By Iris Stone
There are thousands of colleges in the United States, and yet there are usually only a small number that are a good fit for any one student. That’s because most students have strong preferences about a variety of factors related to their college experience, from campus size to the selection of majors offered. And they should! Where you go to school is an important decision, so it’s worth it to be picky and take the time to make the right decision.
This ranking is for students who want to attend a women’s college – and that doesn’t necessarily mean just women! There are several women’s universities in the United States that now admit men, although admittedly female students still make up a vast majority of the membership.
Women’s colleges exist all over the country, and they span a wide range of religious affiliations, academic philosophies, and price ranges. If you’re concerned about sticking to a budget while you pursue your studies, this list is for you.
We used College Navigator – a division of the National Center for Education Statistics – to populate a spreadsheet of all the single-sex, women-focused universities in the United States and then picked the 30 with the lowest net prices. In other words, the 30 colleges below feature a combination of affordable tuition rates, low fees, and supportive financial aid packages that distinguish them from all the other women’s colleges in the country. And as an added plus, their academic offerings and campus resources cater to the needs of female students who desire a fun, secure, community-oriented environment.
30. St. Catherine University
St. Paul, Minnesota
St. Catherine University is the largest Catholic women’s college in the nation, with a 110-acre wooded campus near the bustling Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota (2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105). Forbes ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul the #1 safest place to live in the U.S. in 2009 and U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges ranked St. Kate’s #15 among Midwest Regional Universities in 2017.
St. Kate’s educates women to lead and influence, and was founded in 1905 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Integrating liberal arts and professional education within the Catholic tradition, the University is committed to developing ethical, reflective and socially responsible women leaders. St. Kate’s president is 1976 alumna ReBecca Koenig Roloff.
In 1937, St. Kate’s became the first Catholic college in the nation to be awarded a chapter of the prestigious liberal arts honor society Phi Beta Kappa. Students can choose from associate, bachelor and advanced degree programs in four schools: the School of Business and Professional Studies, the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, and the School of Social Work.
St. Kate’s offers nearly 60 fields of study, as well as another 35-plus through the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities consortium. The most popular majors are nursing, public health, social work, business administration, psychology, and exercise and sport science. The average traditional undergraduate class size is 17, with an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Enrollment is nearly 5,000 with about 70% of first-years living on campus.
The Wildcats compete in 12 NCAA Division III sports: basketball, cross country, dance, golf, ice hockey, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis and volleyball. Students interested in study abroad can pick from more than 250 programs in over 50 countries. Want to volunteer? There are 99 service-learning courses at St. Kate’s. Plus, plenty of opportunities to intern in the Twin Cities. With 40 nonprofits offering semester-long, paid internships through St. Kate’s Career Ready Internship Program, it’s no surprise that 93% of Katies are either working, volunteering or attending grad school six months after graduation!
29. Barnard College
New York, New York
Located in the heart of The Big Apple, Barnard College promises excitement and culture along with your liberal arts education. Many of the students and alumnae at this top women’s college enjoy fame in the arts and elsewhere. In fact Ariane Rinehart, one of this year’s graduates, played Eve in Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation of the biblical story Noah. You could follow in her footsteps in the Film Studies Department, or take your life in a completely different direction with the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program. You’ll find a bright future at Barnard College for Women.
Net Price: $23,852/yr
28. Stephen’s College
The motto at Stephen’s College is “Dream Up.” What kind of future could you dream up if given the tools to make it happen? Founded in 1833, this women’s college is proud to be the second oldest in the nation. With that much history behind the doors, it’s no wonder students of this college find success within the creative arts and sciences upon graduating. The school is host to several events throughout the year, such as the Citizen Jane Film Festival. Campus life is always entertaining in Columbia, and Stephen’s even has a pet program for those who want to keep a small dog or cat on campus.
