.
Michigan community college students who plan to finish their bachelor's degree at a four-year university may be able to make the switch easier by using the Michigan Transfer Network. We've included a link to that service in our Additional Resources section.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Michigan
To find the 10 best schools in Michigan for four-year degrees, we used a methodology that considered factors contributing to student success. When Michigan colleges are analyzed for metrics representing quality, flexibility and affordability, these institutions come out on top. When you've had a look, you can read more about schools in the state by checking out our ranking for the best community colleges in Michigan.
MSU was founded in 1855 in East Lansing. Originally an agricultural college, the institution served as a prototype for land-grant colleges that would begin being established nationwide a decade later. Today, Michigan State University has 17 colleges offering degree programs and educates students from every county in the state, every state in the nation and more than 130 countries worldwide.
Among the more than 50,000 students enrolled at MSU are an impressive number of Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholars and recipients of similar national and international awards. For those who want study at home or thrive with online courses, the university offers more than two dozen online degree programs.
The University of Michigan is the most selective of the state's best universities, admitting less than a third of applicants in some years. However, those who make the cut get access to an college steeped in history and academic excellence.
The accredited school had its origin in Detroit, where it was established in 1817. By 1837, it had moved to Ann Arbor where U-M's main campus remains today. The university's 19 colleges and schools include some -- such as medical and law schools -- that date back to the mid-19th Century.
U-M is one of the top schools in Michigan for students with financial needs. The Go Blue Guarantee promises to help cover up to 100 percent of costs for low-income in-state students.
While Central Michigan University has its roots as a regional school intended to prepare future teachers, it has grown into a nationally ranked institution offering a comprehensive catalog of degree programs. Not only is it one of the best universities in Michigan, but it is also a prime destination for those seeking online degrees.
Established in 1892, CMU has its main campus in Mt. Pleasant but also maintains more than 30 locations nationwide. There are more than 200 degree programs that go beyond bachelor's degrees to include master, professional and specialist programs.
Central Michigan University includes eight colleges, and the College of Medicine is its latest addition. Enrolling more than 20,000 students on its main campus, the university can boast of an alumni network of 225,000 graduates around the world.
Head north to find the next of the best schools in Michigan. Located in the picturesque Keweenaw Peninsula in the state's Upper Peninsula, Michigan Technological University has been providing cutting-edge education since 1855. Originally intended to train mining engineers, it has grown into one of the most respected colleges in Michigan.
Better known as Michigan Tech, this public research institution attracts 7,000 students from across the country as well as 60 other nations. Its seven schools and colleges include a specialized School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science which makes use of the vast natural resources surrounding the campus.
Houghton, where the school's campus is based, has also been noted as one of the safest college towns in America. It is also a prime spot for those who love winter sports such as skiing.
Ferris State University is another of the best universities in Michigan, notable for online degrees. The school's Ferris Online division offers dozens of degree and certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Flexibility measures for on-campus students are big here as well with the accredited college offering weekend and evening degree plans as well as programs to award college credit for off-campus learning.
Although its main campus is in Big Rapids, Ferris has more than twenty campus locations throughout Michigan. These offer both on-campus and hybrid programs that combine classroom and online courses.
Founded in 1884 as a private institution, FSU became a state college in 1950 and public university in 1987. It has eight accredited degree-granting colleges that offer nearly 200 educational degree programs.
As another of the top universities in Michigan, Grand Valley State University was created in 1960 to serve the greater Grand Rapids metro area. With a main campus in Allendale, the school has since branched out to offer five learning centers elsewhere in the state.
GVSU enrolls more than 25,000 students and says its graduates have a 93 percent employment rate. For several professional licensure exams, the school's graduates have a 100 percent pass rate. What's more, 90 percent of students receive financial aid, something that makes education at Grand Valley more accessible and affordable to all.
The university can boast of more than 4,000 study abroad options for its students as well as more than 400 student organizations for those remaining on-campus.
Founded by Dominican Sisters in 1919, Siena Heights University continues in the tradition of providing Catholic education today. Its main campus is in Adrian, and it operates eight degree completion centers across the state. There is also a top-ranked distance learning division for those seeking online courses or online degrees in Michigan.
Overall, more than 2,500 students are enrolled in the university although only 1,200 study on the Adrian campus. As a smaller university, Siena Heights features small class sizes which may offer more personalized attention. Most students receive financial aid.
Siena Heights University includes three academic colleges: arts and sciences, graduate and professional studies. Students can choose from more than 50 majors, including more than a dozen fully online degree programs and a bevy of online courses. Its sports teams compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The University of Detroit Mercy is another of the best schools in Michigan for those seeking an education from a Catholic institution. The university was founded in 1990 by merging two schools with histories dating back to 1877. Today, the school is operated in the traditions of the Society of Jesus, also known as Jesuits, and the Sisters of Mercy.
