- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 2, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed March 2, 2016, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed May 24, 2017, 2017: Online and Off-Campus Programs, Michigan State University, https://reg.msu.edu/UCC/onlineprograms.aspx#Online; Ferris Online, Ferris State University, http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/online/index.htm; Ferris Statewide, Ferris State University, http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/statewide/index.htm; Our Undergraduate Programs of Study, Grace Bible College, https://www.gbcol.edu/undergraduate/programs-of-study/; Adult & Online Programs, Grace Bible College, https://www.gbcol.edu/adult/programs/; Course Search, NMU Online Learning, Northern Michigan University, http://www.nmu.edu/online/course-search; CMU Online Programs, Central Michigan University, https://www.cmich.edu/global/cmuonline/Pages/programs.aspx; Mission & History, Madonna University, https://madonna.edu/about/mission-and-history;
- 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
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
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
Our analysis for this ranking — based on a massive amount of data from U.S. Department of Education sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) — was conducted to find out which institutions were the best traditional and online colleges in Michigan. Here are the top 10:
Our No. 1 school practically swept the state rankings on this year's analysis. It had Michigan's top graduation rate in 2015-16, for starters, and also ranked No. 1 for its percentage of first-year students that returned to continue their education as sophomores. The size of its degree catalog was No. 1 in the state — more than 400 programs were available in 2016.
The flagship campus of U-M was also one of the top schools in the country for students with financial need. Average net price is a college cost estimate that subtracts the expected amount of grant and scholarship aid from the raw costs of tuition, fees, housing and other necessary expenses. Low-income students at the Ann Arbor campus paid the lowest average net price of any student cohort in Michigan.
In the categories where our top school had No. 1 rankings, Michigan State University was usually not far behind. Its graduation and retention rates both placed in the top three among schools on our list, and it ranked No. 2 in the state for its selection of on-campus degree programs. MSU also took the state's No. 2 spot for its proportion of tuition paid for by institutional grant aid, and it posted a No. 3 ranking for the average net price it charged low-income students.
Online degree offerings were another bright spot for MSU. Just three other schools in our top ten offered a wider variety of programs in the virtual classroom, and the East Lansing school's array of hybrid degrees — study plans that split time between online and on-campus courses — was impressive as well.
Students looking for an online school in Michigan that offers bachelor's degree programs shouldn't overlook Ferris State University, which offered the most distance education programs of any school on our list in 2015-16. Flexibility measures for on-campus students were big here as well, featuring weekend/evening degree plans and programs to award college credit for off-campus learning.
Ferris also has more than twenty campus locations throughout Michigan to help serve on-campus and hybrid programs to students around the state. Average net price rankings for low- and middle-income students at Ferris were No. 8 and No. 5 in the state, respectively. Just three other schools on our list saw their students graduate with a smaller median amount of student debt.
This tiny faith-based institution in the city of Wyoming had fewer than 900 students on its rolls in 2015, but the educational opportunities for Christian Michiganders are anything but small. The degree programs in ministry, business, education, criminal justice, human services, arts and more at Grace Bible College ranked No. 4 among schools on our list for their graduation rate in 2015-16, and no other school in the state charged its students less for books and supplies.
Grace Bible College also features adult-focused degrees in ministry, business and human services that are designed to fit into a busy schedule. These bachelor's degree programs typically take around 24 months to complete and can be earned either on campus with just one night of attendance per week or fully online.
The lowest raw cost of tuition and fees of any school in our top ten can be found at Northern Michigan University, as well as the second-lowest average expense for books and supplies. The average net price for low- and middle-income students at NMU ranked No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, and the manageable median student debt of graduates earned it a No. 3 spot in that category.
The data also show that NMU focuses on helping its students access the courses they need. Some entire degree programs at the Marquette school can be earned through weekend and evening courses only, and dozens and dozens of both lower- and upper-division courses can be taken via distance education.
Central Michigan University was one of the best online colleges in Michigan by our analysis, in terms of enrollment as well as online degree variety. Only two other schools in the state posted a higher percentage of students taking at least some courses via distance education, and the online degree catalog at CMU ranked third in the state for the number of programs available.
