The study of Latin America is an interdisciplinary field that includes language, history, and food in Central and South America. Those who take up Latin American studies can apply their knowledge of history and culture as United Nations verbatim reporters, counselors, museum curators, and many other jobs.
We’ve provided a list of the 20 best colleges for Latin American studies majors on a budget. In order to be eligible for our list, the school had to offer both language and culture programs in the field of Latin American studies or a related area. All of the colleges and universities we’ve chosen also have an undergraduate graduation rate of 55%, ensuring good educational outcomes. Finally, according to College Navigator, all of the programs have an estimated annual cost of less than $27,000 a year.
In order to find out about the cheapest college of all, you have to scroll down to #1!
Each of these top schools has at least two relevant programs* for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies or a related area (including but not limited to Hispanic Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Spanish, and Portuguese/Brazilian Studies). 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 $27,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a Latin American studies degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!
*For this ranking in particular, each top school had to offer both culture- and language-related programs to be eligible for consideration.
For more information on the methodology, click here.
With a net price of less than $14,000 a year, the University of Minnesota-Morris is one of the most affordable small colleges for Latin American Studies in the United States. But UM hardly sacrifices value for affordability; in fact, the undergraduate research funding at Minnesota is ample even compared to far more competitive (and expensive) schools. This emphasis on student research is due in part to funding from the Morris Academic Partnership (MAP) program. Through this grant initiative, selected juniors can earn thousands of dollars a year to support their work alongside prominent faculty members in the Latin American Area Studies (LAAS) department.
Pomona College may well be the most prestigious and selective school on this list, which is reflected in the strength of its affordable college Latin American Studies program. Compared to schools, the program's major requirements are exceptionally rigorous: students must complete several years of language study (or pass a proficiency test), spend at least one semester abroad (in either Central or South America), and tackle a challenging capstone project - just to graduate! But in exchange for all this hard work, Pomona provides an experience almost unmatched in academic depth and abundance, as is evident in the intricate nature of the program's unique concentration options, which include Gender and Sexuality, Literature and Cultural Studies, Race and Ethnicity, and the Latin American Diaspora.
It's difficult - some might say impossible - to genuinely appreciate or even understand Latin American culture without visiting the countries from whence it came. That's why Colby College invests so much in travel programs for its Latin American Studies majors. Whether through a week-long volunteering trip in Nicaragua over spring break, a semester abroad in Chile, or an independent research project in Oaxaca, it's easy to experience Latin America firsthand as an undergraduate at this affordable college Latin American Studies program. Colby also brings the Latin American experience to campus with a regular lecture series that features seminars and culturally-relevant film screenings.
Among liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, Middlebury College is perhaps best known for its exceptional language programs. Given that Middlebury is already a top college for Spanish majors, it's no doubt unsurprising to learn that its Latin American Studies programs are similarly strong. Drawing on excellent faculty and curricula in the Spanish department as well as coursework in economics, sociology, and literary theory, Middlebury's Latin American Studies major harnesses strengths from throughout the humanities and social sciences to create a truly fascinating and insightful perspective on Spanish-speaking culture.
For over thirty years, Vassar College's Latin American and Latino/a Studies program has brought discussion surrounding the politics and cultural exchange of Spanish-speaking countries to this already progressive institution. Like Wellesley, Vassar has long been a bastion of prominent female intellectuals, and the college has since extended the same invitations to ethnic scholars. As a result, Vassar is practically a stronghold of intellectual authorities in Hispanic cultural studies, including David TavÃ¡rez (ethnohistorian and linguistic anthropologist) and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert (Caribbean culture expert and prolific author). With faculty members who have literally and figuratively written the book(s) on Latin American Studies, Vassar College is without a doubt one of the best colleges for Spanish majors.
