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2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region

226 Colleges
$23,924 Avg Cost*
4.2 Years Avg Time to Graduate*

There are lots of options to chooose from today when trying to decide which college to attend. At College Factual, we're committed to helping you make that decision by providing information such as that found in our Best Value Great Lakes Region Schools ranking.

After analyzing 226 schools, we came up with our list of those that were the best for overall value in the Great Lakes Region. This ranking doesn't just identify the colleges with the lowest costs. Rather, it highlights those institutions that offer excellent educational experiences for a lower cost than other schools of roughly the same caliber. So it is possible that College A may rank better than College B, while College B is less expensive to attend.

Learn more about our ranking methodology.

Our average cost calculation adds up all expenses, such as tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses, and then subtracts the average financial aid awarded to a student. This gives a rough estimation of how much money you can expect to pay out-of-pocket or through loans each year.

Custom Rankings

We've developed a number of other tools and rankings to help you make your college decision. Start by filtering this list by location or field of study and then explore our other rankings that feature schools great for different groups of students such as veterans or returnings adults.

We've created a tool called College Combat that lets you create your own customized comparisons based on the factors that matter the most to you. Test it out by comparing your favorite schools against others you are considering!

Top Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region of the U.S.

Learn more about these excellent schools below:

#1

Principia College

Elsah, Illinois

Our analysis found Principia College to be the best school for overall value in the Great Lakes Region in this year’s ranking. Principia is located in Elsah, Illinois and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 119 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes about 4.2 years for the average student at Principia to complete their degree, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $17,395. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Principia is $73,233. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

Since the school has a student-to-faculty rate of 6 to 1, those pursuing a bachelor’s degree will have more opportunities to interact with their professors. In addition to its great value ranking, Principia is in the top 10% of all schools on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list.

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#2

University of Detroit Mercy

Detroit, Michigan

Out of the 226 schools in the Great Lakes Region that were part of this year’s ranking, University of Detroit Mercy landed the #2 spot on the list. Located in Detroit, Michigan, the medium-sized private not-for-profit school awarded 752 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at UDM about 4.2 years to graduate, and it costs about $18,421 per year to attend the school. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from UDM be around $77,737. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 87%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. As a testament to the quality of education it offers, UDM also is in the top 20% of our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking.

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#3

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan

The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at Hillsdale College helped the school earn the #3 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools for the money in the Great Lakes Region . Hillsdale College is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Hillsdale, Michigan. It awarded 403 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Hillsdale College to complete their degree, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $25,069. This means that the average student pays around $102,783 to get a bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 93%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year. Hillsdale College also claimed a spot on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. It’s in the top 10% of all schools in this category.

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#4

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

La Crosse, Wisconsin

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. The school came in at #4 in the Great Lakes Region on this year’s best value ranking. UW - La Crosse is a fairly large public school situated in La Crosse, Wisconsin. It awarded 2,211 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

At UW - La Crosse, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.5 years, and it costs about $22,069 per year to attend the school. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the UW - La Crosse is $98,207. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The low student loan default rate of 1.6% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%.

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#5

Hanover College

Hanover, Indiana

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend Hanover College. It ranked #5 on our 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. Located in Hanover, Indiana, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 247 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Hanover about 4.0 years to graduate, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $25,334. This means that the average student pays around $102,349 to get a bachelor’s degree from Hanover. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The low student loan default rate of 4.6% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%.

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#6

Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Wabash College ranked #6 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and it awarded 220 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Wabash to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $29,396. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Wabash is $119,642. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 87%. On top of its placing in our value rankings, Wabash also did well on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. It’s in the top 15% of all schools reviewed in this analysis.

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#7

Illinois College

Jacksonville, Illinois

With a ranking of #7, Illinois College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Jacksonville, Illinois is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 256 students in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Illinois College to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $20,712. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Illinois College is $84,298. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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#8

Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois

Eastern Illinois University came in at #8 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. EIU is located in Charleston, Illinois and has a medium-sized student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 1,244 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes about 4.4 years for the average student at EIU to complete their degree, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $19,683. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from EIU be around $86,999. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

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#9

Knox College

Galesburg, Illinois

Knox College did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #9. Located in Galesburg, Illinois, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 367 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Knox about 4.1 years to graduate, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $28,574. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Knox is $117,439. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

With a freshman retention rate of 87%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. Knox excels when it comes to quality. It’s ranked in the top 20% of all schools on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list.

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#10

Earlham College

Richmond, Indiana

Earlham College did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #10. Richmond, Indiana is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 229 students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Earlham about 4.1 years to graduate, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $26,702. This means that the average student pays around $109,478 to get a bachelor’s degree from Earlham. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 86%.

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#11

Augustana College

Rock Island, Illinois

Augustana College landed the #11 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Augustana College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Rock Island, Illinois that handed out 855 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Augustana about 4.1 years to graduate, and it costs about $29,752 per year to attend the school. This means that the average student pays around $120,793 to get a bachelor’s degree from Augustana. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 87%. On top of its placing in our value rankings, Augustana also did well on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. It’s in the top 15% of all schools reviewed in this analysis.

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#12

Ferris State University

Big Rapids, Michigan

Ferris State University landed the #12 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, the fairly large public school awarded 2,493 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Ferris is 4.6 years, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $18,324. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Ferris is $84,107. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#13

Ripon College

Ripon, Wisconsin

Ripon College came in at #13 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Ripon is located in Ripon, Wisconsin and has a small student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 197 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Ripon is 4.1 years, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $29,412. This means that the average student pays around $120,883 to get a bachelor’s degree from Ripon. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 1.7%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%. As a testament to the quality of education it offers, Ripon also is in the top 20% of our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking.

