Updated November 29, 2022

Find the best small colleges for a history degree at a competitive price point.

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By BVS Staff

July 2020

Welcome to our ranking of the 25 best small colleges for history majors on a budget.


Each of these top schools offers at least two majors (or at least two concentrations within one major) for students seeking a bachelor's degree in history (which also includes programs in public history, American and European studies, and ancient history). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 55%. 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 $24,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable college for a history degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

For more information on the methodology, click here.

#1 Berea College Berea, KY
#2 Johnson University Knoxville, TN
#3 Amherst College Amherst, MA
#4 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
#5 Pomona College Claremont, CA
#6 Reed College Portland, OR
#7 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
#8 Union College Schenectady, NY
#9 Morningside College Sioux City, IA
#10 Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

  1. Berea College

    Berea, KY



    Given its location in Kentucky, you might not be surprised that Berea College offers a degree in Appalachian Studies. Not only does this program consider cultural issues specific to the area, but it considers Appalachia within a global context by studying other highland regions. With a library, gallery, and cultural events housed in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, you'll have a dedicated space for pursuing your work. And you can't beat the cost of this top small college history degree: thanks to a generous endowment and skillful financial management, your tuition will be almost entirely covered. In fact, Berea's net price is by far the lowest on this list.

    Net Price: $3,125/yr

  2. Johnson University

    Knoxville, TN



    Nestled in the foothills of Tennessee's beautiful Smoky Mountains, Johnson University is one of the best small colleges for history majors who want to incorporate their Christian faith into their studies. Case in point: you can choose a Church History concentration within the major. This option focuses on Christian church history from the first century to the modern day and includes a foreign and/or biblical language requirement (Greek is a popular choice). If you want to study church history but prefer to place it within a broader context, you might opt for the general history concentration, which includes classes in American, church, and world history.

    Net Price: $15,458/yr

  3. Amherst College

    Amherst, MA



    While most of the best undergraduate history programs require a writing-intensive senior thesis, Amherst has an alternative option that will appeal to students who'd rather think out loud than put pen to paper. Those who opt for the capstone project will write a shorter research paper and then give a 10-minute presentation to explain their work. Attended by faculty and upper-level students alike, presentations must explain the research question, detail a specific research methodology, and of course share important conclusions from the work. You'll also submit a short reflection on the project in which you can offer alternative approaches or imagine how - given the appropriate time and resources - you might expand your research to cover more ground.

    Net Price: $16,861/yr

  4. University of St Francis

    Joliet, IL



    Liberal arts majors often face skeptical relatives who don't believe they'll find a job after graduation. But the University of St. Francis can help allay those fears with a reassuring statistic: around 90% of the school's history majors are employed or enrolled in post-grad studies within six months of graduation. As you attend this affordable college for a history degree, you'll learn both historical research methodology and the broader skills that make you a solid communicator, a skilled problem-solver, and a valued employee. Plus, a foreign language requirement will provide another skill that looks great on a resume.

    Net Price: $17,616/yr

  5. Pomona College

    Claremont, CA



    Like many other schools on this top history degrees ranking, Pomona seniors must complete a seminar and research-driven thesis. But what helps Pomona stand out is its commitment to funding innovative — and very specific — student research programs. For example, the Iberian Research Grant funds one lucky student's summer research project in Spain or Portugal, while the Latin American History Research Grants fund short trips for multiple students who want to conduct research in the Caribbean or Latin America. Thanks to the specificity of these programs, undergrads who have highly-focused and/or niche interests enjoy a real chance to earn grant money in support of their ideas.

    Net Price: $18,423/yr

  6. Reed College

    Portland, OR



    Reed approaches academics differently from many of the other schools on this list. First, rather than offering pre-set interdisciplinary majors, Reed encourages students to develop their own programs of study by combining the topics they love most. The school also forgoes the thesis-driven senior project common to many other top small college history degrees. Instead, you'll complete the Junior Qualifying Exam, or the Qual. To complete the Qual, you have a week to read an assigned article (typically 30 pages or more in length), then write a 1,200-word essay analyzing it as a work of scholarship and assessing its arguments. It's a unique way to demonstrate your skills in both evaluating primary sources and placing them in a larger historical context.

    Net Price: $19,192/yr

  7. Middlebury College

    Middlebury, VT



    If your goal is to attend a top college for a history degree that gives you real-world experience, Middlebury could be a solid choice. The school encourages its History and American Studies majors to pursue internships, including its own prestigious winter internship at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. This for-credit course lets you work alongside museum curators to develop and exhibits and other projects, and you can even apply for funding through the department. If you're a history major, you might look into the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows program. This six-week paid summer internship at Virginia's Mount Vernon helps participants to develop their leadership skills - using George Washington as a model, no less!

  8. Union College

    Schenectady, NY



    Situated in Schenectady, New York, Union College offers some of the most expansive options on this list. At this affordable small college for history majors, you can choose from five geographically based concentrations within the program. There's also a Public History major/minor and an American Studies major/minor with six thematic concentrations. The latter program really helps Union stand out: the thematic concentrations offer undergrads a great way to finely focus their studies. With options like Progressive America: Civil Rights and Social Justice and American Media and Popular Culture, you're sure to find something that piques your interest.

    Net Price: $20,786/yr

  9. Morningside College

    Sioux City, IA



    Although it might not be a household name, Morningside offers some of the most focused teaching-related programs on this top history degrees ranking. Alongside traditional degrees in History and American History, you'll also find combined majors in American History/Government Teaching and American/World History Teaching. These latter two programs include a 400-level preceptorship course, during which students work as a teachers' aides and reflect on their experiences through writing assignments. The school also provides a degree in Public History, which focuses on the preservation of history and the promotion of tourism. As you graduate, know that the school has your back and that your teachers' support counts: graduates with a departmental recommendation have a 100% acceptance rate to law school.

    Net Price: $21,008/yr

  10. Colorado College

    Colorado Springs, CO



    Alongside one of the best undergraduate history programs, Colorado College also offers three related interdisciplinary majors: History-Political Science, History-Philosophy, and Classics-History-Politics. With the two former programs, you can integrate intense study in two related disciplines, applying the lens of political science or philosophy to the examination of historical events. Regardless of which program you choose, expect to complete original research before you graduate, likely during your senior year. If you want to get a head start on that work, Colorado supports summer research projects by sponsoring student assistantships, offering funding, and helping you apply for grants.

    Net Price: $21,027/yr

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

See also: The 100 Most Affordable Small Colleges in America 2015


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