At Colgate University, a top college for Spanish majors, the Africana and Latin American Studies program exposes students to a wealth of unheard voices and perspectives in post-colonial theory. Given the broadness of the program's name, the department encourages participants to specialize in one of four geographical regions: African Studies, Caribbean Studies, African American Studies, and/or Latin American Studies. That being said, there is a fair amount of overlap in the core curricula of each respective program. For example, all ALAS majors must take classes in subjects like the theories of economic development, geopolitics, and urban sociology to acquire a firm theoretical foundation before exploring more specific topics.
Last year, U.S. News ranked Wellesley College the third best liberal arts college in the country, and its Spanish undergraduate degree ranking was not far behind. The faculty for Wellesley's Latin American Studies department is comprised of a cavalcade of prestigious scholars of Spanish, art, history, anthropology, and even engineering. Like many other schools on our list, this interdisciplinary thrust makes Wellesley's Latin American Studies curriculum much more intellectually stimulating than a traditional language program. But it's the caliber of Wellesley faculty (which the Princeton Review places 1st on its "Best Professors" ranking) that truly sets this program apart from the rest.
With an acceptance rate of less than 18% last year, Wesleyan University is already one of the most selective schools in the country. Believe it or not, Wesleyan's Latin American Studies major is more selective yet. To be admitted to this highly competitive interdisciplinary degree program, students must demonstrate language competency in Spanish, a high GPA, and top performance in prior Latin American Studies coursework. Once they're in, they must then complete a 20-page term paper on a salient topic in Latin American Studies in order to graduate. And while these standards may seem rigorous, they are firm building blocks on which Wesleyan has constructed one of the top programs on this Spanish undergraduate degrees ranking.
With fewer than 800 undergraduates in the entire school, Millsaps College is among the smallest of the best small colleges for Latin American Studies. But what the school lacks in size and facilities it more than makes up for in intimacy and student resources. Indeed, the classroom culture of this small college makes it clear that many choose Millsaps not just for the academics, but also for the opportunity to build relationships with professors—and the Latin American Studies Department is no exception. As such, LAS majors can look forward to working closely with faculty members as they endeavor to understand the myriad social and political forces that shape Latin America.
Combining language studies, interdisciplinary humanities coursework, experiential learning, and a capstone thesis project, Augustana College is one of the top small colleges for Latin American studies in the Midwest. And while many of the schools on this ranking offer some combination of these features, Augustana provides such a comprehensive experience for LAS majors that it practically deserves category of its own. In particular, the college's mandatory experiential learning component is a great way for students to forge their own academic path. To fulfill this requirement, program participants must either study abroad or complete an independent research project.
Given that Davidson College offers majors in both Latin American Studies and Hispanic Studies, it's not hard to see why it qualifies for this Spanish undergraduate degrees ranking. And of course, there is no evidence that Davidson sacrifices quality for quantity in doing so. In fact, both majors provide unique perspectives on culture, history, and politics that stretch across Latin America, Spain, the Caribbean, and beyond. One crucial difference between these two degree programs is that the former offers classes primarily in English, while most classes in the latter take place in Spanish. However, both programs encourage members to study abroad, which often requires substantial bilingual competence.
While Brunswick, Maine, may not exactly be a hotbed of Hispanic cultural and ethnic diversity (especially compared to states like Texas) Bowdoin College nonetheless provides fascinating intellectual avenues for students who are looking to investigate the legacy of Latin America. Outside of its ambitious student and top-notch faculty, Bowdoin attracts attention as one of the top colleges for Spanish majors thanks to its strong support of undergraduate research. Programs like the Latin American Studies Research Grant and the John Harold Turner Senior Prize in Latin American Studies - not to mention numerous study abroad opportunities in countries like Mexico and Costa Rica - encourage Bowdoin students to apply their knowledge and experience both in and out of the classroom.
Comprised of faculty members from departments as diverse as anthropology, environmental studies, economics, and politics, Bates College's major program in Latin American Studies is a smorgasbord of rigorous courses in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. But while the breadth of study in this program is certainly notable, all coursework ultimately converges to a point as LAS majors tackle one final project. This Senior Thesis, which all students in this top college Latin American Studies program must complete, challenges LAS majors to synthesize their knowledge across disciplines to advance an original line of inquiry in their chosen field.
