Picking which college you should attend can feel like a big decision – and in many cases, it is. As the pressure mounts for you to pick a single location at which to spend the next four years of your life, you’ll have to consider much more than just academic quality and reputation. Weather, selection of majors, research opportunities, and campus size are all important factors that you shouldn’t ignore. It can be easy to gravitate to the larger, more well-known schools, but small colleges offer some unique benefits. Classes tend to be much smaller, ensuring that you receive more individual attention from professors. You get to know more people by name, which can make it easier to participate in campus activities. Some people assume that small schools lack resources and academic variety, but think twice before you jump to conclusions! As we always remind our readers: do your research first.
Elizabeth City State University is a public, historically black school with a range of academic and vocational degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate level. A constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, ECSU began as a teaching college in 1891, and by the 60s had expanded its offerings to include a vocational-technical program and thirteen academic majors. In keeping with this tradition of humanism, their courses of study cover the full range of liberal studies, from Business, Economics, and Mathematics to Literature, Social Sciences, and Visual Arts. Study abroad opportunities, academic fellowships, and student leadership programs round out this small college that is ranked #2 in U.S. News' Top Public Schools (Regional Colleges in the South).
As a tuition-free work college that was also the first integrated and coeducational school in the South, Berea College is known around the country (and the world) as a bastion of strong, progressive values. Since its founding in 1855, Berea has grown from a one-room schoolhouse to the 76th Best Liberal Arts College, according to U.S. News, with thirty-three courses of study and one of the highest per capita endowments in the nation. In addition to stimulating coursework and top undergraduate teaching, Berea also enrolls all students in a compulsory work-study program to support their education, the school, and their work ethic. Throw in a free laptop that students keep after graduation, and it's easy to see why Berea draws applicants from nearly every state in the union.
Formerly Alabama Christian School of Religion, Amridge University is an affordable small college that has been a pioneer in online education since 1993. Academics at Amridge fall into four schools: Business & Leadership; General Studies; Human Services; and the Turner School of Theology. The university offers degree programs at both the bachelors and graduate levels, many of which demonstrate a focus on Bible studies, Christian values, and service. Students can take their courses on-site or online—Amridge even offers iPads with customized apps to distance students, which consolidates the University's resources into a single platform.
Langston University is unique for being the only historically black college in Oklahoma, located 10 miles outside ofof Guthrie, as well as for its open door admission policy. Students are drawn to this cheap small college for its diverse courses of study, which include a full range of academic subjects as well as more specialized vocational topics in Corrections, Rehabilitation Services, and Financial Planning. The most renowned of these programs is Langston's agricultural research department, a leading program in the field that hosts a prestigious international conference annually. Langston also offers programs in Tulsa and OKC to combine the country's charm with the diversity of a big city.
Located in the cozy city of Alva, OK, Northwestern Oklahoma State University is an affordable small college with a big heart. NOSU boasts over 40 academic departments and pre-professional programs (Medicine, Law, Engineering, etc.) that are devoted to "cultivating ethical leadership and service, critical thinking and fiscal responsibility." Their academic excellence has been consistently recognized with top rankings from U.S. News, and all departments hold accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Meanwhile, NOSU offers the nation's most affordable (read: lowest) room and board prices at only $3,700 a year—great education at a great price.
South Arkansas University is widely regarded as a singular institution that truly offers it all: where else can you find degree programs in Game Design; NCAA Division II athletics; and a 17:1 faculty-to-student ratio in the South? Since its humble origins as an agricultural school, SAU has evolved over the years into a unique combination of strong liberal education, progressive courses of study, and personalized learning. And in the last 10 years alone, SAU has raised nearly $100 million dollars to develop new facilities on campus, including community centers, libraries, performances halls, and a brand-new $8 million agriculture center. These independently funded projects won't affect tuition at this cheap small college, as they offer a multitude of academic scholarships on top of federal aid.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University combines the diverse resources and degree programs of a larger school with the general education of the best small colleges. Focusing primarily on undergraduate education at an affordable rate, SOSU strives to keep cost of attendance down by accelerating coursework with quality teaching. In fact, their exceptional aviation program is only one of six in the country approved by FAA to reduce required flight hours from 1,500 to 1,000. Students also have access to Durant, the fastest-growing rural city in Oklahoma, capital of the Choctaw Tribe, and home to a nationally-attended Shakespeare festival (and the world's largest peanut!).
If you are looking for a rigorous, comprehensive liberal arts education in Oklahoma, USAO should be at the top of your list. As the only strictly liberal arts public college in the state, it is also one of the cheapest small colleges in the region and features an interdisciplinary core curriculum that prepares students for a variety of academic trajectories. After completing 46 credit hours that span history, literature, mathematics, and more, students select a specialization from the humanities, business, science, or education. This background provides a framework for solving problems creatively and humanely, whether it's in the classroom or the workplace.
Located just outside of Charleston, West Virginia State University has all the charm of a small college with the resources of the big city. This historically black university is well known for its music program, particularly its marching band, which famously performs a different routine at every home football game and holds competitive auditions. Academically, WVSU's undergraduate program offers 22 majors and 28 minors, giving students an opportunity to broaden their interests. They also offer graduate degrees in Biotechnology, Law Enforcement and Administration, and Media Studies.
If you keep going west, you'll eventually hit the east—this is the multi-cultural philosophy of the University of the West, a small private college founded on Buddhist values for the global community. The University of the West was founded in 1991 to provide an affordable liberal arts education that nourished the whole person: mind, body, and soul. Although Buddhist practitioners are behind its founding, this university is not a religious institution. Instead these ancient ascetic values inform a comprehensive curriculum that offers specializations in Business Administration, Religious Studies, Psychology, and Literature. The beautiful yet spare campus complements the educational experience by providing a tranquil environment for students to grow and learn together.
Henderson State University is not only among the cheapest liberal arts colleges out there, it is also the second-oldest college in the state, and Arkansas's only member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. "Reddies," as members of the Henderson community are called, know this pedigree well, but they're proud of more than just their history. Henderson's core curriculum unites the student body in a common platform of knowledge. Henderson combines a traditional liberal arts education with other academic and pre-professional specializations to cultivate a community of thoughtful thinkers and doers. Reddies call Henderson "The School With A Heart," but with governors, Pulitzer-winners and military members counted among their ranks, they may as well be called "The School With A Brain."
Just as faith is the foundation for a meaningful life, so a liberal arts education is necessary for doing meaningful work in your career. At Blue Mountain College, students cultivate their minds and their spirits in a Baptist environment that prizes intellectual and religious rigor. Whether students choose to pursue a degree in Biblical Studies, Social Sciences, or, say, Mathematics, BMC is a great choice. In U.S. News' small college rankings, BMC is listed among the Best Regional Universities in the South, and one of the best values nationally.
