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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

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 College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Elsah, Illinois that handed out 119 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Principia about 4.2 years to graduate, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $17,395. This means that the average student pays around $73,233 to get a bachelor’s degree from Principia. 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

You’ll be in good company if you decide to attend University of Detroit Mercy. It ranked #2 on our 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. University of Detroit Mercy is a medium-sized private not-for-profit school located in Detroit, Michigan that handed out 752 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at UDM graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $18,421. 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 UDM is $77,737. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

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

Out of the 226 schools in the Great Lakes Region that were part of this year’s ranking, Hillsdale College landed the #3 spot on the list. Hillsdale College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Hillsdale, Michigan that handed out 403 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Hillsdale College is 4.1 years, and it costs about $25,069 per year to attend the school. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Hillsdale College is $102,783. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

The impressive student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1 means that students may have more opportunities to work more closely with their professors than they would at other schools. In addition to its great value ranking, Hillsdale College is in the top 10% of all schools on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list.

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#4

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

La Crosse, Wisconsin

The excellent bachelor’s degree programs at University of Wisconsin - La Crosse helped the school earn the #4 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools for the money in the Great Lakes Region . This fairly large public school is located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and it awarded 2,211 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at UW - La Crosse is 4.5 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $22,069. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the UW - La Crosse is $98,207. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

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 join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Hanover College. The school came in at #5 in the Great Lakes Region on this year’s best value ranking. Hanover is a private not-for-profit institution located in Hanover, Indiana. The school has a small population, and it awarded 247 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at Hanover graduates in less than 4.0 years, and on average, the annual cost to attend the school is $25,334. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Hanover be around $102,349. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 4.6%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 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. Crawfordsville, Indiana is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 220 students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Wabash about 4.1 years to graduate, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $29,396. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Wabash be around $119,642. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

With a freshman retention rate of 87%, the school does an excellent job of retaining its students. 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

Illinois College ranked #7 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Illinois College is a private not-for-profit institution located in Jacksonville, Illinois. The school has a small population, and it awarded 256 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Illinois College about 4.1 years to graduate, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $20,712. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Illinois College is $84,298. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

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#8

Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois

Eastern Illinois University ranked #8 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Eastern Illinois University is a medium-sized public school located in Charleston, Illinois that handed out 1,244 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at EIU about 4.4 years to graduate, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $19,683. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from EIU be around $86,999. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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#9

Knox College

Galesburg, Illinois

Knox College came in at #9 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. This small private not-for-profit school is located in Galesburg, Illinois, and it awarded 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. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.7%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. Knox also claimed a spot on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. It’s in the top 20% of all schools in this category.

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#10

Earlham College

Richmond, Indiana

Earlham College ranked #10 on this year’s Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Earlham is a private not-for-profit institution located in Richmond, Indiana. The school has a small population, and it awarded 229 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Earlham is 4.1 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $26,702. 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 Earlham is $109,478. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The school has an excellent freshman retention rate of 86%, which means students like the school well enough to return for a second year.

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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. Located in Rock Island, Illinois, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 855 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students 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. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Augustana is $120,793. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.4%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. Augustana excels when it comes to quality. It’s ranked in the top 15% of all schools on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list.

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#12

Ferris State University

Big Rapids, Michigan

With a ranking of #12, Ferris State University did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Ferris is a public institution located in Big Rapids, Michigan. The school has a fairly large population, and it awarded 2,493 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.6 years for the average student at Ferris to complete their degree, and it costs about $18,324 per year to attend the school. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Ferris is $84,107. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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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 a private not-for-profit institution located in Ripon, Wisconsin. The school has a small population, and it awarded 197 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

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. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Ripon is $120,883. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The student loan default rate at the school is 1.7%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%. In addition to its great value ranking, Ripon is in the top 20% of all schools on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list.

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#14

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Edwardsville, Illinois

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville came in at #14 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. SIUE is a fairly large public school situated in Edwardsville, Illinois. It awarded 2,607 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.5 years for the average student at SIUE to complete their degree, 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

Grand Valley State University came in at #15 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. This large public school is located in Allendale, Michigan, and it awarded 5,421 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at GVSU graduates in less than 4.5 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $25,253. This means that the average student pays around $114,396 to get a bachelor’s degree from GVSU. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

The student loan default rate at the school is 3.8%, which is quite low when compared to the national default rate of 10.1%.