CMU also had one of the more diverse online bachelor's degree selections in Michigan, featuring online degree programs in political science, psychology, leadership studies and fashion merchandising. There are also plenty of degrees to choose from for traditional, campus-based students — the more than 230 on-campus degrees at CMU earned its catalog the No. 8 spot statewide.
Student aid is a prominent feature of Oakland University's commitment to its students. The Rochester Hills school came in at No. 3 in the state for its average proportion of institutional grant aid awarded to students, and its average net price rankings were favorable for students across the spectrum of financial need. Oakland placed at No. 2 statewide for middle-income students, while low-income students paid the state's No. 6 most affordable out-of-pocket cost.
The institutional grants and scholarships available to qualifying students at Oakland also helped graduates keep their student loan debt among the lower average figures in Michigan. Just five other schools on our list reported lower median debt burdens among their alumni than Oakland.
Eastern Michigan University ranked No. 5 in the state for its affordable raw cost of tuition and fees, and its average net price for middle- and low-income students placed at No. 7 and No. 11, respectively. A degree catalog that contains more than 300 options gave it the No. 3 spot among schools in our top ten in that category. The school also had a higher distance education enrollment rate than all other schools on our list but three.
Campus-based assistance for non-traditional students also stood out at this Ypsilanti institution. Students who need schedule flexibility can earn certain degrees completely at night or on weekend. Those returning to school after a long absence can take advantage of remedial services and exams to award course credit for applicable life experience.
This medium-small school in southwestern Detroit provided its students with the No. 4 amount of institutional grant aid per student among our top ten schools. More than 250 degree programs were available on campus at Madonna University in 2015-16, ranking it No. 6 in the state on that metric. This school also had the second-highest distance education enrollment rate among our top colleges in Michigan.
The data show that students at this Catholic and Franciscan institution had a tendency to stick with their educations to the end. Madonna University reported the state's No. 4 rate of first-year student retention, and only two other schools on our list had a higher graduation rate by the most recent NCES statistics.
Our No. 10 school had a lot going for it in the affordability department. Lake Superior State University had the No. 6 most-affordable raw cost of tuition and fees in the state, for starters, and its average net price rankings for middle- and low-income students came in at No. 1 and No. 2 statewide, respectively. It also reported the fourth-highest amount of institutional grant aid and the fifth-lowest median student debt for graduates among schools on our list.
The Upper Peninsula institution also works to help its students find a path to employment after finishing their degree programs. Academic and career counseling are available and encouraged while you're still in school, and job placement services can give graduates a boost toward getting their careers underway.
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|
|Operations Research Analysts||35.7%||1,580||$84,010|
|Cartographers and Photogrammetrists||31.8%||360||$64,540|
|Interpreters and Translators||31.2%||1,040||$45,440|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||30.6%||10,220||$37,180|
|Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic||28.7%||2,130||$49,330|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||28.7%||1,300||$39,460|
|Geological and Petroleum Technicians||28.6%||120||$54,360|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||28.6%||3,960||$50,640|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||27.8%||140||$46,490|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics||27.1%||18,780||$51,700|
|Personal Financial Advisors||26.8%||4,580||$108,920|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||26.7%||460||$63,010|
|Home Health Aides||26.2%||30,420||$22,560|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||26.1%||1,140||$51,520|
|Physical Therapist Aides||25.2%||1,620||$25,950|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||24.7%||3,000||$32,390|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||24.3%||410||$36,660|
|Ambulance Drivers and Attendants, Except Emergency Medical Technicians||24.3%||400||$24,660|
|Law Teachers, Postsecondary||23.5%||270||$176,320|
|Computer Systems Analysts||22.6%||15,250||$86,770|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||21.6%||14,790||$66,410|
|Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators||21.4%||300||$68,710|
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.
Renewable if requirements are met
- Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority
- Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP Michigan)
- Michigan Education Savings Plan (MESP)
- Michigan Transfer Network