In 1866, veterans of the 62nd and 65th Regiments United States Colored Troops (USCT) Infantry founded Lincoln University to provide opportunities for black Americans in the wake of abolition. Today, as a testament to the quality of this education, U.S. News recognizes LUM as the #3 most economically diverse and the #5 most ethnically diverse university in the Midwest. With robust undergraduate programs in the humanities, technology, business, and agriculture, LUM is an incubator for innovative talent in many fields. Global research opportunities, local and national internships, and over fifty student organizations bring students of every variety to LUM to begin their future.
Named after Fanny Coppin, a black educator and missionary who was born into slavery, Coppin State University has always been dedicated to producing educators that would make a difference. Although CSU now offers bachelor's degrees in the arts, sciences, business, and health professions, the focus on traditional education and community engagement endures. Coppin currently manages a middle school, founded its own high school, and operates a nursing center, all in the heart of Baltimore. Regardless of what they study, Coppin is a great destination for students looking to join an institution that makes communities better.
With small classes, flexible scheduling, and a multi-cultural approach to curriculum, Heritage University is a cheap small college that is perfect for working professionals and recent graduates alike. Heritage has accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities to provide nearly two dozen degree trajectories, with classes that average just 11 students for each teacher. Located on the Yakama Indian Reservation, Heritage caters to individuals and culture that have been "educationally isolated." The liberal arts education that Heritage provides makes the community stronger by helping students develop their goals and careers through personalized learning.
Although the name is somewhat misleading, Mississippi University for Women is one of the best and one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges in the state. Make no mistake, MUW is a co-ed institution with men comprising over 20% of the student body—the name stuck because it was the first women's college in the nation. With a beautiful, historic campus built in 1884, over 50 majors and concentrations, and a service-oriented community, it's easy to see why so many guys don't worry about the name. It's also the cheapest small college in the state, and has offered in-state tuition for students in neighboring states since 2014.
Mississippi Valley State University is best known as the Alma Mater of Jerry Rice, arguably the best wide receiver in NFL history. But if you're surprised that a top player like him came from one of the cheapest small colleges in the state, you don't know much about MVSU. In addition to its formidable football program, they offer a huge range of interesting degree programs in applied technology, bioinformatics, education, public administration, and more. From undergraduate and graduate programs to professional degrees, the curriculum at MVSU is "designed to achieve balance between depth of knowledge acquired through specialization and breadth of knowledge gained through exploration."
Western New Mexico University is one of the premiere academic institutions in the state. With over 70 fields of study, the education opportunities at WNMU are exceptional for such an affordable small college; "from accounting to zoology," students can pursue virtually any interest towards a meaningful career. WNMU's reputation is widely recognized in the state, being the first four-year college to receive Quality New Mexico's highest honor, the Zia Award. Students explore their minds in a beautiful 80-acre campus with historical and modern facilities, including a campus movie theater, fitness center, and more.
Distinguished faculty and personalized education are the hallmarks of New Mexico Highlands University. Although it's not in the Las Vegas you've probably heard of, Highlands doesn't gamble on their students' educations. Students can select from eight departments at the graduate and undergraduate level, including business, media, technology, arts, music, education, and social work. With a majority Latino student body, Highlands is one of the best small colleges in the state for their multi-cultural approach to their curriculum. Passionate, nationally recognized professors bring deep knowledge of subject matter and have personal investment in every student's success.
Harris Stowe State University, a historically black college right in the heart of St. Louis, is mere minutes from downtown and the city's iconic Gateway Arch, and is also one of the cheapest small colleges in the Midwest. If you enroll at HSSU, you can expect to find serious avenues for academic growth and forums for personal development. To that end, classes are never larger than 30 students and freshmen hailing from over 50 miles from Harris Stowe are required to live on campus their first year as part of the school's efforts to integrate and immerse students in a rich campus life. Coming in at just over $10,000 a year, more than 80% of students receive financial assistance.
Concord University plays an integral role in shaping the cultural and educational landscape of southern West Virginia, partnering with local organizations, businesses, and agencies to enrich the economy and offer students a bridge into the world beyond the classroom walls. Located between Charleston, West Virginia and Lynchburg, Virginia, students can choose from 13 undergraduate degrees in fields including Recreation and Tourism Management; Computer Information Systems; Athletic Training; and Environmental Geosciences. The school has a standing commitment to accommodating students with barriers that may traditionally prevent them from succeeding in academia.
Situated an hour southwest of Sioux City, Iowa, 80% of freshmen at Wayne State College receive financial assistance, one of several good reasons to consider this entry on our list of affordable small colleges. This school should be on any aspiring teacher's short list of schools, as WSC has more than 30 education specialties available. The student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1 is impressive for a school of over 3,500 members, allowing students to get the most out of their education while exploring one of 80 different majors. Moreover, the library has an impressive collection of over 350,000 volumes, and campus also boasts nearly 100 active student organizations. Between its low asking price and competitive academics, WSC is a stand-out choice among cheap small colleges.
Love the outdoors? Interested in debating some of the toughest and most compelling questions of our day? Sul Ross State University may be the place for you. Nestled in a stunning, remote corner of western Texas, the university owns several enormous tracts of land where students get to explore real issues of deep political, economic, and environmental importance against the backdrop of phenomenal geological formations. Perhaps influenced by its proximity to nearby art haven Marfa, the school also offers a number of concentrations in Fine Arts such as Theatre; Instrumental; and Vocal specializations.
Situated 75 miles south of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology basks in sunny skies more than 300 days out of any given year and opportunities abound for students to get outside and make the most of it with activities like mountain biking, hiking, rock-climbing, and more. In addition, the school offers students a range of unusual classes in areas like creative writing, yoga, and dance to push students to become well-rounded individuals. Founded in 1889 as the New Mexico School of Mines, the name changed to its present form in 1951. The student body is 68% male and 32% female and touts a cozy 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Located midway between Omaha and Kansas City, Peru State College's student body easily eclipses the local town population. Even if countryside living isn't your thing, you may want to think twice when you see PSC's low price tag and substantial academic offerings, which include degrees in Nuclear Technology; Wildlife Ecology; Music Marketing; and Community Music and Private Studio. In particular, the school's Business, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Natural Science, and Humanities programs are recognized for their formidable reputation. For those who fear getting lost in the crowd at a bigger state school, PSC actively seeks to empower and equip every student to harness her or his unique talents and abilities in order to become a leader on campus and in the world beyond.