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#14

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Edwardsville, Illinois

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #14. Located in Edwardsville, Illinois, the fairly large public school awarded 2,607 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

At SIUE, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.5 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $20,336. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from SIUE is $91,919. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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#15

Grand Valley State University

Allendale, Michigan

With a ranking of #15, Grand Valley State University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Located in Allendale, Michigan, the large public school awarded 5,421 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at GVSU is 4.5 years, and it costs about $25,253 per year to attend the school. Looking at these numbers together, we estimate that the average cost of a bachelor’s degree from GVSU is about $114,396. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The low student loan default rate of 3.8% is a good sign that students have an easier time paying off their loans than they might at other schools. For comparison, the national default rate is 10.1%.

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#16

Lake Superior State University

Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

With a ranking of #16, Lake Superior State University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Sault Ste Marie, Michigan is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 393 students in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Lake Superior State University is 4.4 years, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $18,649. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Lake Superior State University is $81,683. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

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#17

Monmouth College

Monmouth, Illinois

Monmouth College ranked #17 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Monmouth, Illinois is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 238 students in 2018-2019.

The average student at Monmouth graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $22,828. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Monmouth be around $96,106. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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Franciscan University of Steubenville did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #18. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Steubenville, Ohio, and it awarded 509 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Franciscan U to complete their degree, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $30,052. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Franciscan U is $123,213. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

With a freshman retention rate of 87%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. As a testament to the quality of education it offers, Franciscan U also is in the top 20% of our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking.

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#19

Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion, Indiana

With a ranking of #19, Indiana Wesleyan University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Marion, Indiana, and it awarded 778 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.2 years for the average student at IWU to complete their degree, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $24,552. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from IWU is $102,873. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

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#20

Cedarville University

Cedarville, Ohio

Cedarville University came in at #20 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Cedarville, Ohio is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 759 students in 2018-2019.

At Cedarville, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.2 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $29,133. Putting this cost and the average time to graduate together, we find that the average amount you’ll pay to get a bachelor’s degree from Cedarville is $121,776. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The student loan default rate at the school is 2.1%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%.

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#21

Manchester University

North Manchester, Indiana

Manchester University did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #21. Located in North Manchester, Indiana, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 325 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Manchester University to complete their degree, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $22,337. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Manchester University is $92,475. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

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#22

University of Illinois at Springfield

Springfield, Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield ranked #22 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Located in Springfield, Illinois, the small public school awarded 680 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at UIS is 4.4 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $23,909. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from UIS be around $104,961. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

Full University of Illinois at Springfield Report

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#23

Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Mount Vernon, Ohio

Mount Vernon Nazarene University landed the #23 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking. MVNU is a private not-for-profit institution located in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The school has a small population, and it awarded 371 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.2 years for the average student at MVNU to complete their degree, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $20,207. This means that the average student pays around $85,071 to get a bachelor’s degree from MVNU. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

Since the school has a student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1, those pursuing a bachelor’s degree will have more opportunities to interact with their professors.

Full Mount Vernon Nazarene University Report

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#24

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Stevens Point, Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point came in at #24 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. UW - Stevens Point is located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and has a medium-sized student population. In 2018-2019, this school awarded 1,927 bachelor’s degrees to qualified undergradutates.

It takes the average student at UW - Stevens Point about 4.5 years to graduate, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $22,299. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from UW - Stevens Point be around $100,791. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 3.5%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%.

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#25

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

Albion College came in at #25 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Albion is a private not-for-profit institution located in Albion, Michigan. The school has a small population, and it awarded 371 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

At Albion, the average time it takes a student to graduate is 4.2 years, and it costs about $27,709 per year to attend the school. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Albion be around $117,209. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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Rest of the Top 15% Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region

Not only did these schools make the top-ranked list, but they also landed in the upper 15% of this year’s ranking:

#27

Western Illinois University

Macomb, Illinois
#28

Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo, Michigan
#29

Illinois State University

Normal, Illinois
#30

University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Eau Claire, Wisconsin
#31

Saint Mary's College

Notre Dame, Indiana
#32

Kettering College

Kettering, Ohio
#33

Northern Illinois University

Dekalb, Illinois

View Best Colleges for the Money Nationwide >

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Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our Best Colleges for the Money ranking:

Rank College Location
34 Taylor University Upland, IN
35 Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake, IN
36 University of Wisconsin - River Falls River Falls, WI
37 Valparaiso University Valparaiso, IN
38 Bradley University Peoria, IL
39 Lincoln Christian University Lincoln, IL
40 Saint Norbert College De Pere, WI
41 Purdue University - Main Campus West Lafayette, IN
42 University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
43 Ohio Wesleyan University Delaware, OH
44 University of Evansville Evansville, IN
44 University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Whitewater, WI

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Notes and References

Footnotes

*These averages are for the top 25 schools only.

  • For our state-specific rankings, we use in-state tuition to calculate average cost. For our national and regional rankings, we use a weighted average of in-state and non-resident tuition.

References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s (College Scorecard).
  • Information about the national average student loan default rate is from the U.S. Department of Education and refers to data about the 2016 borrower cohort tracking period for which the cohort default rate (CDR) was 10.1%.

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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