Net Price: $23,235/yr
27. Meredith College
Raleigh, North Carolina
Touted as one of the best women’s colleges, Meredith sets itself apart with the school’s Experiential Learning program, which is incorporated into many of the school’s diverse programs of study, such as Environmental Sustainability. You can choose from nine pre-professional programs, including Pre-Law, Pre-Optometry, and Pre-Veterinary. Minors, such as Fashion Design, will allow your creative juices to flow onto the runway and possibly spill into a career in the fashion design and merchandising industry. As one of the most affordable women’s colleges in the nation, Meredith can bring your future within reach for a surprisingly small investment.
Net Price: $22,911/yr
26. Smith College
“Build Bridges, Not Fences” was the theme for the 2015 Smith College Commencement ceremony (its 137th) and epitomizes the attitude of this prestigious, top women’s college. Smith’s aim is to develop your mental acuity in a wide range of experiences, and special concentrations – like Sustainable Agriculture – can help you build a focus around a particular area of interest. Opportunities abound for your knowledge and experience to expand with study abroad programs as Dance and Theatre Traditions (taught in Brazil) as well as an internship to the United Nations in Geneva. Embrace the challenges of the world-class faculty at Smith and find the route to your future.
25. Chatham University
The Princeton Review lists Chatham University as one of the Top 50 Green Colleges in the United States. This is not surprising, as one of their core tenets is sustainability – not only of the environment as a whole, but also of the life of your career in general. While Chatham is historically one of the best women’s colleges, as of the Fall 2015 academic year Chatham’s undergraduate programs will be open to men as well, making this top institution completely coeducational. The student-to-faculty ratio here is a mere 10:1, providing uncompromised one-on-one attention in all of your studies. (See: Scholarships in Pennsylvania)
Net Price: $21,602/yr
24. Notre Dame of Maryland University
Six women, known as the School Sisters of Notre Dame, came together to establish a university for women in 1873. For more than 120 years, their vision has remained ingrained in the doctrines of the faculty at this top women’s college. Notre Dame of Maryland was the first Catholic school for women to award a 4-year bachelors degree. NDM has always been at the forefront of anticipating changing trends in education and responding appropriately with cutting edge programs and delivery methods. Plus, Notre Dame of Maryland University boasts over 30 majors and four different schools of concentration, suggesting that despite its gender exclusivity, the school is completely inclusive in its academic coverage.
Net Price: $21,265/yr
23. Hollins University
Are you a woman who’s going places? Then Hollins University is for you. Established in 1842, Hollins University has 27 undergraduate majors for women and eight co-ed graduate programs. And the numbers don’t lie: a small student population of 750 means that the atmosphere is quite homey; 99% of the full-time faculty hold the highest degree within their specific field, and within a year of graduation 97% of students are either employed or have begun attending graduate school. But Hollins isn’t all work and no play – just for fun, every fall on a random day the school closes for Tinker Day, during which both students and faculty climb Mt. Tinker in outrageous costumes and engage in a fried chicken picnic at the summit.
Net Price: $21,210/yr
22. Bay Path University
Where do you see your path leading? Bay Path University can lead you down the road to your career. BPU has programs for high school students, first time college freshman, and even those returning to finish a degree. This cheap women’s college is also home to the very first all-women, completely online accredited degree program. While BPU is a women’s college, they do offer graduate and certificate programs for both men and women. Curiosity, leadership, and desire are just some of the essential qualities that an education from Bay Path will instill in you.
Net Price: $21,087/yr
21. Agnes Scott College
Named after the mother of one of the school’s original primary benefactors, Agnes Scott College has been serving up superior education since 1887. Located in downtown Decatur just outside of metro Atlanta, this affordable women’s college has 34 majors and 31 minors programs to offer. The liberal arts objective exceeds the demand for graduates who will be able to meet the ever-changing landscape of today’s (and tomorrow’s) technological and social forces. In a special ceremony at Orientation, freshman students sign the Honor Pledge, a tradition dating back more than 100 years, that states she accepts the responsibility of upholding the philosophical doctrine of the Agnes Scott community.