Even though Minot State University is the third-largest university in North Dakota, the student population still registers at a comfortable 3,533 and lands MSU a well-earned place among America's best small colleges. With North Dakota's strong economy, pursuing a degree from Minot State makes a lot of sense. The town of Minot itself reflects this uptick in the state's economy as the city's population continues to grow at a healthy pace - today numbering over 46,000. While the Upper Midwest may not be synonymous with "art scene," one of the region's best-kept secrets is its substantial artistic influence. Interesting academic disciplines include Bioinformatics; Broadcasting; Arabic; German; Radiologic Technology; and Theatre. Numerous pre-professional programs are also offered.
This college, founded in 1851 in New Orleans by the Marianites of the Holy Cross, was originally meant as a means to get girls off of the street. Interestingly enough, today Our Lady of the Holy Cross College finds itself in the center of recovery efforts in the city's Ninth Ward, as the city continues its efforts to rebuild and reinvent itself ten years on from Hurricane Katrina. This sort of holistic education seeks to form and develop students both in and out of the classroom. Considering its location in the heart of the Big Easy and numerous financial and merit-based scholarships, Our Lady of the Holy Cross easily distinguishes itself in our small college rankings.
Alice Lloyd College, set in a remote region of eastern Kentucky, aims to make college affordable and accessible for students coming from rural, mountain communities in Appalachia. This mission is the direct result of founder Alice Lloyd's vision to make college accessible to traditionally underserved communities and improve the socio-economic situation in rural Appalachia. The school offers free tuition to students hailing from a five-state region encompassing over 100 counties. But keep in mind that just because tuition is free for certain students doesn't mean that school will be a breeze. Alice Lloyd, as one of only seven work colleges in the country, is built on hard work with roots in Christian ethics - so be prepared to take your studies seriously!
Central State University has a lot going for it: a committed and caring faculty, an abundance of scholarship opportunities, and a unique offering of programs including Jazz Studies; Military Science; African Studies; Manufacturing Engineering; and Criminal Justice. CSU stands out among other cheap small colleges not only for these reasons, but also for its location in Wilberforce, Ohio. The town is notable for its historical significance as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and today is also home to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. The school's campus is close-knit and approximately 75% of the school's 2,068 students live on campus.
Adams State University, sitting at an elevation of 7544 feet in the rural heart of southern Colorado, boasts a diverse student population and a strong range of academic programs. At ASU students have many interesting programs to choose from, including Latino Studies; Sports Psychology; Theatre; Women's Studies; and Mass Communication. Like many other schools on this list of affordable small colleges, ASU originally sought to educate and train teachers when it first opened in the 1920s. Today the school seeks to help first-generation college students reach their goals and obtain a degree to become financially secure. As a student at ASU you'll also benefit from brand-new facilities, as the campus is nearing completion of a significant $65 million renovation.
For a student body of 483, Bethel College is an academic powerhouse and one of the best small colleges on our list. Degrees are available in a diverse number of disciplines, including Graphic Design; German; and, intriguingly, Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies. A student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1 promotes close interaction between students and professors, and one student referred to the student body as a "500-member support group." In keeping with the school's Mennonite affiliation, students are encouraged to produce more than a good GPA. Opportunities abound for you to get involved in the world outside Bethel's campus, both in the surrounding community and in the world abroad; students have the option to select from 17 different study abroad programs.
Tennessee Wesleyan College, set on a hilltop in Athens, Tennessee, gives students easy access to the nearby Ocoee River, which snakes through the heart of the stunning Great Smoky Mountains. For those hoping to get away to the city, never fear! Knoxville and Chattanooga are both less than an hour away from TWC. The school was originally founded in 1857 as Athens Female College, but has long since become a men and women's establishment with a strong connection to the United Methodist Church. As far as small colleges go, you still have a wide range of options regarding academics, including degrees in Fine Arts, Behavioral Science, Church Vocations, Business Administration, and pre-professional degrees in Biology and Chemistry.
Are you inquisitive by nature? Do you enjoy learning for learning's sake? Jarvis may be for you. Jarvis Christian College's operating philosophy reflects its diminutive size: "One learner at a time." A historically black liberal arts college, today the school is becoming more diverse as over 20% of its students come from other ethnic backgrounds. JCC has been intentional about being one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges in the country, and it works hard to seek out gifted students who may otherwise be held back simply because of their financial situation.
As we work our way up the list of the cheapest small colleges in America, Williams Baptist College is so small that it stands out even on this list. The student body at WBC totals under 600 and the student-to-professor ratio stands at a mere 13:1. This school is ideal for students seeking an education grounded in religious principles and aiming for a vocation in Christian ministry, as you can easily explore topics in church music, biblical studies, missionary work, and both sports and youth ministry. And for an interesting bit of history: the school's campus was originally a World War II military base but converted in 1947 when the college opened its doors on the 200-acre campus just outside the small town of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.
With 1,065 students, a 13:1 student-to-professor ratio, and an average class size of just fifteen, Mayville State University is ideal for students looking for an intimate learning environment - and for students who don't crave a fast-paced milieu. Located on the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, the school's hometown of Mayville is only a little larger than the student body at MSU. Even as one of the nation's cheapest small colleges, the school is still committed to becoming the first "tablet PC campus" in the United States and makes significant investments in upgraded technology. MSU specializes in Health Education, Fitness and Wellness, Mathematics, and Business degrees, although there are other options available as well.
Frankfort, one of the smallest capital cities in the nation and home of Kentucky State University, offers a small town atmosphere that harkens to a simpler age, with brick streets and wooded hills surrounding the city. Despite being small in size, the city boasts a diverse and welcoming population. While KYU takes its place on our list of the nation's most affordable small colleges, the campus encompasses an impressive 882 acres - including a 204-acre research farm for agricultural students and a 306-acre environmental education center. KYU was established in 1886 as a historically black college, but today the school boasts an increasingly diverse and balanced population.
Calumet College of St. Joseph is a Catholic liberal arts school located on Chicago's eastern doorstep on the idyllic shores of Lake Michigan. Straddling the towns of Hammond and Whiting, Indiana, the school offers students a taste of Main Street America only 20 minutes outside the city. The Missionaries of the Precious Blood founded Calumet in 1951, and today the school continues to build on its Catholic heritage by offering daily religious services. Calumet College also continues to build on its reputation as one of the premier small private colleges in the Midwest through features such as the St. Gasper's Honors Learning Community, which awards $2000 scholarships and expense-paid trips abroad for students willing to push themselves to the next level.
If you like being in the middle of it all but appreciate an occasional break from the action, consider Christian Brothers University's wooded campus in the heart of Memphis' happening Midtown neighborhood. Attractions include the Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, a vibrant music scene, and shopping in the Antique and Design District. Although CBU is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, as a student, you will not be expected to adhere to any specific religious beliefs. And don't let its small size deceive you; students at this premier small college have a wide range of academic programs from which to choose, including Cybersecurity & Digital Forensics, International Business, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Management Information Systems, Pre-Veterinary Medicine; and Special Education.
