Hidden Midwest Gems: 2018

College Raptor's 2018 Hidden Midwest Gem list

The Midwest is America’s heartland, and often an overlooked region of the country. But these “Flyover” states have a number of hidden gems among them that shouldn’t be counted out. We’ve highlighted the top three hidden gem schools per state.

For the purposes of this list, we’ve included the following states in the northwest: IA, IL, ID, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI.

To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, a school must have the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications a year
  • OR  less than 40th percentile of applications received by all schools in that state
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled

 

Note: If there are fewer than three in a state, it means no other schools in the state met our qualifications.

IOWA

Drake University

  • Drake University - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Picture Des Moines

    Location: Des Moines, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 4,991
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 208

Drake’s law school is one of the oldest in the country. Incoming freshmen score an average of 25–30 on the ACT and an average of 1150–1340 for the SAT. Most students attending Drake come from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The university is well known for the Drake Relays, which draw athletes from around the world, including Olympians.

Luther College

  • Luther College - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Prizm

    Location: Decorah, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 2337
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 224

Founded by Norwegian immigrants, Luther is fairly selective and accepts 68% of applicants. The school has a student to faculty ratio of 11:1, with biology and business administration being the top majors. About 95% of students live on campus for their entire college career. A large number of students also participate in study abroad programs.

Dordt College

  • Dordt College - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user David Mulder

    Location: Sioux Center, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 1458
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 365

Black, white, and gold are the colors of the Defenders, Dordt’s moniker for the sports teams. 95% of the students on the campus are undergraduates. Dordt has a first year retention rate of 88% and a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Elementary Education is the most popular major on campus.

ILLINOIS

Wheaton College (IL)

  • A building at Wheaton College - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Teemu008

    Location: Wheaton, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 2,929
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 92

Established in 1860 to provide excellence in Christian higher education, it is known for its education through a Christian-based worldview.  Wheaton offers 40 undergraduate and 14 graduate degrees.  Its location of 25 miles west of Chicago provides its students a smaller community close to the amenities of a major U.S. city.  The Wheaton Thunder compete in NCAA Division III athletics.

Illinois Wesleyan University

  • Illinois Wesleyan University's campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Image provided by Illinois Wesleyan University

    Location: Bloomington, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 1,842
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 145

Illinois Wesleyan was founded in 1850 by a group of 30 civic and religious leaders affiliated with the Methodist Church. Its founding mission is to foster the traditional liberal arts of creativity, character and knowledge. Today, the university offers 80 majors, minors and programs the most popular of which are Business, Psychology and Biology.

Knox College

  • A building on the Knox College campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user David Wilson

    Location: Galesburg, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 1397
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 236

Incoming freshmen at Knox College score an average of 26–32 on the ACT, and 1190–1400 on the SAT. They have an 80% six year graduation rate. The Prairie Fire sports teams don the colors purple and gold during their games. Creative Writing is the most popular major, followed quickly by Economics and Psychology.

INDIANA

DePauw University

  • A building on the DePauw University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Rovergirl88

    Location: Greencastle, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,265
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Rank: 150

Originally known as Indiana Asbury University, DePauw is a member of the Great Lakes College Association and is affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was renamed in honor of Washington DePauw, a donor who established the university’s School of Music. The school’s 21 athletic teams compete in black and gold and are cheered on by their mascot, Tyler the Tiger.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

  • A building on the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Cejeiler

    Location: Terre Haute, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,354
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 166

The small private college, previously known as Rose Polytechnic Institute at the time of its founding in 1874, specializes in engineering, mathematics and science. Appropriately, the top undergraduate majors at RHIT are Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Saint Mary’s College

  • Location: Notre Dame, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 1657
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 202

Saint Mary’s has French roots, as it was founded by four sisters of the Holy Cross, and was the first women’s college in the Great Lakes region. Nursing is a popular major on campus, as are Business and Biology. Their mascot is known as Belle, and their school colors are blue and white.