Net Price: $19,902/yr
20. Bennett College
Greensboro, North Carolina
“Whatever profession you enter, become an expert in it,” spoke the keynote speaker at the 2015 Commencement ceremony at Bennet College. As a United Methodist-centered institution, Bennett believes that your education should be grounded in humanitarian efforts and it consistently strives to meet that goal. The credo for Bennett, “Your Purpose is Evolving,” speaks volumes to the amount of preparation this top women’s college will provide you to help you meet the expectations of an ever-changing society. Undergraduate majors and minors are divided into three divisions: Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, and Natural and Behavioral Sciences/Mathematics. And although you may covet your summer vacation, you might want to consider summer courses – you could snag a spot for as much as 80% off regular tuition!
Net Price: $19,532/yr
19. Mary Baldwin College
On a campus with a main building that resembles the White House in both beauty and stature, you’ll know immediately upon arrival what the meaning is of MBC’s confident slogan: Boldly Baldwin. A gem among cheap women’s colleges, Mary Baldwin offers study opportunities in such concentrations as Education, Health Science, and even Shakespeare. The campus is within walking distance of downtown Staunton, which has numerous quaint shops and local eateries that have earned it a reputation as one of the best small towns in the nation. The college’s unique blend of leadership and service intertwined with traditional academic courses will equip you with all the confidence you need to make a difference after graduation.
Net Price: $19,465/yr
18. Cedar Crest College
Cedar Crest College for Women understands that students are not preparing just for a career in the subject they are studying, but that those students-turned-graduates must be ready to participate in a global community, enriching not only the community but the life of the graduate and those around her. Cedar Crest is in the business of creating leaders, and with the motto “Learn More, Achieve More, Be More!” it is no surprise that, while academics are the core of your education, CCC also knows that nourishment of the mind, body, and soul simultaneously makes for the most well-rounded graduate and participant in society.
Net Price: $19,225/yr
17. Wellesley College
Do you place limitations on yourself, your goals, or what you think you can accomplish in this world? Wellesley College for Women will challenge your own perception of your capabilities while supporting an attitude that you can achieve anything if you truly commit to the process. According to the school’s site, you will be subjected to “rigorous, probing inquiry, and creative, cross-discipline thinking.” A unique aspect of this best women’s college is that students have access to areas of the school that are beyond the scope of learners at most universities, including the Board of Trustees, faculty search committees, and even school-wide strategic planning sessions.
Net Price: $18,998/yr
16. Carlow University
Do you want to be challenged both inside and outside the classroom? Carlow University, formerly Mount Mercy College, strives to recognize what make each individual student “tick,” in an effort to create an individualized experience. This is based on the belief that judgment, leadership, analysis, decision-making, and communication skills are not necessarily inborn, but rather gained through diligent study. CU encourages students to become well-rounded, but that won’t stop you from gaining expertise in one of the university’s numerous degree programs, including Forensic Accounting, Theology, or Social Work. While traditionally a women’s college, Carlow also accepts male students and offers a total of 8 sports for student-athletes (6 female, 2 male).
Net Price: $18,703/yr
15. Converse College
Spartanburg, South Carolina
During a time when the cost of education is skyrocketing, Converse College brings a refreshing attitude to the table. In response to student reports regarding their financial struggles, CC reduced its tuition by a remarkable 43%, making it one of the most affordable women’s colleges in America. It’s also one of the top schools in the region, and publications like U.S. News and Washington Monthly agree. The school’s motto of “Voice. Value. Vision.” speaks to the heart of why this school is so popular among its student body. Arts are also very important at Converse – The Petrie School of Music and the Lawson Academy teach voice and dance respectively, preparing students for careers in a variety of creative fields. (See: Scholarships in South Carolina)
Net Price: $18,633/yr
14. Midway College
Midway College for Women was founded in 1847 with the distinct goal of serving orphaned and disadvantaged women who would not otherwise have been able to obtain an education. Over the years the institution evolved from a high school to a junior college, eventually earning status as a 4-year college and finally rebranding itself as Midway University. As a results-oriented institution and one of the top women’s colleges available, Midway offers a range of majors in humanities, science, and pre-professional programs and keeps diligent records of its students’ on-course completion rates. Impressively, all of Midway’s reports indicate completion rates of 70% or above.