Lemoyne Owen College earns its spot on this small college ranking due to its annual enrollment of just 1,000 students and high value for its cost. The net price at LOC is attractively low, and in exchange for their investment students open the door to beautiful on campus facilities, helpful networking resources, and comfortable grounds. Students can choose from majors across all the traditional areas of a liberal arts education but also have the opportunity to pursue accelerated or collaborative programs. Students at LOC can also seek opportunities at the Center for Active Student Education, apply to the prestigious Dubois Scholars Program, or attend engaging lectures from experienced professionals through the Bornblum Institute.
Georgia Southwestern State University is persistently working toward being one of the cheapest small colleges in the nation, and it just took an admirable step toward this goal by expanding in-state tuition to residents of Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina. Nearly 3,000 students at any given time have chosen to attend GSSU for its rich traditions, exciting programs, and caring faculty. The university is comprised of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business Administration, School of Nursing, School of Computing and Mathematics, and School of Education. In addition to traditional coursework, students can augment their skills through research at one of four different on-campus institutes.
ts spot on this small college ranking due to its annual enrollment of just 1,000 students and high value for its cost. The net price at LOC is attractively low, and in exchange for their investment students open the door to beautiful on campus facilities, helpful networking resources, and comfortable grounds. Students can choose from majors across all the traditional areas of a liberal arts education but also have the opportunity to pursue accelerated or collaborative programs. Students at LOC can also seek opportunities at the Center for Active Student Education, apply to the prestigious Dubois Scholars Program, or attend engaging lectures from experienced professionals through the Bornblum Institute.
This cheap small college boasts an impressive reputation for its low cost; U.S. News regularly ranks it near the top of its lists of top public regional and best national colleges. Students who enroll at VCSU expecting to see limited options on a small campus will be pleasantly surprised, as the university offers an incredible 80 undergraduate programs spanning every area of study. In addition, Valley City's teacher education degrees have a great reputation for producing highly qualified graduates. Students living on campus enjoy 55 acres of forested land along the beautiful Sheyenne River, plus architecture that seamlessly blends the historic and modern. In addition, all full-time students receive their own laptops to use in state-of-the-art classrooms and labs.
As of April 20th, "Summit University" is the name of the school previously known as Baptist Bible College. This switch is representative of the institution's move from college to university status, thanks to its growing resources and increasing popularity. Some view Summit as primarily a seminary because of its strong focus on theological teaching (degrees in this area include everything from Camping Ministries and Church Music to Youth Pastor and Sports and Recreation Ministries) but students have many other choices as well. Those who don't see a future working for the church can major in Business Administration, Nursing, Athletic Training, Biology, Intercultural Studies, and much more.
Another one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges on this list is College of the Ozarks, a school that proudly dubs itself "Hard Work U." Motivated by its intent to mold "citizens of Christ-like character," the college names several key goals for its students: develop character, value God and their country, work for their education, and graduate without debt. Perhaps the most striking feature of the College of the Ozarks is its commitment to let students attend completely tuition free; instead of writing a check, all students receive jobs on campus that not only defray costs, but also help them build valuable job skills. This "work education" could mean working in the Computer Center or the Child Development Center, helping out at the Ralph Foster Museum, running operations at the McDonald Clinic, and much more.
Edward Waters College traces its history back to the late 1800s in Florida, when it took on the honorable mission to educate the region's newly-freed slaves. It has since grown into one of the South's best small private colleges and is known as a historically black institution. The approximately 900 students divide evenly into men and women, and more than 90% receive some amount of financial aid to fund their education. From EWC's focus on research and community outreach to its growing athletic teams, the school provides a great experience for students who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education.
Brescia University is another great option to consider on this affordable small college ranking. All BU courses hold accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and the university has additional membership with the Council of Social Work Education, Asian Association of Schools of Business International, and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board. The Catholic, liberal arts university designs its curriculum around the Ursuline ideals of personal and social transformation - values that you will find integrated into academic majors as diverse as Art Education, Political Science, Theology, Biochemistry, and Speech Pathology.
In a city with sky-high real estate prices and some of the most expensive private universities in the country, it's surprising that anything in Washington, D.C. is considered "affordable." Not only is Gallaudet one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges in the region, it provides an incredibly unique service to its students; nearly all of its programs focus entirely on education for the deaf and hard of hearing. While it caters to a small subset of college students, it offers admitted learners the same range of programs that one would expect at any other university of similar size. Main categories of study include Arts and Media; Humanities; Business; Human Services; and Science, Math, and Technology. GU also offers a group of majors in Language and Culture, which focus mainly on American Sign Language and Communication Studies for the deaf.
For a truly affordable small college experience, consider Grace Christian University, an intimate campus near Grand Rapids, Michigan. With fewer than 600 students and a net price suitable for almost every budget, GBC offers a great bang for its buck. Students often attend the college because of its tight-knit community, focus on spirituality, and emphasis on character development. Grace also declares a clear vision to grow beyond 1,000 students by 2016 - but even by doubling in size, the school won't lose its personalized touch. All students take general education and biblical classes, which they supplement with a vocational concentration in business, early childhood education, history, exercise science, or human services (to name a few).
Even with just 2,000 students, Marygrove College brings together an incredibly diverse group of people to study at its Detroit campus. Women and men from 18 to 40 years old, from all ethnic and political backgrounds, study at Marygrove each year. A small college with a Catholic and liberal arts focus, MC has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission for all its academic programs - undergrad through graduate. Bachelor's programs include African American Studies, Art Therapy, Child Welfare, Forensic Science, Modern Language Translation, Sacred Music, and many other degrees not typically offered at small colleges. Marygrove offers nearly 50 baccalaureate and certificate programs to undergraduate students, including pre-professional courses in law, dentistry, and medicine.
While some colleges choose to focus on traditional education and others solely target career training, Medaille lands somewhere in the middle. The college calls this intersection where "college meets career" the "Medaille Advantage," explaining that students learn academic subjects by getting in on the action from day one. This experiential learning could mean working with live animals in a laboratory, writing and producing a television show in the studio, or getting out of the classroom to tackle challenging internships and learn from active experts in the field. All Medaille students also complete a Capstone Project, which not only helps them summarize their new skills, but also assists them in generating meaningful solutions that they can take with them into the professional world.
Southern California attracts new residents and tourists every year due to its idyllic weather, busy city life, and myriad outdoor activities. Unfortunately, many report that living in "SoCal" can be quite pricey, which is why Soka University of America provides a welcome alternative to the financially conservative. This four-year, small private college is spacious to say the least; its approximately 400 students get 103 acres in Orange County, California all to themselves. The university crafts its curriculum from Buddhist teachings, urging all students to explore the importance of peace, human rights, and the sanctity of life. SUA also welcomes a large international population and offers free tuition to admitted students whose household income falls below $60k a year.
