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Best Colleges in Wisconsin Badge

In your college search, you probably won’t find any other state with an idea named after it.

That’s right, an idea. Welcome to Wisconsin, the birthplace of the "Wisconsin Idea,” something you might already know without even realizing it has a name. The Wisconsin Idea basically holds that a university system ought to do more than just educate its students; it should also help the citizens of the state in practical ways like research, public policy, and developing technical skill. So, if you’ve ever got a flu shot, drank Gatorade, or used a seat belt (I hope so!), you have the Wisconsin Idea to thank—all of those things were invented at universities.

What better state to come to if you want to learn valuable skills and make a difference in the world?

What kind of College in Wisconsin should you attend?

Wisconsin has two large public college systems: the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System, as well as the 16-campus Wisconsin Technical College System. Those alone give you a broad array to choose from, but don’t pass over the many private schools the state has to offer. Even if you think they’re too expensive, you might be surprised by how much aid they hand out. You never know! And if that's not enough to entice you, check out our Top Online Colleges in Wisconsin for more.

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How much money can you make with a degree from a College in Wisconsin?

The latest numbers are in. Wisconsin mimics the overall U.S. average in terms of median household income. The average Wisconsin household income is roughly $52k per year. However, things get more interesting when you earn an advanced degree in Wisconsin. reports that individuals who earn a Bachelor of Science degree make on average $61k. That's nearly $10,000 more than the average household income of the state. If you decide to pursue your field to the next level, you'll find more good news for your bank account. Individuals in Wisconsin who hold a master's degree or higher make an average of $69k to $80k per year.

What are the Best Colleges in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is a great state to come to—or stay in, if you’re a native cheesehead. We’ve combed through all of Wisconsin’s great schools to arrive at this list of the very best, in order to help you in your search. We considered two main factors in our rankings: academic quality, so you know your education will be worth the time and effort, and return on investment, so you know it’ll be worth your money. In addition, our data team has factored in graduation rates, retention rates, and outside rankings to boil down the best of the best in Wisconsin. Happy searching!


See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    OverviewThe University of Wisconsin at Madison is one of the best universities in Wisconsin, if not the very best. This is a public, land-grant, sea-grant, state university that is the flagship of the University of Wisconsin system. It was the first public university established in the state and is home to four National Historic Landmarks. It was established in 1848 and is located in Madison, Wisconsin. It holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThis university is considered a Public Ivy and has the academic reputation to match it. The school confers over 136 undergraduate degrees, 148 graduate degrees, and 120 doctoral programs. The school also provides students with an instructional program that has been classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of teaching as “arts and science plus professions” with a high graduate coexistence. The school is best known for its professional degrees in:

    • Environmental Studies
    • Law
    • Public Health
    NotablesUW-Madison has an interesting aspect to its campus: the school claims more archaeological sites, with distinction than on any other university in the country. The school has located four effigy mounds around its campus. The sites are marked and fenced on the campus, ensure that they’re not disturbed by students or faculty.

  2. Ripon College

    Ripon, WI



    OverviewRipon College is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian liberal arts college that is one of the top colleges in Wisconsin. This school has been named one of the top 25 liberal arts colleges by Washington Monthly and has another national ranking in the same category by U.S. News and World Report. This school was founded in 1851 and has historical affiliations with the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches.

    OverviewRipon confers over 40 undergraduate programs; there are also four additional pre-professional programs that are available. The school also has an option for students to design their own major with the guidance of a faculty mentor. The school also allows students to take on undergraduate research or do their coursework online. Undergraduates can major in some of the following areas:

    • Educational Studies
    • Psychobiology
    • Spanish
    NotablesThis school requires that all students complete its Catalyst Curriculum, a five-course series that helps students develop the necessary critical thinking and reasoning skills needed to become professionals in this world. The program requires students take two seminars in the first year and second year, as well as an applied innovation seminar the junior year. Students must complete a team project as well in order to successfully complete the program.

  3. Marquette University

    Milwaukee, WI



    OverviewMarquette University is a private, not-for-profit Catholic research university that was established by the Society of Jesus. The school maintains an affiliation with the Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a member of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as well as the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. This school is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesMarquette University confers over 80 undergraduate degrees and 66 graduate and postgraduate degrees; there are an additional 18 graduate certificate programs also available, as well as first-professional programs in the fields of dentistry and law. Students may choose to take on dual degrees or earn a degree online from the school. Aside from the typical areas of study, some of the most unique degrees here include:

    • Peace Studies
    • Social Welfare and Justice
    • Africana Studies
    NotablesThis university is one of the most ranked in this list; it has been consistently nationally ranked in the top 100 best schools for undergraduate research by U.S. News and World Report. It has also received recognition for its commitment to providing military veterans with an exceptional education, for its research endeavors, and has even had the distinction of making the 2012 list of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

  4. Milwaukee School of Engineering

    Milwaukee, WI



    The Milwaukee School of Engineering, known as MSOE to students and faculty, is a private, not-for-profit university that is one of the smallest campuses in the state. It is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was established in 1903. This school is regionally accredited by the NCACS THLC.This university confers 17 undergraduate degrees, 13 of which are focused on engineering. The school also provides 11 master’s degrees in engineering. MSOE requires that all students adhere to a track system, a schedule of courses that need to be taken in sequential order so that a student graduates on time.MSOE offers students a wide range of research opportunities, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can do research at the Fluid Power Institute or the Rapid Prototyping Center, create models of molecular structures at the Center for Biomolecular Modeling, or become a part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates. The latter program assigns student researchers to faculty and professionals so that they can work alongside each other to learn how research works for their particular degree.