Albright College provides a variety of opportunities for students interested in Latin American and/or Caribbean Studies to advance their understanding of the cultural heritages, histories, and political/economic impacts of these storied regions. Students who wish to major in the field can choose from two programs: the Combined Major in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Interdisciplinary Major in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. While the overlap between these two programs is evident in their respective names, this specialization option provides one "extra" feature that helps make Albright a top small college for Latin American Studies.
Lake Forest College's commitment to advancing and advocating for Hispanic culture has garnered it a well-deserved reputation as a top college for Spanish majors. For instance, Lake Forest has been a partner venue for the Chicago Latino Film Festival ("the largest U.S. film festival with a focus on Latin America and Latinos") for the past several years, not only providing exposure for Latino/a artists around the nation, but facilitating crucial cross-cultural exchanges among students as well. LFC's Latin American Studies Department has also built strong relationships with the likes of the Chicago International Latino Cultural Center, which has long been a mainstay for student internship opportunities.
Located in Central Texas, Southwestern University is poised at the nexus of US and Mexican culture and history. While this alone would make Southwestern a top college for a Latin American Studies degree, it's just the first of many advantages the program affords students who wish to investigate the richness of Latin American culture. LAS majors don't need to limit themselves to regional influences, either; instead, they can choose one or more regions of focus within "Latin America, the Caribbean, and [the] United States borderlands." And of course, all program members enjoy classes that will immerse them in a comprehensive array of critical perspectives.
Through a combination of interdisciplinary coursework; exciting travel, research, and outreach opportunities; and robust resources, Mount Holyoke College has established itself as one of the best small colleges for Latin American studies. Unlike its Spanish program (and many of the other LAS programs on this list), most of MHC's LAS professors use English in the classroom. Admittedly, this approach places a relatively smaller emphasis on language acquisition. However it also fosters greater accessibility between students of different backgrounds and allows instructors to incorporate a larger variety of texts into the curriculum. MHC also offers resources to make sure that students sustain success even after graduation. For example, Spanish Lynk: Classroom to Career helps first generation and/or underprivileged students build valuable professional skills and connections.
At Pizter College, one of the best colleges for Spanish majors, students can use their language skills to gain deeper insights into a constellation of social, political, and cultural forces that are shaping the Latin American community across hemispheres. Pitzer's Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies major synthesizes four core concentrations (art, politics, education, and cultural studies) into a learning experience that is far deeper and more challenging that a straightforward language program. Borne out of social movements in the 1960s, this program has a long history of investigating and enriching the lives of Latino/as and Chicano/as around the world.
Smith College's Latin American and Latino/a Studies program represents a collaborative effort on the part of the American, Spanish, and Portuguese Departments. By integrating a range of social and historical perspectives from each of these subjects, the program creates a trenchant framework for an undeniably robust curriculum. In fact, though only about 20 undergrads major in Latin American Studies each year, the college maintains a full list of courses (upwards of 30 or more) that fulfill program requirements. Like at other top colleges for a Latin American Studies degree, one of these requirements is lingual proficiency in Portuguese or Spanish. Of course, these language skills are especially helpful to majors who study abroad or perform research with native speakers in Latin America.
Arcadia University's affordable college Latin American studies program provides an immersive learning experience that truly enriches students' cultural awareness and critical acumen. Through required yearlong courses abroad in Toledo, Granada, or Barcelona, Arcadia guarantees that all Spanish Cultural Studies majors have firsthand exposure to their object of study. On campus and abroad, students engage in eclectic coursework that spans the history, art, politics, and economics of the entire Iberian Peninsula. This broad, comprehensive education is great preparation for a variety of international careers such as law, business, medicine, and government.
Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable college Latin American studies programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator Center.
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