KANSAS

Benedictine College

  • Benedictine College - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Tony Unruh

    Location: Atchison, KS

  • Student Enrollment: 2,189
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 611

Initially founded by two monks, the modern Benedictine College was created when St. Benedictine’s College merged with Mount St. Scholastica College in 1971. There is a near even split in terms of gender between the students on campus–51% are men, and 49% are women. Their mascot is the Raven, and their colors are black and red.

Baker University

  • A building on the Baker University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Bhall87

    Location: Baldwin City, KS

  • Student Enrollment: 2689
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 680

Baker has a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, meaning there are a lot of one-on-one opportunities available. A number of notable alumni have graduated from Baker, including Andrew Cherng the founder of Panda Express, Candice Millard a New York Times best-selling author, and Mike McCarthy, coach of the Green Bay Packers.

Pittsburg State University

  • An event at the Pittsburg State University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Jstarter

    Location: Pittsburg, KS

  • Student Enrollment: 7244
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 874

Gus the Gorilla is the mascot of Pitt State, where the school colors are crimson and gold. Putting a flip on the old cliche, at PSU there’s a tradition where the teachers give students apples. The celebratory day dates back to a time when the mayor was jokingly fined a barrel of apples by the state legislature for making a simple error.

MICHIGAN

Hope College

  • A building on the Hope College campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Kymberly Janisch

    Location: Holland, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 3,392
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 184

Located near both Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan, it makes sense that Hope College’s logo is that of an anchor. Of the nearly 8,900 applications sent in in 2016, 61% of the applicants are women. There is an acceptance rate of 84%. The most popular major on campus is Business Administration.

Kalamazoo College

  • A building at Kalamazoo College - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Gotanero

    Location: Kalamazoo, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 1443
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 194

Kalamazoo, more affectionately known as “K,” is one of the oldest in the U.S. with its founding in 1833. Its 28 major offerings are enhanced by the “K Plan” which ensures all students have internships, research, and study abroad opportunities. In fact, 71% of graduates participate in career development programs and 70% study abroad. Kalamazoo produces more Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other school in the U.S.

Calvin College

  • The Calvin College campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Rememberdefcow

    Location: Grand Rapids, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 3990
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 298

This intentionally Christian community educates students to become better citizens of God’s kingdom. Research, global opportunities, service-learning, and hands-on experiences go in tandem with Calvin’s over 100 areas of study. Engineering, Nursing, and Business rank as most popular majors. Joust the Knight adorns his maroon and gold has he cheers on the 21 athletic teams that have racked up 105 MIAA titles since 2000. 

MINNESOTA

Gustavus Adolphus College

  • A building on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Jlencion

    Location: Saint Peter, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,379
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 190

Gustavus Adolphus has Swedish and Luthern origins, and those influences are still felt on the campus today. The incoming freshmen score, on average, between a 24 and 30 on the ACT, and between 1110 and 1340 on the SAT. The college has a 65% acceptance rate, and a four year graduation rate of 80%.

Saint John’s University

  • A building on the Saint John’s University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Bobak Ha’Eri

    Location: Collegeville, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 1869
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 198

Saint John’s University is the all-male brother college to College of Saint Benedict. SJU is the older of the two siblings and also houses the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. The Johnnies compete in NCAA Division III athletics. As a fun fact, SJU has produced its own “Johnnie Bread” since 1856 to fund projects such as the Abbey Church.

College of Saint Benedict

  • Buildings on the College of Saint Benedict campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Bobak Ha’Eri

    Location: Saint Joseph, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 1943
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 239

College of Saint Benedict is the all-women sister college to Saint John’s University. The two have been close partners since CSB’s founding in 1913. Students have full access to both campuses and they even share the same academic curriculum. College of Saint Benedict was designated one of the top producer of Fulbright Scholars with 15 in the past three years.

