In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Kansas. You may also want to check out our ranking of the best value online colleges in Kansas.
Even a cursory glance at the colleges and universities in Kansas will convince any researcher that schools in this state pretty closely reflect the values and interests of local students – as they should! As a squarely Midwestern state, Kansas is friendly, low-key, religious, and largely suburban/rural. In keeping with this tune, many of the universities available in-state are private religious colleges, affordable state schools, and career-focused institutions (including universities with degrees in agriculture and farming technology). That being said, students with an urban pulse can find their beat in larger cities like Wichita. And in support of its original residents, Kansas proudly hosts the Haskell Indian Nations University, a favorite of local American Indian tribes.
But how do you know which Kansas colleges are the best? Well, we can’t speak for everyone, but we do know that many aspiring university students share a similar complaint: how do I find a top-notch school for academics and extracurricular resources that won’t break the bank (and have me tightening my belt a notch as I attempt to subsist on Raman noodles)? Enter our “best value” ranking, a list that – as the methodology below illustrates – scores universities based on their performance in areas of both affordability and student satisfaction.
Methodology: Best Value Universities and Colleges in Kansas
Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.
Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, “net price” is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.
Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate – the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.
20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.
After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 96 to 146, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Kansas.
Affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends, Barclay College is a place where giving, learning, and sharing go hand in hand. Barclay students follow Christ's example by devoting 12 hours per semester to service learning, for a total of 96 hours of volunteer work and charitable contributions by graduation. Whether students are pursuing a ministerial degree in Youth Ministry, Worship Arts, or Missions; or a pre-professional degree in Sports and Recreational Leadership or Business Administration, devotion to selflessness and spiritual edification stand paramount to their success at Barclay.
Established in the throes of the Great Depression, Newman University thrived and survived through the strength of its founding mission and principles. Today, Catholic students can find spiritual fulfillment and a promising future through Newman's robust ministry services and rigorous academic programs. Featuring dozens of degree options—including noteworthy programs like Sonography, Paralegal Studies, Pastoral Ministry, Forensic Science, and Radiologic Tech—as well as daily mass and confession and an impressive $266K ROI on PayScale.com, Newman is a cheap college in Kansas that provides real spiritual and economic value for its students.
With 25,000 students and 250 available majors and concentrations, Kansas State University makes the little apple seem a lot bigger. But this size doesn't come at the cost of scholastic strength. In fact, K-State also boasts the highest combined total Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Udall scholarship winners of any university in the country. K-State students pledge not to cheat on the day they arrive, knowing full well that it would squander their chances to earn a prestigious education from one of the top universities in Kansas. The payoff? With a $372K ROI from PayScale.com, K-State graduates are the highest paid on our list!
Bethel College may be a small school, but it's a big opportunity for students of faith to grow as spiritual leaders in their community as well as their careers. With just under 500 students, Bethel somehow manages to leverage its small pool of resources to provide some big opportunities, including service learning, study abroad, clinical placement, and undergraduate research programs. Students' degree goals are also undergirded by Bethel's Common Ground Curriculum, which combines spiritual and intellectual edification into a four-year track culminating in a senior research project. And the best part is that if you have a single major and commit to school full-time but still can't finish in four years, Bethel will provide all additional classes free of charge through its four-year graduation guarantee.
Like many top colleges in Kansas, Pittsburg State University features over a hundred academic programs, small class sizes, and expert faculty. But how many of them offer low, flat rate tuition available to in- and out-of-state students? Or a $30 million technology center in the largest academic building in the state of Kansas, with 13 computer labs and over 70 state-of-the-art research facilities and classrooms? Pittsburg does. But perhaps the most revealing and impressive statistic that sets PSU apart is the 90% of students who found gainful employment or matriculated to advanced studies within 6 months of graduation -a true sign of this Kansas college's commitment to student success.
Another powerhouse in the Kansas public university system, the University of Kansas is the largest college in the state, with nearly 30,000 students and 13 schools (including the state's only medical and pharmacy divisions). But what sets Kansas apart from other affordable Kansas colleges is not just its size. Kansas has a storied intellectual history— from the invention of basketball to the discovery of vitamins A and D—and it continues to build its legacy today, thanks to City Management and Special Education programs that rank first in the country (according to U.S. News), over 40 language programs, and the second-highest graduation rate on our list.