Detroit Mercy has seven schools and colleges, including ones for dentistry and law. It is home to a Black Abolitionist Archive, an honors program and multiple study abroad opportunities. Students have more than 100 degree options ranging from the undergraduate to graduate and professional level.
Its main campus is in Detroit although the dentistry and law programs are administered at separate campus locations in the city.
Kalamazoo-based Western Michigan University is another public regional school that has grown to become a nationally recognized college. Founded in 1903, the school enrolls more than 20,000 students annually in its campus-based and online degree programs.
WMU has nine academic colleges, including a College of Aviation which is the largest flight school in the Midwest. What's more, it has affiliations with the Homer Stryker M.D. College of Medicine and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School to provide students access to professional degrees in those fields.
In addition to its main campus, Western Michigan University has 11 regional locations in Michigan and Florida. It offers more than 250 degrees, with more than two dozen available online. Students can also participate in more than 400 student organizations.
The state's Upper Peninsula is home to another of the best colleges in Michigan. Northern Michigan University is a public institution based in Marquette, along the shores of Lake Superior. NMU gets high marks for the being an affordable and flexible educational institution. Online, night and weekend classes are available.
Northern Michigan University was established as a teacher's college in 1899. By the middle of the 20th century, it had diversified its degree programs and was granted university status in 1963. With more than 175 undergraduate and graduate degrees available through its five colleges, NMU has established itself as an education destination for many in the state.
In addition to strong academics, Northern is home to an Olympic training site. It also says it is one of the most wired universities in the nation.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Michigan
If you're interested in picking a major that gives you a large number of potential study partners, it can be helpful to know which ones are the most popular among students in your state. Check out this list of the Michigan degree programs with the highest enrollment numbers.
In-Demand Careers in Michigan
Keeping an eye on the career landscape can help you work more accurately toward a degree that will carry high value on the job market after you graduate. Here's a list of some of the most in-demand careers in Michigan today.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||44%||68,860||$25,660|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||35.8%||1,580||$45,490|
|Information Security Analysts||34.7%||1,970||$91,750|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||31%||40,190||$92,070|
|Physical Therapist Aides||30.7%||1,700||$28,710|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||30.7%||3,540||$54,220|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||30%||720||$47,300|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||29.5%||820||$75,740|
|Operations Research Analysts||27%||1,950||$85,720|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||27%||1,230||$53,040|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||25.4%||3,350||$106,930|
|Geological and Hydrologic Technicians||25%||300||$60,170|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||24%||18,840||$68,080|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||23%||1,640||$81,510|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||22.6%||3,580||$28,150|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||22.5%||2,580||$37,810|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Michigan
Michigan residents can take advantage of a few state-run student aid programs.
- The Michigan Competitive Scholarship (MCS) is a need- and merit-based annual award for first-time undergraduate students.
- The Michigan Tuition Grant (MTG) is available to undergraduate degree seekers enrolled in independent, nonprofit colleges and universities in Michigan.
- Aspiring educators can take advantage of Teacher Loan Forgiveness, which may forgive up to $17,500 in federal student loans after five consecutive years teaching at qualifying schools in the state.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Recipient must maintain a 3.0 GPA and have completed 24 credit hours in order to renew their award.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
December 1 (spring semester); May 1 (fall semester)
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA and full-time enrollment. Award is for four semesters.
- Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority
- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP Michigan)
- Michigan Education Savings Plan (MESP)
- Michigan Transfer Network
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- MSU Facts, Michigan State University, Accessed March 2018, https://msu.edu/about/thisismsu/facts.html
- Overview of the University, UM Almanac, Accessed March 2018, http://obp.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/almanac/Almanac_Ch1_Jan2018.pdf
- Michigan Residents, University of Michigan, Accessed March 2018, https://admissions.umich.edu/costs-aid/michigan-residents
- About CMU, Central Michigan University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.cmich.edu/about/Pages/default.aspx
- About Michigan Technological University, Michigan Technological University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.mtu.edu/about/
- About Ferris State University, Ferris State University, Accessed March 2018, https://ferris.edu/HTMLS/ferris.htm
- About GVSU 2018, Grand Valley State University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.gvsu.edu/about.htm
- The University At-A-Glance, Siena Heights University, Accessed March 2018, http://sienaheights.edu/About/Fast-Facts
- University of Detroit Mercy, Accessed March 2018, https://www.udmercy.edu/index.php
- Fast Facts, Western Michigan University, Accessed March 2018, http://wmich.edu/about/facts
- About Northern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.nmu.edu/about
- College Undergraduate Enrollment, MI School Data, accessed May 15, 2017, https://www.mischooldata.org/CareerAndCollegeReadiness/IheEnrollmentByIhe.aspx
- Scholarships and Grants, MI Student Aid, State of Michigan, accessed May 15, 2017, http://www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid/0,4636,7-128-60969_61016 -- -,00.html