  5. Wisconsin Lutheran College

    Milwaukee, WI



    OverviewWisconsin Lutheran College is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts college that holds an affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The school was established in 1973 and is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This school holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThis school confers undergraduate degrees in over 25 majors; there are five pre-professional programs at the undergraduate level as well. The school also houses a Master of Arts in Education. Adult students can also take online courses to earn a degree in Business Management and Leadership from the school’s portal. Some of the undergraduate degree areas include:

    • Business Administration
    • Elementary Education
    • Marine Biology
    NotablesStudy abroad opportunities are one of the best ways at Wisconsin Lutheran College to earn global experience while still at school. The university offers both affiliated programs and faculty-led opportunities, ensuring that every student gets a chance to visit one of the 30 countries available.

  6. Carthage College

    Kenosha, WI



    OverviewCarthage College is one of the top colleges in the country, let alone the state. This is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts college that is affiliated with the Evangelical Church in America. The school is known for having a world-class faculty, of which 90 percent hold a terminal degree in their field of study. The school is located in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is regionally accredited by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThis university offers over 40 undergraduate degrees as well as a master’s degree in education. Online courses and degrees are also available. The school has partnered with various masters degree-granting institutions to implement joint degrees in engineering, occupational therapy, and pharmacy. Carthage has been ranked by the Princeton Review as one of the best Midwestern colleges. Other undergraduate programs include:

    • Graphic Design
    • Environmental Science
    • Public Relations
    NotablesThere are three interesting traditions at Carthage, one that every student remembers when they attend the school. The first is the Old Main Bell, which is lit up like a Christmas tree every year during the first home team game of football. The Kissing Rock is a piece of granite that has marked the entrance to Evergreen Walk and has been the site of countless first kisses and marriage proposals. The Christmas Festival is a musical theatrical celebration that is put on by the school’s theater department and takes place the first week in December.

  7. Northland College

    Ashland, WI



    OverviewNorthland College is one of the best colleges in Wisconsin for students interested in sustainability and the environment. It is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts institution that has historical ties to the Congregational Church and remains affiliated with the United Church of Christ. This school is affiliated with the Eco League and is located in Ashland, Wisconsin. It is regionally accredited by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesNorthland offers over 40 undergraduate degrees for students, including programs in outdoor education, sustainability, ecological restoration, and more. Pre-professional programs are also available, as are a selection of online courses. The most popular programs at this university include:

    • Environmental Studies
    • Sustainable Entrepreneurship
    • Wildlife Ecology
    NotablesThe school has been recognized by Sierra Magazine, the National Arbor Day Foundation, and the Sustainable Endowments Institute for its continued efforts to create a green campus and provide sustainable processes for its faculty and staff. The school has two wind turbines, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a student-managed Renewable Energy Fund that provides money for green campus initiatives.

  8. Edgewood College

    Madison, WI



    OverviewEdgewood College is one of the best colleges for undergraduates seeking an incredible education from a world-class faculty. This is a private, not-for-profit liberal arts college that is taught in the Dominican Catholic tradition. It holds an affiliation with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters of the Roman Catholic Church. The school is located in Madison, Wisconsin, and is regionally accredited by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThis school offers students more than 60 majors at the undergraduate level as well as a dozen graduate programs. Edgewood also offers individualized undergraduate programs as well as online courses and programs for adult learners. The school also offers students the chance to participate in its Collaborative Program, which allows them to pursue one major both at the campus and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Popular degree programs include:

    • Art Therapy
    • Cytotechnology
    • Nursing
    NotablesEdgewood has a strong reputation in the performing arts, where it continues to regale students with annual productions of everything from Broadway shows to comedy troupes. The school hosts its own student-run Theatre Assembly, a program that provides resources and opportunities for those who want to participate in theater productions.

  9. Mount Mary University

    Milwaukee, WI



    OverviewMount Mary University is a private, not-for-profit, Catholic liberal arts institution that was founded in 1913 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. It is a women’s undergraduate institution and only accepts men at the graduate level. This school is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThe school confers more than 30 undergraduate degrees; there are eight graduate and doctoral degrees also available for students of both genders. The student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1, and class sizes rarely exceed 25 students. The programs available at the school focus on liberal arts, with the most popular majors being:

    • Social Work
    • Interior Design
    • Fashion Merchandise Management
    NotablesMount Mary believes that celebrating a student’s achievements is the best way to foster positive reinforcement and provide evidence of their own talent. That’s why the school offers a variety of annual events and shows to all of its students. A few examples include CREO, the school’s annual arts and entertainment show, and the Starving Artists’ Show, which has attracted crowds of 8,000 people each year.

  10. Concordia University-Wisconsin

    Mequon, WI



    OverviewConcordia University of Wisconsin is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts college that is located in Mequon, Wisconsin. This school is a member of the Concordia University System and is operated by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The school was established in 1881 and is taught in the Lutheran tradition. The school holds regional accreditation by the NCACS THLC.FeaturesThis school confers more than 75 undergraduate programs and over 15 graduate programs; doctoral and pre-professional programs are also available. The school currently offers first-professional degrees in pharmacy, physical therapy, and nursing practice. Concordia also offers students the chance to learn online, offering courses and programs through its online portal. Other undergraduate majors include:

    • B.A. in Christian Thought
    • B.A. in Illustration
    • B.S. in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
    NotablesConcordia knows that a good student life is a Christian life; that’s why at this university you will see religion play a major role. Daily chapel is available for students both on campus and at home, as the services are broadcast to students and faculty through the school’s online portal. Students can also take the time to give back to their community by volunteering, doing community service, or taking on a missionary trip.

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