Right in the center of the biggest city in the center of the country, Wichita State University has the most diverse and urbane campus of all public Kansas universities. This comprehensive research university features a 330-acre campus, 200+ areas of study, and nearly 15,000 students all learning together to forge their own path. But Wichita State isn't just a big diploma-factory; last year, over 90% of students collaborated and/or helped other students in their coursework, and nearly 50% were involved in internships, student teaching, and other active learning opportunities. This level of student engagement is reflected in Wichita's 20-year ROI on PayScale.com: an impressive $277K!
What is a "Christian" education? At Sterling, the answer to this question comes from within. Rather than establishing rules and boundaries based on denomination and rituals, Sterling encourages students to cultivate their faith through service-based learning, community engagement, and student leadership. Chapel services are just as important as church services in the community, where students learn from Christians from all walks of life. Between their commitment to their faith and a range of academic programs that is unprecedented for a school of just 600, students get a lot of value at this cheap Kansas college.
Like many of the best Kansas colleges on this list, Central Christian College of Kansas offers a challenging education at an affordable rate. But at Central they don't ask you to weigh the price of tuition against the cost of your faith. Students of faith can grow spiritually and intellectually at this Evangelical college, where community building and worship are integral components to the fulfillment of mandatory spiritual formation credit hours. Most students select from popular programs like Fine Arts, Exercise Science, Business, and Education, but Central also offers Aviation and Theology/Ministry programs to allow them to really soar.
MNU was established and funded by the Church of the Nazarene to provide students of faith with the opportunity to cultivate a "sound philosophy of life, [and] a personal relationship with God." Yet with 40 undergraduate majors encompassing a comprehensive range of spiritual and secular pursuits; a competitive tuition rate; and rigorous ethical standards, MidAmerica Nazarene University is much more than just a place of worship—it's where students grow into strong contributors to society. No wonder then that Money Magazine ranked MNU as the best university in Kansas, public or private.
What do you want to do with your life? At Fort Hays, the possibilities are overwhelming. Students can select from over 60 undergraduate degrees—including office and/or radiologic technology—or apply pre-professional coursework towards a transfer medical or law school. Among Kansas colleges, Fort Hays is a magnet for agricultural leaders of tomorrow, with a bevy of specializations in practical fields such as Agronomy, Beef Cattle Management, and Animal Science, plus a University Farm with real livestock for coursework and research. If you haven't made up your mind yet, Fort Hays' Career Exploration track will connect you with a counselor and help you choose a path and discover the next steps towards your goals.
Like many affordable colleges in Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University fosters a welcoming atmosphere of inquisitive learning and self-discovery for eager young students. But at Haskell, students don't have to pay for it! This "Tribal University" is fully funded by the Bureau of Indian Education as a U.S. Trust Responsibility to American Indian Tribes, so there is absolutely no tuition (there may be some expenses related to books, cost of living, etc). Representing over 140 tribal nations, Haskell is a bastion of lost culture and introduces many students to their heritage for their first time. Through a focus on indigenous studies, the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, twelve designated U.S. National Historical Landmarks on campus, and more, Haskell students can peer through the lens of history to see the world anew.
Baker University is just slightly older than Emporia, making it the oldest university in the entire state of Kansas. Baker maintains a tradition of Episcopalian/Methodist scholarship and excellence in an ecumenical and welcoming environment. Nevertheless, regular chapel services are scheduled every Thursday at 11am, and no classes are offered during this time. Students of every faith and major are invited to partake in a multitude of University Ministry offerings, like lecture series and nondenominational special events. But what makes Baker one of the best colleges in Kansas is its commitment to practical and meaningful education, including unique degree programs in Conflict Management, Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Arts Education.
Founded as a teaching college in 1863, Emporia State University has been shaping Kansan education longer than any other post-secondary institution in the state. Among the 80 undergraduate majors available at this top Kansas college (including library and information management) teaching remains the gem of their curriculum. In fact, Emporia's teacher education program was celebrated and profiled alongside Stanford and UVA in Arthur Levine's 2006 Exemplary Model Teacher Education program. Offering concentrations in Counselor Education; Elementary and Early Childhood Education; Health and Physical Education; and Psychology, this cutting edge department prepares educators for some of the most important - and deeply needed - leadership roles in this country.
This concludes our ranking of best value Kansas colleges and universities.
About the Author: Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.
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