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#16

Lake Superior State University

Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Lake Superior State University came in at #16 in this year’s edition of the Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Located in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, the small public school awarded 393 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at Lake Superior State University about 4.4 years to graduate, and it costs about $18,649 per year to attend the school. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Lake Superior State University is $81,683. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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#17

Monmouth College

Monmouth, Illinois

Monmouth College did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #17. Monmouth College is a small private not-for-profit school located in Monmouth, Illinois that handed out 238 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average student at Monmouth graduates in less than 4.2 years, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $22,828. This makes the estimated cost of a bachelor’s degree from Monmouth be around $96,106. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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With a ranking of #18, Franciscan University of Steubenville did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Located in Steubenville, Ohio, the small private not-for-profit school handed out 509 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Franciscan U is 4.1 years, and it costs about $30,052 per year to attend the school. Looking at these numbers together, we estimate that the average cost of a bachelor’s degree from Franciscan U is about $123,213. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

Students who start out at the school are likely to stick around. The freshman retention rate is 87%. Franciscan U also claimed a spot on our Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region list. It’s in the top 20% of all schools in this category.

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#19

Indiana Wesleyan University

Marion, Indiana

Indiana Wesleyan University did quite well in the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking, coming in at #19. Marion, Indiana is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 778 students in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at IWU about 4.2 years to graduate, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $24,552. This means that the average student pays around $102,873 to get a bachelor’s degree from IWU. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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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 is a private not-for-profit institution located in Cedarville, Ohio. The school has a small population, and it awarded 759 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

The average amount of time it takes for a student to receive their degree at Cedarville is 4.2 years, and the average full-time cost to attend the school is around $29,133. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Cedarville is $121,776. When you graduate sooner, you can save a lot of money.

The school has an impressive student loan default rate. It’s only 2.1%, which is much lower than the national rate of 10.1%.

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#21

Manchester University

North Manchester, Indiana

Manchester University landed the #21 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Located in North Manchester, Indiana, the small private not-for-profit school awarded 325 diplomas to qualifed bachelor’s degree students in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.1 years for the average student at Manchester University to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $22,337. When we combine these numbers, we estimate that the cost to get a bachelor’s degree from Manchester University is $92,475. If you can shave even one term off your degree, you can save a substantial amount of money.

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#22

University of Illinois at Springfield

Springfield, Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield landed the #22 spot on the 2021 Best Value Colleges in the Great Lakes Region ranking. Springfield, Illinois is the setting for this small institution of higher learning. The public school handed out bachelor’s degrees to 680 students in 2018-2019.

The average student at UIS graduates in less than 4.4 years, and the estimated yearly cost for the school is $23,909. Looking at these numbers together, we estimate that the average cost of a bachelor’s degree from UIS is about $104,961. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

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#23

Mount Vernon Nazarene University

Mount Vernon, Ohio

With a ranking of #23, Mount Vernon Nazarene 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 Mount Vernon, Ohio, and it awarded 371 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at MVNU about 4.2 years to graduate, and it costs about $20,207 per year to attend the school. Looking at these numbers together, we estimate that the average cost of a bachelor’s degree from MVNU is about $85,071. When students graduate in a lesser amount of time, they can save thousands of dollars.

With a student-to-faculty rate of 9 to 1, it’s easy to see that the school is committed to helping their undergraduates succeed.

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#24

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Stevens Point, Wisconsin

With a ranking of #24, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point is a medium-sized public school located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin that handed out 1,927 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes the average student at UW - Stevens Point about 4.5 years to graduate, and it costs about $22,299 per year to attend the school. 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 UW - Stevens Point is $100,791. Graduating sooner can prevent you from having to pay more money out of pocket.

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%.

Full University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Report

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#25

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

With a ranking of #25, Albion College did quite well on the 2021 Best Colleges for the Money in the Great Lakes Region list. Albion is a small private not-for-profit school situated in Albion, Michigan. It awarded 371 bachelor’s degrees in 2018-2019.

It takes about 4.2 years for the average student at Albion to complete their degree, and the yearly average cost to attend the school is $27,709. Thus, the average cost to get a bachelor’s degree from the Albion is $117,209. The sooner a student graduates, the more money they can save.

Full Albion College Report

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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

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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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