Students at Urbana University often gravitate to this small private college because it offers more than a compact campus - it offers an inviting community. "Blue Knights" at Urbana stand out thanks to a student-to-faculty ratio of just 15:1, while competitive athletics and a vibrant campus life help learners connect outside the classroom. Urbana places heavy emphasis on undergraduate education, and the vast majority of its majors (which include such offerings as Agribusiness, Criminal Justice Leadership, Entrepreneurial Management, and a self-designed option) are at the baccalaureate level.
Alcorn State University barely sneaks in under out 4,000-student cut-off, but it's a good thing it does - ASU offers a range of bachelor's, master's, and education specialist degrees that many other cheap small colleges just can't rival. The university holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southwestern Association of Colleges and Schools, with additional approval for its education programs by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Alcorn State is also a member of national nursing, music, industrial technology, and family and consumer science associations, among others. The land-grant institution places focus on agriculture and applied science research, but offers degrees across give different schools and multiple departments to appeal to a wide range of applicants.
Washington Monthly and U.S. News both recognize Blackburn College for its affordability and quality, especially in comparison to other Midwest schools. Interestingly, BC hosts the only student-managed work program in the United States, a feature that allows students to graduate with two transcripts; one that reflects their academic achievements, and another that demonstrates their job skills and management experience. This makes it the perfect choice for people who feel they would benefit from a personalized curriculum that will bring out their best qualities. And thanks to student enrollment numbers that hover below 600, everyone at Blackburn is guaranteed to get all the attention from advisors and professors that they need.
Like many of the other cheap small colleges on this list, Martin Methodist is a religiously focused school based in the Southern United States. The historic campus sits at the base of beautiful, rolling Tennessee hills, but students itching for the city life can easily make the quick trip to nearby Nashville or Huntsville, Alabama. MMC especially attracts students whose values are in line with its own, and it draws strength from its unique focus on compassion, diversity, honor, and nurturing in all academic areas. After students complete all their general education requirements, they can focus the rest of their studies on an area of business, education, humanities, math, natural science, social science, or nursing.
Vermont strikes again with Lyndon State College, another one of the best small colleges in the state to grace this list. People apply to LSC for a number of reasons, whether it's the cozy and accepting campus community, the innovative First-Year Experience for incoming freshmen, or the academic resource center that keeps all students on track. Of course, plenty of people choose Lyndon State for its interesting coursework also, which spans majors in Atmospheric Sciences, Electronic Journalism Arts, Mountain Recreation Management, or another degree program that you're less likely to see elsewhere.
the Southern United States. The historic campus sits at the base of beautiful, rolling Tennessee hills, but students itching for the city life can easily make the quick trip to nearby Nashville or Huntsville, Alabama. MMC especially attracts students whose values are in line with its own, and it draws strength from its unique focus on compassion, diversity, honor, and nurturing in all academic areas. After students complete all their general education requirements, they can focus the rest of their studies on an area of business, education, humanities, math, natural science, social science, or nursing.
Villa Maria is another great choice for Catholic students who want to be a part of a culturally diverse student body focused on similar moral goals. Villa Maria emphasizes truth, charity, and unity in all its teachings, which include traditional liberal arts and business subjects as well as Animation, Creative Writing, Fashion Design, and Integrated Arts. The small campus of fewer than 500 students provides a protective home for students, but VMC encourages all learners to step outside the box and explore internships, service opportunities, and other hands-on, informational activities in nearby Buffalo.
If you're looking for one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges in New England, you can stop your search with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Of course, "cheap" refers to its attractive net price only - the academics and resources and MCLA are high caliber across the board. As an undergraduate, you'll have the chance to pursue one of 50 different plans of study while supplementing your major classroom work with a related minor, research, or honors courses. MCLA also places an emphasis on the critical thinking and communication skills that are so vital to successful employment, and U.S. News verifies the school's effective curriculum by naming it one of the top ten public liberal arts colleges in the nation.
Northern State University is not just one of the cheapest small colleges on this list; it's also one of the most affordable schools in the Midwest. NSU assures potential applicants that while the university is growing (up to 3,500 students now, according to the website) it still maintains all the benefits of a small school. More than three quarters of students live on campus, and approximately 95% of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking applicants receive financial aid. Students can also apply for the coveted WolfPACT Scholarship and earn four years of guaranteed tuition! Academic majors at NSU include Accounting, Environmental Science, Human Performance and Fitness, Musical Theater, and many others - plus honors, pre-professional, and international programs to suit every interest.
In addition to making this small college ranking, Mount Mary also places on other top lists - namely College Choice's 2015 ranking of Best U.S. Colleges for Women. The school also has the top honor of our list of The 30 Most Affordable Women's Colleges in the U.S. The school's more than 30 undergraduate programs cater to its student body's unique interests, and include topics in Fashion Design, Dietetics, Occupational Therapy, and much more. Other features of Mount Mary include the Women's Leadership Institute, the Mount Mary Magazine, and six "Blue Angels" athletic teams. It's nearly impossible for students not to get involved on campus, whether they choose to write for the student newspaper, join a campus ministry or music ensemble, or attend a local art performance.
Fort Valley State University offers a well-rounded education to budget-conscious students. Between the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences, and Technology; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Education; and the College of Graduate Studies and Extended Studies, you're guaranteed to find something that suits your interests at FVSU. The university also supports out-of-the-box programs like the Cooperative Development Energy Program, which recruits especially talented students for careers in the energy industry. In the past, FVSU has produced highly successful engineers, geoscientists, and health physicists.
Johnson State College is ideal for New England residents who love the outdoors but don't want to feel isolated from the "real world"; the mountainous region surrounding the campus features six ski resorts but is just a short drive from Burlington, Boston, and Montreal. More than half of the student body lives on campus, taking classes with just 15 people and getting to know their classmates in a way that is sure to build lifelong friendships. Outside of the classroom, JSC attendees participate in extracurricular activities, cheer on varsity sports teams, and visit a massive library holding more than 110,000 volumes.
Looking for a public university with a small college feel? Dakota State University may be the answer. It's one of the most technologically advanced schools in the Midwest, and places strong emphasis on STEM fields. Popular majors include Computer Management, Information Systems, Game Design, and Network and Security Administration, plus less typical choices like Biology for Information Systems and Cyber Operations. Students can also choose from a number of specialized Digital Arts and Design programs, which are ideal for people who aspire to careers in animation or web design.
In many ways, Lander University offers the best of all worlds; it is one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges on this list, and yet also offers traditional science and business programs, plus pre-professional degrees in education and nursing. The student body is largely female (70%), and almost half live in on campus residence halls. Nearly 140 faculty support engaging programs across art, mass communication, military science, physical education, biology, and mathematics. Students can also find jobs on campus; study abroad; or join the EYE Program and launch into experiential learning that includes co-ops, internships, and service opportunities.
