Updated December 13, 2022

Find the best value small college to earn your degree in English from this list of the top 15.

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By BVS Staff

From public relations to publishing, the world of English is an open book to job seekers. The ability to write and read passionately, critically, and precisely can be applied to fields like business, law, and entertainment.

Interested in starting the story of your English career? We've curated a list of the 15 best small colleges for English majors on a budget. To ensure that we're bringing you the best list possible, we've created a strict list of criteria. Each college on this list has the following:

  • Overall graduation rate of at least 50%
  • Minimum of three relevant programs for students seeking a bachelor's degree in English or a related area
  • Estimated annual cost of less than $33,000 a year (as reported by College Navigator)

The only way to figure out which college is the least expensive is the scroll all the way to #1.


Each of these top schools has a minimum of three relevant programs for students seeking a bachelor's degree in English or a related area (including but not limited to creative writing, literature, language arts, and professional writing). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 50%.

Of course, to be a best value, these top-ranked schools also have to demonstrate a genuine commitment to affordable education - which means meeting our net price requirements. All of the programs on this ranking have estimated annual costs (as reported on College Navigator) of less than $33,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for an English degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

For more information on the methodology, click here.

15. Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr, PA


At Bryn Mawr, advisors encourage English majors to design a course of study that's both personal and broad-reaching. Students at this top small school for English majors take classes in diverse genres to give themselves a wide-ranging understanding of literature and its cultural context. If you're hesitant about attending an all-women college, don't be: Bryn Mawr partners with three other schools in the area, giving you the chance to take classes at coed institutions. This unique partnership is especially useful for undergrads who want to earn a minor at one of the other schools in the Tri-College Consortium. For example, English majors can polish their degree and enhance their career prospects with a minor in Linguistics from Haverford College.

Net Price: $32,630/yr

14. Occidental College

Los Angeles, CA


Tapping into the current desire to move beyond the traditional English major canon, Occidental College is dedicated to studying the works of writers "previously excluded from traditional literary history." In practice, this means that you'll be required to take courses in "Emergent Literatures." For example, you might study the intersection of Bollywood cinema and 19th century Indian novels, or you could trace the inclusion of the racial "deviant" through various time periods. Thanks to Oxy's commitment to inclusivity, it's one of the best small colleges for an English degree that lets you study a truly diverse group of writers.

Net Price: $31,645/yr

13. Arcadia University

Glenside, PA


If you're entering college with a specific career goal in mind, you'll probably find the classes to support it at Arcadia. The school offers affordable college English programs focused on real-world jobs. For example, you can pair your degree with a certification in secondary education if you want to teach, or you might minor in professional writing if you want to hone your business writing skills. Regardless of which program you choose, you'll be encouraged to complete an off-campus professional internship, likely in nearby Philadelphia. Whether you want to intern at a law library or an organic grocery delivery service, you're sure to find something that interests you.

Net Price: $26,632/yr

12. Augsburg College

Minneapolis, MN


The English program at Augsburg is all about putting your communication skills to work — even before you graduate. This top college for English majors has a wealth of extracurricular opportunities for aspiring journalists, teachers, and creative writers. You might opt to become a tutor in the writing lab, helping other students fine-tune their assignments. You could write for the school's literary journal or student newspaper, or even produce stories for the student-run radio station. Pair this experience with one of the English major concentrations (like media studies or creative writing), and you'll graduate with a resume that's sure to impress potential employers.

Net Price: $25,760/yr

11. Florida Southern College

Lakeland, FL


Frequently rated one of the best regional schools, Florida Southern earns a spot on this college English programs ranking thanks to its innovative and engaging teaching methods. If you're bored by traditional lectures, take heart — English classes at Florida Southern include workshops, "digital storytelling," field trips, and more. Plus, you can take some truly unique courses, like Ghosts, Goblins, and Other Supernatural Creatures in Literature; Comedy! The Joy of Laughter; or the geographically appropriate Literature of Florida. You might choose to join the Undead Poets' Society, where a collaborative workshopping group for creative writers. And all this comes with a great net price and a beautiful location in sunny Florida.

Net Price: $24,589/yr

10. Trinity College

Hartford, CT


Film buffs and aspiring movie critics, take note: Trinity is one of the few schools on this list to offer a concentration in literature and film. This unique program requires participants to become well-versed not just in literary theory, but also in cinema history and interpretation. You'll complete your degree with a capstone thesis or seminar, with the option to pursue an honors degree if you qualify. If you're not interested in film, Trinity offers alternative affordable college English programs, including concentrations in creative writing or literature. All concentrations require you to take "research-intensive" courses, meaning you'll graduate with sharp research and analytical abilities.

Net Price: $23,980/yr

9. La Sierra University

Riverside, CA


This California-based Christian college for English majors offers an emphasis in either literature or creative writing, which you can pair with an optional minor in drama (or any minor from another department). And if the cost of college concerns you, La Sierra offers a writing scholarship for high schoolers. First prize is worth $10,000, while second nets you $5,000. Applying for this scholarship is a great way to show your interest in the English program, demonstrate your exceptional writing skills, and offset the cost of tuition. Once you're on campus, you'll have the opportunity to attend Natures, La Sierra's annual interdisciplinary humanities conference where presenters share papers related to the year's theme (typically something related to the environment).

