By Iris Stone
In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Vermont for 2016.
Believe it or not, approximately 75% of land in Vermont is covered by forests, making it one of the most foliage-dense states in the country. Vermont is also the United States’ leading producer of maple syrup! With all the time they must spend hanging out in the woods and eating waffles, you might not expect Vermont residents to have much time for college. Au contraire – Vermont has some some impressive options for higher education, including several (such as Marlboro, Castleton State, Green Mountain, Bennington, and Norwich) that offer innovative curricula like you won’t find elsewhere in New England – or even the United States.
And as you read through the 10 descriptions below, you’ll notice that in addition to their unique brand of progressive pedagogy, universities in Vermont also share an equal commitment to affordability and academic excellence, which is the very definition of “best value.”
Read more about the methodology we used for this article here.
10. Marlboro College
If you’re looking for a wild college experience on a sprawling campus with thousands of people, Marlboro is not the school for you. With a mere 500 undergrad and graduate students combined, this top college in Vermont is incredibly small – and intentionally so. Self-described as “an independent college for independent thinkers,” Marlboro sheds conventional thinking and traditional curricula in favor of a progressive, interdisciplinary education that emphasizes “intellectual candor.” Students work in a self-governing community and design their own courses with the help of advisors, combining established degree fields like Cultural History, Film/Video Studies, and Environmental Studies into an individualized concentration. The majority of classes take the form of small discussion-based seminars, one-to-one tutorials, and collaborative projects, an approach that is known to give students an edge in graduate school.
Net Price: $28,854/yr
9. Castleton State College
It can be difficult to determine what the “right size” is for a college, given that large universities often lack support but small schools are short on variety. Luckily, Castleton State College bucks the stereotypes in more ways that one, providing a cozy environment that features small class sizes and accessible professors as well as a diverse course selection and thriving international program. Nearly 40 majors – and just as many minors – will give you access to classes in Adventure Recreation, Photography, Multidisciplinary Studies, Ecological Studies, plus practically any other subject you could desire. If these courses don’t cut it, consider volunteering on an organic farm in another country, studying abroad in a “Cultural Immersion Experience,” or exploring American Indian culture through a “Semester in the Southwest.”
Net Price: $16,168/yr
8. Saint Michael’s College
Is Saint Michael’s really the “happiest college on Earth”? This top Vermont college claims its students rank first in cheer, and it’s not hard to see why. The 440-acre campus sits just outside of one of America’s best college towns, offering stunning views of Lake Champlain and the Vermont Green Mountains. SMC promotes Catholic values and a progressive academic philosophy, facilitating a “perspective-changing exploration” of the liberal arts. As a St. Mike’s student, you’ll feel unparalleled support from a mature group of professors and peers, all of whom are ready to help you think differently. Combine this with thought-provoking freshman seminars, rock climbing wilderness adventures, and active student-based social justice initiatives, and its no wonder SMC students are so successful – as evidenced by their impressive 75% graduation rate!
Net Price: $29,047/yr
7. Champlain College
Champlain College boasts numerous top rankings and accolades, including being dubbed “one of the best and most interesting schools” by Fiske Guide to Colleges and the “most innovative school in the North” by U.S. News. Why? Because Champlain has earned its spot as one of the best colleges in Vermont through a pioneering curriculum that combines the essential spirit of liberal arts learning with practical, career-oriented training. This inventive pedagogy can be seen in some of Champlain’s most popular interdisciplinary majors, like Broadcast and Streaming Media, Management of Creative Media, Computer Science and Innovation, and Game Art and Animation.
Net Price: $33,173/yr
6. Green Mountain College
The “green” in Green Mountain College’s title refers to more than its tree-lined walkways and open park spaces – it’s a reference to the school’s quintessential spirit, which prioritizes sustainability, love of nature, and respect for the environment above all. Every student at GMC kicks off their education with a sequence of core classes in “Environmental Liberal Arts” (ELA), which culminates in a project-based course that inspires students to “put sustainability into action.” Each of the 40+ majors and minors this nature-loving Vermont college offers is uniquely oriented toward environmental conscientiousness. You could major in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production, Wilderness and Outdoor Therapy, or Renewable Energy and Ecological Design, or “chart your own course” through a progressive self-designed program.
Net Price: $23,375/yr
5. Bennington College
Continuing the trend of universities in Vermont that march to the beat of their own drummer, Bennington College stands as one of the most progressive options for ambitious students. Bennington sets lofty goals for its students, asking them to “shape their own intellectual inquiries” and “discover the interconnection of things.” The school even requires all students to spend time each year at work in the real world, making Bennington one of the best universities in Vermont for experiential learners. For seven weeks each year, students take on positions in medical research, publishing, politics, and museum curating, among numerous other enticing fields. You could also earn experiential credit through study abroad programs, which are available on almost every continent (sorry, Antarctica)!
Net Price: $31,995/yr
4. College of St. Joseph
As far as colleges in Vermont go, St. Joseph is one of your more traditional options. A Catholic college with a “holistic student development program,” CSJ emphasizes sensible academics with immediate real-world applications. Academic programs span the arts and sciences, criminal justice, psychology and human services, business, and education, plus a graduate program in Physician Assisting and a new Pro-C.E.E.D. initiative that offers skills training for working professionals. St. Joseph also stands out as one of the most affordable colleges in Vermont, as well as one of the most selective – its 66% acceptance rate is the second lowest in the state!
Net Price: $15,402/yr
3. Norwich University
If you seek routine and discipline over liberalism and limitless expression, Norwich University will offer a welcome departure from the didactic philosophy of other Vermont colleges. Norwich is the oldest military college in the country, and it enforces militaristic values like honor, loyalty, and integrity through a rigorous academic curriculum. One of the best Vermont colleges in terms of selectivity (its 66% acceptance rate ties for 2nd place), Norwich welcomes both aspiring servicemen and civilians. But while they’re on campus, all students become members of the “Corp of Cadets,” wear uniforms, wake up early for physical training, and participate in daily ROTC drills.
Net Price: $27,429/yr
2. University of Vermont
No ranking of Vermont universities would be complete without the University of Vermont, the pride and joy of public education in the state. Touting a top 76% graduation rate and excellent 20-year return on investment ($300k+, according to PayScale), UVM is a major research institution with a proclivity for thinking big. Not only do UVM students have access to some of the most spectacular views of any college campus – the Adirondack and Green mountain ranges are both close by – but they also enjoy a visionary academic curriculum. This surprisingly cheap college in Vermont is especially notable for its undergraduate research department, which provides a plethora of scholarships, travel awards, internships, and “mini-grants” for inventive students who undertake innovative projects.
Net Price: $17,075/yr
1. Middlebury College
It’s indisputable that Middlebury College is one of the top universities in Vermont, but you might be surprised by just how easily it blows past the competition. Between its 94% graduation rate, 17% acceptance rate, and moderate net price, this Vermont college is a great example of great value in higher education. It has emerged as one of the premier choices for liberal arts students, thanks to a curriculum that prioritizes global thinking and life-long learning. Degree programs traverse the spectrum from African Studies to Russian, Biochemistry to Neuroscience, Film and Media Culture to International and Global Studies. And world travelers, take note: Middlebury enjoys a global presence and spearheads several multinational initiatives, including its world-class language schools and prestigious Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Net Price: $20,903/yr
This concludes our ranking of best value Vermont 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.