Alfred State College, a member of the well-known SUNY system in New York, distinguishes itself through a "project-based" approach to learning. Some of the cheapest small colleges keep costs down by focusing entirely on lecture-based, liberal arts teaching, but Alfred State goes above and beyond. By emphasizing real-world problems that teach students how to think, not what to think, the university has been able to maintain an astounding 99% employment rate for recent graduates. ASC advertises a top regional and public school ranking from U.S. News, a comfortable 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and an exciting selection of intercollegiate sports. Although many of Alfred's degrees are available at the associate's level, students can still pursue baccalaureate education in anything from Architecture to Engineering Technology - on campus or online.
With more than 70 different degree options, Rochester College offers a surprising diversity of academic options for such a small college. Although the school only has about 1,100 students (60% female and 40% male), learners hail from 19 states and five nations. About a fifth of students live on campus, taking advantage of the affordable room and board to position themselves near the relaxing Clinton River and an impressive network of hiking trails. In fact, CNN named Rochester one of the top places to live in America! On campus, students get to know their peers in small classes and individualized programs. Rochester even offers an Honors Program for particularly gifted students.
If you're not sold on attending school in Kentucky, you might want to take a look at the beautiful surroundings of Campbellsville University. Lush woodlands and quiet countryside hills envelop the campus, and a beautiful lake and expansive state park lie just down the road. Students who are looking for some more action can make the short drive to Louisville, Lexington, or Nashville, offering no shortage of entertainment opportunities. On campus, approximately 3,500 students come together to study more than 80 different areas of interest, from accounting to theater performance. As a spiritually minded school, CU also offers academic options in Sports Ministry, Pastoral Ministries, Worship Arts, Educational Ministries, Christian Missions, or Biblical Studies.
Attending Paine College is anything but a pain, thanks to its low tuition and selectively low enrollment. The school's academic mission rises from core tenants that emphasize liberal arts, spirituality, social responsibility, personal development, and commitment to the African American community. With ambitious leaders at the helm, Paine faculty are committed to expanding its achievements over the next five years and becoming one of the best small colleges in the country. Academic options span from the humanities and social sciences to math and the natural sciences, with professional programs also available in business, education, and media studies. Students can also look into the Center for Advanced Professional Studies and the Academic Center for Excellence and Success if they're looking to expand their skills.
Although Lyon College is one of the cheapest small colleges in the United States, it nonetheless offers an education that it calls "priceless." Students who are concerned about their finances can put their worries aside at Lyon, which claims the lowest student debt at graduation of any school in Arkansas. Students at LC pursue research and study abroad just like those attending large state universities, but they also acquire an education that comes straight from esteemed professors - not graduate assistants. Major in Business, Chemistry, or Psychology, or design your own program through Lyon's unique "Individualized Study" option.
Although Carson Newman College's net price is below $15,000 annually and its student enrollment stands at just 2,000, those are just two numbers that revel CNC's unique appeal. The college offers over 40 intramural programs and 18 intercollegiate sports, and hosts international students from nearly 30 countries. The idyllic location of the college allows students to travel to busy Knoxville or the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park in equal time. Interestingly, Washington Monthly names it one of the top 10 undergraduate programs in the nation, while the U.S. Department of Education has ranked it #1 in community service.
If you're looking for an unconventional education, you may want to consider the university that encourages "unconventional wisdom." The University of Montevallo is the only Alabama school to be named a "College of Distinction," an honor that no doubt stems from its atypical approach to education. Montevallo faculty encourages students not to limit themselves to learning in the classroom, and instead see life itself as a constant stream of lessons and new experiences. The school's 37 degree programs cover interesting areas in Speech Language Pathology, Nutrition, Costume Design, Retail Merchandising, and Print Making, as well as any traditional major you could want.
The Virginia University of Lynchburg advertises "unlimited possibilities" supported by a motto of "self-help and interdependence." Their compassionate approach to education specifically targets students who can't afford larger, more traditional schools - an admirable goal in a state that houses several of them. Students can choose a major within the School of Arts and Sciences, School of Management, or School or Religion, or can sign up for online classes. VUL's programs claim full accreditation by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools as well as certification from the State Counsel for Higher Education of Virginia.
Western State College of Colorado is another school that stands out on this small college ranking thanks to its many national awards; Environmentalscience.org names it a top-ranked school, while "Colleges of Distinction" also gives it a high ranking for 2015. Students at WSCC also enjoy numerous study abroad opportunities, unique research opportunities, and competitive athletics. Western State College is constantly working to improve its academics, from pouring millions of dollars into infrastructure upgrades to adding innovative new majors in areas like "High Altitude Exercise Physiology." Students enjoy classes that average just 17 students, and many receive financial aid to support their academic goals.
Principia College may be the only school in the country that can call itself "a college for Christian scientists." Unlike some other religious universities, Principia looks to blend students' interest in science and spirituality, rather than separate them. The school's 25 different majors include Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering Science, Geology, and Management Information Systems, as well as a plethora of humanities programs. The average class size at PC is a mere 11 students, and given that the entire college only houses about 500, you'll feel like you're a part of a close group of friends no matter where you are on campus.
William Carey University is another one of the best small colleges in our selection, touting a top regional ranking from U.S. News and both the highest graduation and lowest student debt rates in Mississippi. The main campus covers an expansive 140 acres in Hattiesburg, with several colleges individually dedicated to Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Music and Ministry Studies, Nursing, and the Natural and Behavioral Studies. WCU also offers graduate programs and advanced study in Osteopathic Medicine and Physical Therapy, as well as a Presidential Honors Program for the most impressive students.
Explore topics in all the traditional areas of accounting, business, liberal studies, and education at Humphrey's College, or take a closer look at the school's many law- and criminal-justice related majors. Humphrey's also offers a select number of graduate degrees and houses an entire law school. Other options are available for English Language learners and international students who want to bask in the warm California weather and adopt the laid-back West Coast attitude. HC has accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as additional approval from the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California.
Lincoln Memorial University might not have the most recognizable name in college education, but it takes its name from one of the most revered characters in our nation's history: Abraham Lincoln. LMU embraces the past president's vision for education, offering an affordable small college experience in a close-knit community. In an attempt to cultivate "people who care," Lincoln Memorial keeps average class sizes to just 14 students and encourages faculty to personally mentor their students. The school's bachelor's degrees cover unique topics in Environmental Science, Management and Leadership Studies, and Wildlife and Fisheries Biology, and students can take advantage of the nearby Appalachian Mountain Range to acquire some hands-on learning.