Net Price: $18,624/yr
13. College of Saint Mary
College of Saint Mary is another one of the top women’s colleges, available to students who seek single-sex education, offering programs in five different fields: Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, Health & Human Services (check out the 5-year Pre-Physician Assistant-Human Biology major program!), and Legal Studies. On-campus students will delight in the updated and spacious student residence halls, and with more than 20 organizations and various activities, you’re sure to find something to occupy your time when not studying. The college also offers a unique service for single mothers called “Single Parent Success,” which provides support in the way of childcare, life skills workshops, and healthcare resources.
Net Price: $18,388/yr
12. College of Saint Elizabeth
Morristown, New Jersey
College of Saint Elizabeth was founded on the principle that no one should forego an education because of poverty. If your heart is with those who are less fortunate, an education at one of the nation’s best women’s colleges may be just what you need. This school will help you develop your leadership qualities in a holistic environment, fostering your spirit of social responsibility with such concentrations as Human and Social Development and Health Sciences and Administration, which offers a commendable R.N. to B.S.N. program. The Center for Volunteerism and Service Learning helps students tap into their passion for civic engagement, and to date their programs have raised more than $30,000 for charitable causes.
Net Price: $18,227/yr
11. Judson College
The Sophomore Class President from the Class of 1940 touts Judson College as the “complete, modern educational system…backed for over a century by traditions…blended with the friendly atmosphere of Southern culture.” And true to form, Judson College provides a picturesque Southern backdrop that will provide the perfect environment for your studies. Its academic commitment has earned it a rank in the top 10% of scores on the National Survey of Student Engagement, and students enjoy comprehensive programs across more than 20 subject areas. Faith is also a big part of life at this cheap women’s college, which makes revitalizing your spiritual side all the more affordable!
Net Price: $17,329/yr
10. Columbia College
Columbia, South Carolina
The anthem of Columbia College is “You’re On Your Way,” and nothing illustrates this greater than the varied opportunities offered at this affordable women’s college. Develop your inner leader within the Institute for Leadership & Professional Excellence by taking part in career coaching, job shadowing, or advising. But if these on-campus opportunities don’t excite you, maybe study abroad is more your speed; you could practice your language skills in Europe; spend a semester in the nation’s capital, or take a trip to Chicago with the model United Nations! Back on campus, there are plenty of other ways to get involved. Communications students in particular will enjoy working for the school newspaper, The Postscript, or the college’s annual literary publication, The Criterion.
Net Price: $16,360/yr
9. Wesleyan College
Wesleyan College was a pioneer in the field of women’s education, and in fact was the first college in the world to open with the intent to grant degrees only to women. Today they continue to put women first in more ways than one, and their, “First for Women” philosophy makes them one of the top schools in the region – and also one of the most affordable women’s colleges in Georgia. Women come from all over the world to study Early Childhood Education, Engineering, Neuroscience, and more, and every program employees 100% full-time faculty with terminal degrees. And if you’re looking to fill time during the summer, join the summer camp staff and make money and have fun at the same time! (See: Best Value Schools STEM Scholarship for Women)
Net Price: $16,353/yr
8. Cottey College
Many of today’s best women’s colleges also have coeducational programs; not Cottey College. One of Cottey’s core tenets is that the entire campus is for women only. Cottey College stands by its approach to women, advocating distraction-free environments that eliminate competition and work toward true engagement and cooperation in the learning process. The sense of camaraderie and inclusiveness Cottey students feel also enables them to take on leadership roles when they would not have otherwise. Find your own niche in programs such as International Business, International Relations, or Environmental Studies. When you’re not studying, the impeccable on-campus suites provide a comfortable a comfortable spot to relax and feel at home – even if you’ve traveled across the country to attend CC.
