Best Value Colleges And Universities In Minnesota

Updated December 5, 2022

Explore the best value colleges and universities in Minnesota. If you have ever wanted to live in Minnesota, we'll help you find the best school for you. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Best Minnesota Schools

By Iris Stone

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In this ranking, we examine the top values in Minnesota colleges and universities. You may also want to check out our ranking of the best value online Minnesota colleges.

If you're willing to brave the cold weather and cozy up to the Canadian border, there's no reason not to consider Minnesota as a potential home-away-from-home for your college years. The University of Minnesota's public school system is both expansive and affordable, and each satellite campus offers something unique. Beyond that, small religious colleges and focused liberal arts universities fill in the cracks, and Minnesota residents enjoy superb educational choices in every direction they look.

Minnesota's relatively low cost of living - even in metropolitan areas like Minneapolis and St. Paul - help many of the state's top colleges maintain tuition rates that fall far below the national average. And while affordability is important, we also wanted to make sure we identified the best universities in Minnesota based on several other factors as well, such as student success, engagement, and selectivity. The result is the ranking below, where the boundaries between affordability and excellent academics nearly disappear.

Our Ranking Methodology:

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 88 to 168, 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 Minnesota.

Ranking the Top Values in Minnesota Colleges and Universities

#1 University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
#2 Carleton College Northfield, MN
#3 Minnesota State University - Mankato Mankato, MN
#4 Winona State University Winona, MN
#5 University of Minnesota - Morris Morris, MN
#6 Augsburg College Minneapolis, MN
#7 University of Minnesota Duluth Duluth, MN
#8 Macalester College St. Paul, MN
#9 St. Olaf College Northfield, MN
#10 Saint Johns University Collegeville, MN

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  1. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, MN



    As the flagship campus of the University of Minnesota system, this Minnesota university combines a prime location with all the resources of a leading research institution. Its sprawling campus and location in the Twin Cities mean that students will never be at a loss for new experiences, places to study, or people to meet. And because of the stellar faculty, U of M students have the chance to work on research projects with some of the best educators around - even as undergraduates. Sociable students who see size as a primary selling point will be drawn to the University of Minnesota as well; this cheap college in Minnesota is the second-largest university in the Midwest and the fifth largest in the country.

  2. Carleton College

    Northfield, MN



    Built on a foundation of academic rigor and collaboration, Carleton College strives to bring out the best in every student. Just gaining entry is a difficult task, given the school's highly selective 23% acceptance rate, but most students find Carleton worth the effort, and 93% graduate within six years. Students who are admitted can expect personal attention from the school's engaging instructors (92% of whom hold terminal degrees) thanks to an extremely low nine to one student to faculty ratio. Carleton is also committed to providing a quality education to as many students as possible, and although its annual net price is somewhat high, its robust financial aid packages make it one of the most affordable colleges in Minnesota.

  3. Minnesota State University - Mankato

    Mankato, MN



    Founded as a teaching college in 1868, this Minnesota university underwent a number of changes of name and mission before becoming the main campus of the Minnesota State system. The cheap Minnesota college is the second-largest public school in the state, enabling it to draw a large and varied group of students each year. And thanks to the great diversity of the student body, the school is also home to many cultural clubs and has been named one of the best campuses for LGBT students. Students can choose from more than 130 undergraduate programs, many of which offer the chance to conduct research alongside professors.

  4. Winona State University

    Winona, MN



    This Minnesota university has two campuses in Winona and one in Rochester, which together offer a total of 65 undergraduate programs. This affordable Minnesota college is the oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, originally created as a college for elementary school teachers. From its initial vision of improving the quality of education throughout Minnesota, Winona State has maintained a commitment to service and bettering the community. Nearly two-thirds of the student body volunteers each year, contributing up to 180,000 hours of community service throughout the area. In that same spirit, Winona State is dedicated to environmental responsibility, offering a minor in sustainability and working to reduce the campus's ecological footprint.

  5. University of Minnesota - Morris

    Morris, MN



    Rather than stretch itself too thin, the this Minnesota university keeps enrollment intentionally low, embracing its close-knit residential community. By enrolling fewer than 2,000 students, U of M Morris keeps its average class size under 16 students so everyone can get personal attention from their professors - 99% of whom hold terminal degrees. Just because it's small doesn't mean that this cheap Minnesota college doesn't have as much to offer as bigger schools, though. The resources of the University of Minnesota system allow Morris to host more than 90 student organizations and a robust intramural program.

  6. Augsburg College

    Minneapolis, MN



    Founded on Lutheran principles, this Minnesota college uses its 50 undergraduate majors to place students' academic work in the context of faith and global citizenship. The school's particular vision of higher education might best be expressed through the four unique facilities that it supports: the Christensen Center for Vocation, the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning, the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work, and the Center for Global Education. Augsburg aims to give each of its students the chance to explore their true calling both professionally and spiritually and to use their skills in a way that benefits the world.

  7. University of Minnesota Duluth

    Duluth, MN



    The Minnesota university combines the quality education of the U of M system with a beautiful and inspiring campus. The school houses many buildings open to the campus community and the public for performing arts and educational programs. From the Tweed Museum of Art to the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium, the campus offers students plenty of ways to expand their education of the sciences and culture while meeting members of the Duluth community. U of M Duluth is also home to a number of research centers where students can work on projects in fields that include digital imaging, environmental research, human rights, and economics.

  8. Macalester College

    St. Paul, MN



    Located near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, this Minnesota college gives students access to all the opportunities for internships and recreation that two major cities have to offer. However, the features that really make Macalester one of the best Minnesota colleges aren't on the surface. A ten to one student to faculty ratio and an average class size of 17 make connecting with teachers easy, which certainly contributes to the school's astonishing 90% graduation rate. Macalester is also highly selective - admitting just 36% of applicants -but once admitted, students enter a supportive environment that's regarded as one of the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses in the country.

  9. St. Olaf College

    Northfield, MN



    This Minnesota college prides itself on its ability to combine academic rigor, an engaged student body, and a deep respect for spiritual life. It's also highly effective and beloved by students, as evidenced by its 89% graduation rate. Providing all this on a campus full of both natural and architectural beauty, St. Olaf is among the most well-rounded of the top Minnesota colleges. St. Olaf has been described as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country, and two of its buildings are listed on the national Register of Historic Places. But what makes the campus perhaps more interesting is the fact that one of the school's own professors, respected architect Edward Sovik, was involved in the design of 20 of its buildings.

  10. Saint Johns University

    Collegeville, MN



    This Minnesota university, an all-male institution, shares an academic program with the all-female College of Saint Benedict, but the two maintain separate campuses and identities. Students from the two schools attend classes together while living on separate campuses, giving them a unique mix of coeducational and single-gender education. Both campuses are housed in a scenic pine forest outside of St. Cloud. The Benedictine beliefs that Saint John's upholds stresses the importance of environmental stewardship, and both students and the administration work to preserve their immediate surroundings and the community at large through service and the use of environmentally friendly building practices.

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This concludes our ranking of the best values in Minnesota 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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