One of two State University of New York-based colleges on this list, SUNY Cobleskill is worth mentioning to anyone who wants to attend one of the nation's cheapest small colleges. For the past 100 years Cobleskill has emphasized a unique focus on agriculture and technology, and yet gives its nearly 2,500 students a wide selection of choices from more than 20 baccalaureate majors. Cobleskill boasts recognition from U.S. News, has a place on President Obama's "Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll," and is one of the "greenest colleges" in the United States, according to Princeton Review. A day in the life of a SUNY Cobleskill student might include enjoying the fresh air of the rural campus, discussing assignments in a class of just 20 students, and then cheering on their friends at NCAA Division III sporting events.
New York offers a lot more than the fast-paced metropolis in Manhattan that so many associate with the state. Travel west to Buffalo and you'll find plenty to occupy your time, including Hilbert College. Hilbert's low net price and intimate student body more than qualify it for this small college ranking, and some describe it as the "right sized environment" for focused students. On campus, students enjoy apartment-style dorms and modern academic buildings, as well as expansive athletic buildings and scenic views. Those tired of the rural feel of campus can take the short drive to Lake Erie or always entertaining Buffalo.
If you're not intrigued just by the name "Pepper Pike," you may be drawn to Ursuline beautiful campus, proximity to Cleveland, and strong mission statement. Ursuline emphasizes "values, voice, and vision" as part of its spiritual education, and it offers an inclusive education that caters to everyone from ambitious high school students to persistent adult learners. Although UC primarily attracts female students, nearly 10% of its small student body is comprised of men, and nearly a third represent minority populations. Students can choose from 30 different undergraduate majors, including Biotechnology, Modern Languages, Art History, and pre-professional programs in Law, Medicine, and Pharmacy.
Tennessee Temple University combines the typical resources and academic spread of a small private college with the targeted, spiritually centered education of a seminary. Although many students choose to pursue Christian study at TTU, they can also pick a major in Communication, History, Social Studies, Psychology, Business Administration, or Education. Students can accelerate their learning through intense one-week courses in August, December, January, and May, and can also add online learning to their schedule. Part of the reason Tennessee Temple's net price is so affordable is because 100% of students receive some sort of financial aid, with average packages valued at $9,000.
Peirce College is another one of the best small colleges on this list, touting a top ranking from U.S. News in addition to regional accreditation. Peirce also has specific accreditations for its Legal, Business, Accounting, Health Information Technology, and Health Information Administration programs, ensuring that each one of its nearly 2,000 students receives the best quality education available. Students at Peirce also enjoy the school's unique aesthetic, which blends historic architecture with state-of-the-art computer labs and well-equipped, modernized classrooms. Many also supplement their time in on campus with experiential learning opportunities in exciting Philadelphia.
Philander Smith is a small private college that attracts like-minded students to its programs, which are affiliated with both the United Methodist Church and the United Negro College Fund. While students experience all the benefits of living in Arkansas' bustling capital city, they also enjoy great views of the Ozark Mountains and the sparkling Arkansas River. PSC offers undergraduate majors that span from Business Administration to Social Work, as well as some pre-professional programs in Dentistry and Pharmacy. Unique offerings such as the STEM Program, Social Justice Peers Program, and Visiting Scholars Program give students plenty of additional opportunities to expand their horizons.
If you're interested in a religious education in a Midwest location, add Grace University to your list of small colleges to research. As one of fewer than 500 students, you'll enjoy unparalleled access to professors and individualized attention from advisors. Grace attendees get to know nearly all their classmates both in and out of academic circles and are likely to see a number of familiar faces in their business, education, music, nursing, psychology, and/or communications classes. Students can also choose to major in Christian Ministries or develop their own program of study, and Grace University offers opportunities for graduate-degree seekers and adult learners as well.
Although many of the schools on this list reside in the South and Midwest, Castleton State College gives New England students the opportunity to benefit from a cheap small college education. Castleton currently holds prestigious Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification, and it encourages students to engage with their surroundings through artistic, philanthropic, and athletic pursuits. CSC's wide array of undergraduate majors give young adults the opportunity to explore unique majors in Athletic Training, Ecological Studies, Sports Administration, and Women and Gender Studies, in addition to all the more traditional liberal arts options.
Silver Lake Colleges joins other schools on this list that have chosen to dedicate themselves to the liberal arts through a Catholic perspective. In addition to general accreditation, Silver Lake also boasts special accreditations for its music and nursing programs and claims membership in nearly 20 different academic and professional associations. Many students choose SLC's "traditional program," which offers degrees in Art, Biology, Business, Computer Science, and must more. Alternatively, older professionals can choose the "adult education program," which offers convenience, speed, and flexibility for full-time workers.
Don't be fooled by this school's misleading name - Ohio Valley University is actually located in West Virginia, nestled right along the Ohio River. The nearly 500 students who choose OVU each year get a serious return on their investment in the form of wide-open spaces. More Specifically, the Ohio Valley features a whopping 82,000 acres of parks, hiking trails, and riverbanks. When they're not busy enjoying the fresh air, students at OVU take classes primarily in business, education, and religious studies. Many are also looking forward to the Fall of 2015, when this affordable small college is adding B.S. degrees in both Engineering and Energy Management and Production.
You can "make a difference" at Bryan College, a cheap small college that adds to the selection of religious schools on this list. BC has membership with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as well as the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education. Bryan professors, 70% of whom hold terminal degrees in their fields, integrate faith-based learning into all 44 of the school's fields of study. It's also worth noting that 95% of students receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, and work-study - an impressive statistic that lowers Bryan College's overall net price.
If you're looking for a college experience that will allow you to get to know all of your professors personally and at least recognize almost everyone on campus, Claflin might be the right choice. CU's student body of less than 2,000 easily qualifies it for this small colleges ranking, while its academic rigor and commitment to personal development prove its caliber. A historically black university with roots in the United Methodist Church, Claflin provides a highly specialized atmosphere for religious, African American students. Undergraduate degrees cover business, education, the humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, and math, but students can also step outside their comfort zone by applying to the school's leadership program or studying abroad.
Brenau University distinguishes itself from the pack of other small colleges through its focus on experiential education. Brenau especially encourages students to seek internships and apply to study abroad programs as a way to put their learning to the test. Brenau consists of the College of Business and Mass Communication, College of Education, College of Health Sciences, College of Fine Arts and Humanities, and the Sidney O. Smith Graduate School. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits BU's general curriculum, and the university also boasts specialized approval for its Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Interior Design, Teacher Education, Business, Psychology, and Dance programs.
The University of Mary offers degrees at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral level to meet the needs of every one of its nearly 3,000 students. The university describes itself as "values based," uniquely focused on civil service and global education in addition to liberal arts. Students can join the "Emerging Leaders Academy," visit the school's campus in Rome, or stay local to pursue one of more than 50 baccalaureate options. UM also lets students take classes online, although many choose to take advantage of the intimate campus atmosphere in Bismarck. And between the school's scholarship options and low tuition, it offers a great value that makes it one of the cheapest liberal arts colleges around.