MISSOURI

Rockhurst University

  • The Rockhurst University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Jzsj

    Location: Kansas City, MO

  • Student Enrollment: 2825
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 347

“Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum” is the motto of this university, which translates to: Wisdom has built herself a home. Their sports teams play as the Hawks, and some of the most popular games on campus include: baseball, basketball, golf, lacrosse, and soccer. They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Missouri University of Science and Technology

  • A building on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Adavidb

    Location: Rolla, MO

  • Student Enrollment: 8886
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 405

Founded in 1870 as one of the first tech institutions west of the Mississippi, Missouri S&T has been building a reputation of discovery, creativity, and innovation. Not only do 98 degree programs fill their course catalog but so do 18 different design teams including solar car, Mars rover, and Formula SAE. Its campus has some unique features including a Stonehedge replication, the Millennium Arch, and a Solar Village.

Maryville University of Saint Louis

  • A building on the Maryville University of Saint Louis campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Americasroof (Note: Image is of Maryville, not MUSL)

    Location: Saint Louis, MO

  • Student Enrollment: 6414
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 453

As one of the oldest private institutions in the region, Maryville was established in 1872 and has now grown to offer 90 undergraduate degrees. Two lakes dot its campus which has added over ten new buildings in just forty years. Campus is also conveniently located just 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis. Home to the Saints athletics, Louie the mascot helps cheer from the sidelines as student-athletes compete in NCAA Division II team play.

NORTH DAKOTA

University of Mary

  • The University of Mary campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Cecilia

    Location: Bismarck, ND

  • Student Enrollment: 2872
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 688

The University of Mary’s campus is in a rural setting, just south of the state’s capitol. The school has a first year retention rate of 80%, and the most popular major is Business. The sports team is known as the Marauders, and their colors are orange and blue. Football, track, baseball, and wrestling are popular sports for students to cheer on.

Valley City State University

  • The City State University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user magicpiano

    Location: Valley City, ND

  • Student Enrollment: 1422
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 1014

VCSU is nestled into a forested hillside along the Sheyenne River with a main campus that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the four regional universities in North Dakota and offers more than 80 undergraduate programs with the most popular being Elementary Education, Business, and Wildlife Management. Twelve athletic teams make up the Vikings roster as they compete in the NAIA athletic circuit.

Mayville State University

  • A building on the Mayville State University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Ross Griff

    Location: Mayville, ND

  • Student Enrollment: 1110
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 1153

Situated in the eastern part of North Dakota, Mayville State provides a small, but urban, public school setting. Students are able to select from a list of 25 undergraduate majors. Dedication to personal service is their core value and campus members strive to foster partnerships with local, regional, and global communities. The MSU Comets consist of six athletic teams competing within NAIA.

NEBRASKA

Nebraska Wesleyan University

  • A building on the Nebraska Wesleyan University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Ali Eminov

    Location: Lincoln, NE

  • Student Enrollment: 2049
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 501

88% of the students on campus are undergraduates. Registered Nursing, Business, Biology, Social Work, and Psychology are the most popular majors on this campus. They are known as the Prairie Wolves, and their school colors are black and gold. Nebraska Wesleyan has an acceptance rate of 74%.

Doane University-Arts & Sciences

  • Winter at the Doane University-Arts & Sciences campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Ali Eminov

    Location: Crete, NE

  • Student Enrollment: 1057
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 635

In addition to their 40 undergraduate majors, Doane offers additional academic programs like the Honors Program, the Hansen Leadership Program, and learning communities. Prominent majors include Elementary Education, Business, and Biology. Doane provides its students a four year graduation guarantee so they can start their professional path on time. The 18 Tigers athletic programs compete in the Great Plains Athletic Conference of the NAIA.

University of Nebraska at Kearney

  • A building on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Ammodramus

    Location: Kearney, NE

  • Student Enrollment: 6747
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 636

Located in mid-Nebraska, UNK not only educates students from the region but also all 50 states and over 50 foreign countries. Students have access to over 120 undergraduate majors in addition to an Honors Program. Most popular majors include Business, Elementary Education, and Operations Management. As a fun fact, in 1910 the student body selected the antelope as the school mascot because “it symbolized strength, swiftness and the ability to adapt to adverse conditions.”

