For our inaugural rankings, the research team at Nursing Schools Almanac collected data on over 3,200 nursing schools and campuses throughout the United States. We included the following states within our Great Lakes rankings: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We evaluated each nursing school in the region on three dimensions:
- The institution’s academic prestige and perceived value
- The breadth and depth of nursing programs offered
- Student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure exam
We then combined these assessments into an overall score and ranked the schools accordingly. For a detailed description of our assessment methodology and dimension weights, please see here.
#1: University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) offers the #7 master of science in nursing (MSN) program in the country according to U.S. News & World Report, with nursing administration, adult-gerontology, and nursing informatics specialties all ranked in the top ten nationally. Bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) graduates from UMSN display exceptional NCLEX pass rates, as high as 97% in some recent quarters. In addition to a wide range of nursing courses, the school provides innovative opportunities like its Global Health Concentration. Students benefit from state-of-the-art clinical simulation labs and partnerships with some of the best preceptors in the country.
#2: Rush University | Chicago, IL
Since its inception, well over 7,000 baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral students have graduated from Rush University’s College of Nursing. The college currently maintains a graduate enrollment of approximately 1,000, of whom 350 are full-time students. Rush’s direct-entry MSN students have passed the NCLEX exam at an exemplary rate of 97% over the past five years. The Rush University Medical Center provides a rich environment where students of nursing, medicine, and allied health sciences learn in an interdisciplinary and dynamic setting.
#3: Ohio State University | Columbus, OH
Designated a Center of Excellence™ (COE) by the National League for Nursing (NLN), Ohio State’s College of Nursing has educated over 12,000 nurses since its inception. The college places a strong emphasis on research and patient-centered practice across its various program offerings. Ohio State’s online MSN is currently ranked #4 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Several of its offline programs have garnered top-30 rankings, including the traditional MSN, nursing-midwifery MSN, and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). The school graduates 200-230 students annually from its four-year BSN program, with excellent first-time NCLEX pass rates of 93-96%.
#4: University of Illinois at Chicago | Chicago, IL
Educating a diverse student body of more than 1,300 nursing students, UIC College of Nursing is consistently in the top tier of colleges for research funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It also has three specialty programs ranked in the top ten nationally by U.S. News & World Report: family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, and nursing administration. The college offers nursing degrees and certifications across five regional campuses. Nursing students have access to seven health science colleges at UIC, enabling enhanced interprofessional classroom and clinical opportunities.
#5: Indiana University School of Nursing | Indianapolis, IN
Indiana University School of Nursing (IUSON) was the first college in the history of the NLN to hold two simultaneous designations as a COE. The school also receives well over $1 million annually in NIH funding for its nursing research. Almost 40% of Indiana’s baccalaureate-prepared professional nurses graduate from IUSON each year, with consistently strong NCLEX pass rates of 88-96%. Students benefit from IUSON’s active partnerships with 60+ healthcare providers in Indiana, including five well-known facilities directly on campus. Study abroad courses and bi-national exchanges are also encouraged.
#6: Ball State University | Muncie, IN
Ball State University’s nursing department focuses intensely on the use of information technology. Designated a Center of Excellence™ by the NLN, Ball State’s MSN program is the 11th-largest such online offering in the country. In fact, the department archives all graduate courses for easy access. The nursing department graduates approximately 160 four-year BSN candidates each year, with an impressive NCLEX pass rate of ~93% over the past eight years. Nursing students can use Ball State’s recently updated Simulation and Information Technology Center on campus.
#7: Case Western Reserve University | Cleveland, OH
The Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University prides itself on innovation. The school was among the first in the country to offer several nursing programs, including acute care nurse practitioner, gerontological nursing, and doctor of nursing practice. It is also one of few private research universities to offer both a traditional four-year BSN degree and a direct-entry MSN pathway. Case Western students benefit from their proximity to University Circle, a 550-acre scientific hub with numerous premier healthcare organizations. The school also has seven centers of excellence for nursing opportunities and experiences.
#8: University of Wisconsin - Madison | Madison, WI
Established in 1924, the UW Madison School of Nursing enrolls more than 500 students across its undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. The school educates ~150 BSN students annually, with robust NCLEX pass rates of 85-93% each year. Students have access to leading facilities in Madison for clinical practice and research. The school’s new Signe Skott Cooper Hall for nursing has state-of-the-art simulation labs and research facilities. Adjacent is the Health Sciences Learning Center that brings together students in nursing, medicine, and pharmacy.
#9: University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh | Oshkosh, WI
Graduating its first class of 22 in 1970, the UW Oshkosh College of Nursing has since graduated approximately 6,000 nurses. It offers students a range of undergraduate and graduate programs, including an innovative, predominantly online accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN). Each year, approximately 200 BSN graduates from the school pass the NCLEX exam at a stellar rate of 92-97%. UW Oshkosh’s clinical nurse leader (CNL) graduate program has also maintained a stellar 100% pass rate on the Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC) certification exam since 2009. The school provides students evidence-based hands-on clinical training, with opportunities for international study in South America and India.
#10: University of St. Francis | Joliet, IL
USF’s Cecily & John Leach College of Nursing draws on its Catholic heritage of community service. The school offers a broad range of baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral nursing degrees, including a popular RN-to-BSN bridge program for existing nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or hospital diploma. The school has a small graduating class of 60-90 traditional BSN students who consistently perform very well on the NCLEX licensure exam. Indeed, USF’s first-time NCLEX pass rate in 2015 was a remarkable 97%. Students have access to a virtual simulation laboratory, and they can take advantage of acute and long-term care clinical experiences in a variety of community settings.