Wingate University's small student body of just over 3,000 doesn't limit the school from earning a big reputation; U.S. News names it one of the top 10 "best values" in the South. Students enjoy a comfortable 14:1 student-to-teacher ratio but also get to cheer on their classmates in multiple NCAA Division II sports, a unique combination that offers Wingate "Bulldogs" the best of both an affordable small college and large public university. Students are quick to list a multitude of benefits of choosing WU, including one-on-one time with professors, free tutoring, extracurricular activities, and atypical majors. Some of these less common majors include Athletic Training, Chemistry Business, and Rhetoric and Performance.
If you're looking for a college surrounded by nearly 200 acres of woods, located on a scenic hilltop and within driving distance of a natural lake, you're looking for Lindsey Wilson College. Affiliated with the Kentucky Conference of the United Methodist Church, LWC focuses on moral teachings and undergraduate-specific education that can help prepare young people for their next steps. Bachelor's degrees include Art, Communication, Business, Education, and Physical Education, plus a select number of B.S. options in Biology and Nursing. In line with their religious background, LWC also offers undergraduate study in Christian Ministries.
Despite being a relatively small college, Alverno is interestingly one of the largest Catholic schools for women in the United States. Undergraduate programs cater exclusively to females, although graduate students of both genders can enroll in weekday and weekend classes. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools accredits Alverno's curriculum, which the college describes as "ability-based." Their unique curriculum goes beyond the typical demands of a liberal arts institution, and it offers ongoing feedback that can help individuals develop their skill sets in the areas most useful to them.
Despite its small stature, Mansfield University of Pennsylvania encourages its students to "dream big." As one of the premier liberal arts and best small colleges in the state, MU gives students the chance to explore a wide range of campus events and resources without drowning them in a sea of faceless classmates. Academic departments include Chemistry and Physics, Business Administration, Psychology, Philosophy, History, and just about any other major you would expect to see at a traditional university. Less typical options include Law Enforcement, Geology, and School Library and Information Technologies. And thanks to accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, students can feel confident that the curriculum they enjoy meets rigorous standards of quality.
Located between Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Maryville College offers students the best of both city life and the great outdoors. Maryville is one of the oldest colleges in the south and holds a reputation for providing a uniquely personal experience to each learner. With an average of 1,200 enrolled students each year, Maryville is able to keep classes small and encourage honest discussions, critical thinking, and ethical teaching in the classroom. MC stands out as unique among small colleges in its ability to combine this intimate atmosphere with the research opportunities and international experiences one would expect from a much larger school.
As a Catholic, private, liberal arts college set in the small town of Leavenworth, the University of St. Mary offers a flexible, personalized approach to students at all level of study. Both undergraduates and doctoral candidates can study online or on campus, and many students also choose to enroll in evening classes at the nearby Overland Park location. Princeton Review names USM one of the "Best Midwestern Colleges," and more than a thousand students each year choose the university because of its core values of community, excellence, justice, and respect. Students can choose from a wide range of typical undergraduate majors as well as pre-professional tracks, plus courses dedicated to theology. St. Mary also offers a unique STEM program that provides research opportunities and individualized counseling to students interested in careers in science and math.
Holy Family University is another affordable small college that grounds its curriculum in religious values. As a Catholic institution, HFU combines majors in business administration, nursing and allied health, education, and the arts and sciences with traditional religious teachings. Students benefit from a small, inclusive atmosphere on campus, but can easily venture into bustling Philadelphia if they want to experience the big city. Holy Family offers more than 40 majors at the undergraduate level, which cover everything from Digital Communications to Sports Marketing, as well as a wealth of minors. The university is also adding an innovative degree in "Business Intelligence" starting in Fall 2015.
Fresno Pacific University, based in temperate Central California, offers students the opportunity to learn about culture, leadership, society, and ethics within a Christian framework. The university holds accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission and organizes its curriculum into four schools: Religion and Social Sciences, Education, Natural Sciences, and Business. Students can choose from degrees at the associate's through master's level, as well as pursue certificate and degree completion options. In addition to standard topics in History, English, Chemistry, Biology, and Business, students may also consider exploring unique study in Kinesiology, Biblical Studies, Graphic Arts, or Environmental Studies. This small private college boasts a breadth of academic experiences to a student body that just makes it under our 4,000-enrollment cap.
Even as the most expensive school on this list, Young Harris College nonetheless represents an attractively affordable choice for diligent students. The low overall net price is due to YHC's selection of both need-based and merit-based financial aid packages, which help more than 90% of admitted students afford the cost of education. The small overall size of the student body gives professors the freedom to teach small classes of just 18 - sometimes less - which in return gives interested learners the opportunity to get to know their teachers on a personal level. Young Harris encourages students to form bonds both in and out of the classroom, whether it's while they're exploring Business and Public Policy, Environmental Science, Music Education, or Outdoor Leadership; studying abroad; participating in a student organization; or stretching their knowledge through an "immersive learning" experience.
Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools
At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates
Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid
Admission and enrollment rates
Number of program options
Online Enrollment Score
Portion of learners taking at least one online course
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.
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Listed below are the 100 most affordable small colleges in the United States. How did we come up with such a list? First, we took on the gargantuan task of identifying every single institution of higher education in the nation – a list that originally topped 2,700 schools. The next step was to eliminate community colleges, graduate schools, and specialty schools (for example, seminaries or pre-professional schools that would appeal only to a small subset of applicants). As our focus was on traditional four-year colleges, we also eliminated schools that don’t admit first-time undergraduates. This dropped our list of candidates to about 1,900, at which point we collected data on student enrollment. We consulted several reputable sources (listed at the end of the article) and determined that for this ranking, we would define “small college” as a school with 4,000 students or fewer. This narrowed list (comprised of about 700 schools) became the foundation for this ranking.
We then took the final step of determining affordability. We chose to rank colleges based on their “net price,” a figure that we interpret as more accurate than reporting tuition rates alone. These net prices, which come from College Navigator (a component of the National Center for Education Statistics), are generated:
“By subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees (lower of in-district or in-state), books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.” – College Navigator
This net price then gives students a more accurate assessment (although not necessarily precise for everyone) of what you can expect to pay in total costs per year at any given school. We sorted the schools by their net price and listed the 100 most affordable below. Remarkably, even the 100th most expensive small college still has an annual price tag less than $16,000. Furthermore, these 100 colleges cover an attractive range of academic majors, religious affiliations, locations, and extracurricular opportunities, practically guaranteeing that you can find a school that fits your interests, budget, and desire for a close-knit community.
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About the Author: 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.
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