OHIO

Franciscan University of Steubenville

  • Location: Steubenville, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 2716
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 289

Fortitude and Prudence is the motto of this Catholic-affiliated university. Their school colors are the unique Vegas gold and forest green. There are several interesting people among the alumni, including royalty–Princess Alexandra and Prince Sebastien of Luxembourg both studied there. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Theological Studies is the most popular major.

John Carroll University

  • A building on the John Carroll University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user Wilson Delgado

    Location: University Heights, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 3673
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 336

Located just outside of Cleveland, OH, JCU is a Jesuit Catholic liberal arts university. With nearly 40 undergraduate majors, the most prominent are Speech Communication, Biology, and Accounting. Social justice and service is a core value and JCU has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for eight consecutive years. The Blue Streaks walk onto the field and court in their blue and gold as they compete against other NCAA Division III opponents.

Cedarville University

  • A view of a building on the Cedarville University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Jeremy Mikkola

    Location: Cedarville, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 3654
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 357

Conducted through a biblical worldview, Cedarville offers 130 programs of study with the most popular being Nursing, Mechanical Engineering, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Cedarville emphasizes faithfulness to a biblical-theological position in its daily chapel, which is the pulse of campus. The Yellow Jackets compete in both NCAA Division II and NAIA athletics and offers 16 different sport teams.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Augustana University

  • Winter at the Augustana University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Wikimedia Commons user AlexiusHoratius

    Location: Sioux Falls, SD

  • Student Enrollment: 1837
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 414

88% of the students on this campus are undergraduates. The average test scores of incoming freshmen are 23–29 for the ACT, and 1060–1300 for the SAT. Augustana has an acceptance rate of 69%. Most students come from the surrounding Midwestern states, primarily: South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

  • The Black Hills, where South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is located - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Elizabet Gojcoj (Note: Image is of Black Hills, not SDMT)

    Location: Rapid City, SD

  • Student Enrollment: 3230
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 610

With its location in the Black Hills, SDSMT started as a location for mining education but has since evolved to be a leader in science and engineering in the South Dakota region. Internships are a cornerstone of a Mines education and 75% of students experience a paid internship prior to graduation. Within steps of campus, students enjoy the tourist attractions that Rapid City offers.

Mount Marty College

  • A sign of Yankton, where Mount Marty College is located - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Jimmy Emerson, DVM

    Location: Yankton, SD

  • Student Enrollment: 1190
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 785

Mount Marty operates in the Roman Catholic Benedictine liberal arts tradition and offers over 20 majors. Most known for their health sciences fields, Nursing, Radiologic Technology, and Health Education are some of the most popular majors. The Lancers compete in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

WISCONSIN

Lawrence University

  • The Lawrence University campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user Roman Boed

    Location: Appleton, WI

  • Student Enrollment: 1557
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 175

Lawrence is both a liberal arts college as well as a conservatory of music. With such an artistic background, it should come as no surprise that Music Performance is the most popular major. They are known as the Vikings, and their school colors are navy and white. Fencing, ice hockey, and swimming are popular sports on campus.

Beloit College

  • Location: Beloit, WI

  • Student Enrollment: 1358
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 214

Founded even before Wisconsin was even a state, Beloit College has developed into a liberal arts institution focused on first-year initiatives and international education programs. The academics at Beloit are well-balanced and no major has more than 10% of graduate. However, the most popular are Psychology, Business, and Anthropology. An interesting fact about campus is that it is host to “20 conical, linear, and animal effigy mounds built between about AD 400 and 1200.”

Saint Norbert College

  • The Saint Norbert College campus - Hidden Midwest Gems

    Flickr user stnorbert

    Location: De Pere, WI

  • Student Enrollment: 2180
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
  • College Raptor Ranking: 315

Located along the Fox River, St. Norbert’s campus provides a residential liberal arts environment to its 2,100 students. Over 40 majors are offered with the most popular being Biology, Business, and Speech Communication. The bright school colors of green and yellow are easy to spot as they compete in NCAA Division III athletics.

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

College Raptor Staff

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