Net Price: $23,819/yr

8. Augustana College

Rock Island, IL


If you're interested in publishing, move Augustana to the top of your list. It's one of the best small schools for English majors who crave hands-on experience in the industry, thanks to East Hall Press, the school's own publishing house. Your work at East Hall begins by enrolling in a 200-level book publishing class taught by the same professor who runs the press. You'll learn the ins and outs of publishing as you contribute to East Hall's work, which focuses on local interest topics. Augustana's English majors also have the opportunity to produce or write for the student-run art and literary magazine and to attend lectures by renowned authors.

Net Price: $22,715/yr

7. Wesleyan University

Middletown, CT


Wesleyan's English majors are spoiled for choice when it comes to concentrations: they can choose from American literature; British literature; race and ethnicity; theory and literary forms; and creative writing. These options are notable because of their specificity and originality; few other institutions on this college English programs ranking have such granular programs. The race and ethnicity concentration studies "the representation of racial and ethnic difference in literature and popular culture," a topic that's particularly resonant today. Thanks to these focused areas of study, Wesleyan is a great affordable small college for an English degree that you can customize to match your specific interest area.

Net Price: $22,257/yr

6. Hamilton College

Clinton, NY


Hamilton's top college English programs seek to place the study of literature in a broader context, and this is especially true of its comparative literature program, which can be completed as a minor or a concentration within the major. Participants benefit from a highly flexible program of study, choosing from courses in myriad languages and types of art. Whether you choose comparative literature or one of the other focus areas (like linguistics or creative writing), you'll benefit from small classes, a 9:1 student-faculty ratio, and a focus on idea-based discussions rather than lectures.

Net Price: $21,907/yr

5. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA


The English department at Swarthmore is more like a community: Potential English majors are welcomed with open arms thanks to a unique mentorship program, where upper-level students offer advice and encouragement to freshmen and sophomores. When it's time to declare your major, you might opt for the creative writing program, a standout on this college English programs ranking. Each creative writing professor also specializes in a field of historical literature, and the available courses reflect this pairing. You could take Grendel's Workshop from a poet and medievalist or study Writing Nature with a fiction writer who specializes in the Romantics. If practicality is more your speed, check out the education certification, which prepares you for a career in teaching English.

Net Price: $21,580/yr

4. Chatham University

Pittsburgh, PA


Chatham is the smallest school on this list, with just over 1,000 undergrads. But don't let its size fool you; Chatham offers a robust list of minors within the English major. This affordable small college for an English degree boasts programs like environmental writing, a minor you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Participants learn practical skills (like how to distill complex scientific issues into comprehensible, journalistic writing) while diving into complex topics, like how environmental changes affect women in particular. Another attractive offering at Chatham is the BFA in Creative Writing; most similar colleges only offer a BA in this field. Qualified students can even go on to pursue an MFA at Chatham, completing it in an additional year.

Net Price: $21,066/yr

3. Colby College

Waterville, ME


One of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the country, Colby has more than 200 years experience of providing a stellar education to its student body. Today, this top small school for English majors shines for its impressive graduation rate and its dedication to offering research opportunities to undergrads. It also offers a unique combined major program, where you pair an English degree with one in the Classics. You'll study an ancient language (Greek or Latin) for six semesters while taking classes in the English department. A similar pairing (English and Classical Civilizations) nixes the language requirement in favor of a broader study of the Classics, guided by a departmental advisor.

Net Price: $18,908/yr

2. Christian Brothers University

Memphis, TN


At Christian Brothers, undergrads benefit from a beautiful wooded campus just east of downtown Memphis, Tennessee. It's one of the best colleges for English majors thanks to a low net price and attractive programs — whether you want to study English simply to enjoy literature or want to hone your writing skills for a specific profession, CBU makes it possible. The English for Corporate Communications major stands out on this list thanks to the broad range of skills program members learn. Whether you want to write advertising copy or move into a career in nonprofit management, the ECC program is a great choice. You can even pair it with a professional writing certificate by taking just a few more courses.

Net Price: $15,556/yr

1. Madonna University

Livonia, MI


One of the few Catholic schools on this college English programs ranking, Madonna University represents an opportunity for students of faith to combine their spirituality with their studies. The school's Franciscan background manifests in a service-based approach that highlights global citizenship, and the English/Journalism degree helps English majors contribute to the greater good. You'll learn how to craft a compelling, fact-driven story while studying the broader impact of literature. If journalism doesn't appeal to you, Madonna also offers degrees in Professional and Technical Writing, Language Arts Education, Journalism and Public Relations, and a straight English program.

Net Price: $13,710/yr

Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable college English programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Center.

See also: Top 10 Cheap Online Master's in English and Creative Writing Degree Programs 2019


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