Net Price: $16,073/yr
7. Salem College
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The origins of Salem College trace back to 1766, when a branch of Presbyterians, the Moravians, settled the village of Salem. They opened a school for girls in 1772 with the premise that girls deserve the right to an education comparable to that given to men. These noble roots continue to fuel Salem’s genuine commitment to women’s education and support in the career world. One perfect example is the Salem Signature; this four-year program focuses on “self-exploration,” giving you space to identify your own unique strengths and interests while making the most of your education at this cheap women’s college.
Net Price: $16,068/yr
6. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana
Starting in 2015, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is officially coeducational, but the college has nonetheless remained true to its original credo: to develop empowered graduates who equally value intellect, spirituality, and ambition. Now both women and men can benefit from a program that will both challenge and stretch their imaginations, all while holding true to the traditions of Catholic faith. This liberal arts school offers more than 25 majors, several traditional celebrations throughout the year, as well as an on-campus church and ministry program. If this sounds inspirational to you, come out to The Woods to see if this school is right for you.
Net Price: $15,685/yr
5. Alverno College
Alverno College understands that when you enroll in college, you’re not looking just for the end result – after all, a diploma is just that. Rather, Alverno supports students’ desire to embrace all the challenges and memories that accompany a collegiate experience. Undergraduate programs are for women only and offer programs in Behavioral Science, Nursing, and many more areas. AC also offers online and evening courses for busy students and is adding new programs all the time – starting in the Fall of 2015, Communications will also be an option for undergrads. And campus living has limitless perks, including numerous student organizations and 46 acres of space to roam at your leisure.
Net Price: $15,478/yr
4. Brenau University
When you think “complete college experience,” what types of qualities run through your mind? Expanding your view of the world? Understanding the beauty in math and science? Perhaps developing your imagination and creativity? These focuses and more are the core tenets of Brenau University. At Brenau, the idea is that education is multi-dimensional and should not be limited to the classroom. For example, you could get course credit by studying abroad deep in the Yucatan forest, speaking the language, researching zoology, and moving closer to graduation all at the same time. And Brenau doesn’t just cater to women in terms of enrollment – it also offers degree programs that support female-specific education. For example, the Leadership Certificate Program combines gender studies and leadership skills in a manner than can empower you in any career path you choose.
Net Price: $15,392/yr
3. Trinity Washington University
Washington, District of Columbia
Trinity Washington University is steadfastly committed to both education and tradition, and uses both as a way to carve out a unique name for itself. Each year on campus TWU students participate in Class Colors and Class Days, which pair “sister classes” together and provide a framework for group activities throughout the year. In the tradition of keeping students mentally and physically fit, the school’s Health and Wellness Center offers medical and counseling services for students, as well as workout facilities. Trinity is also one of the only schools in the nation to offer a Communications degree in Journalism and Media Studies.
Net Price: $14,928/yr
2. Ursuline College
Pepper Pike, Ohio
Ursuline College was the very first college for women in the state of Ohio and takes a progressive approach to women’s education – at UC, students feel empowered to use their vision, values, and voice to fuel their education. Between the school’s four main colleges (Arts & Sciences, Nursing, Professional Studies, and Graduate Studies) you have your choice of more than two dozen majors, from Art History to Sport Management. Although founded as a women’s college, Ursuline’s undergraduate population is 9% male, and students of both genders can enjoy internships, student organizations, and competitive athletic teams.
Net Price: $14,815/yr
1. Mount Mary University
Mount Mary University earns the top spot on our ranking as the most affordable women’s college in the United States. With a net price of less than $14k a year, you might think you’ll have to sacrifice some perks to attend MMU. But on the contrary, Mount Mary has the same breadth and depth of academic programs on offer at other top schools, from Biology to Social Work. Certificate programs in such areas as Art Therapy, Fashion Design, and Theology can help you dive deeper into your favorite areas of study. Campus events are also very popular with students, such as the Starving Artists’ Show, Weeks of Welcome, and numerous Blue Angel athletic games.
Net Price: $13,711/yr
You may also like:
- Guide to STEM Careers for Women
- 50 Best Value Colleges for Homeschoolers
- What are the Benefits of Attending a Women’s College?
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Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Her interests actually span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist! Check out her Google+ Profile.