Updated December 13, 2022

January 2019 Studying political science or international relations equips you to grapple with public policy, legal thinking, and advocacy, among other fields. Political science is about the inner workings of the political process and government. International relations takes that same understanding of the political process and expands it on a much more global scale. Graduates in ... is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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July 2020

Studying political science or international relations equips you to grapple with public policy, legal thinking, and advocacy, among other fields. Political science is about the inner workings of the political process and government. International relations takes that same understanding of the political process and expands it on a much more global scale. Graduates in these fields can go on to study in fields like law, or move directly into public or private sector work.

Start your college search here at our list of the 25 best political science majors on a budget. All of the schools listed offer a minimum of two relevant programs for both political science and international relations, along with a related area. Additionally, the colleges maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 50%. To establish that they're the best value of them all, each school has an estimated annual cost of less than $32,000 a year.

Need to know what program is at #1? Just scroll down to find out!

For more information on the methodology, click here.

#1 Pomona College Claremont, CA
#2 Bridgewater College Bridgewater, VA
#3 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
#4 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
#5 William Jewell College Liberty, MO
#6 Hamilton College Clinton, NY
#7 Austin College Sherman, TX
#8 Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY
#9 Lafayette College Easton, PA
#10 Lake Forest College Chicago, IL

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  1. Pomona College

    Claremont, CA



    Pomona College may not be the namesake of the Claremont Consortium, but it is undoubtedly the crown jewel. Consistently ranked among the top ten liberal arts colleges in the nation, this school is as selective as Harvard and nearly as prestigious. So it's not exactly a stretch to suggest that Pomona has the best undergraduate political science program of any small college in the country. In addition to its own exceptional faculty and staggering 8:1 student-faculty ratio, the school's shared library - and nearly communal course catalog - with CMK and Pitzer (ranked 19th and 14th on this list, respectively) put it completely over the top.

  2. Bridgewater College

    Bridgewater, VA



    If you thought Claremont McKenna had too many political science programs, it's time to think again. Believe it or not, Bridgewater College's Department of History and Political Science clocks in at 11 majors, minors, and concentrations, all available to undergraduates. While that might sound excessive to a STEM-enthusiast, Bridgewater has undeniable appeal to politically-minded students across the spectrum. From the American History buff to the Public Policy wonk, just about any social scientist would agree that Bridgewater's affordable undergraduate political science program is among the most robust in the nation.

  3. Middlebury College

    Middlebury, VT



    With more than 90 different programs available in over 40 different countries, Middlebury College easily leads the nation in study abroad opportunities. And while this fact alone all but guarantees Middlebury's top political science college ranking, the good news doesn't end there. From straight-forward Political Science to International Politics and Economics and International and Global Studies, Middlebury students have an exceptional selection of policy and governmental programs within the school itself that cater to their every interest. Throw in its exceptional financial aid packages and it becomes clear why this school practically tops our list.

  4. Chatham University

    Pittsburgh, PA



    At Chatham University, the study of history, politics, and international affairs go hand-in-hand—so much so, in fact, that there's an entire department devoted entirely to these subjects. But it's not just by name that Chatham's History, Political Science, and International Studies (HPSI) Department earns its reputation; it's the enormous size and scope of the department that is truly impressive. From study abroad and co-curricular programs with organizations like the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics to world-class faculty from around the world, there is no shortage of opportunities for ambitious students at this affordable political science school. Regardless of which program students choose, Chatham ensures they keep opening more doors than they close.

  5. William Jewell College

    Liberty, MO



    William Jewell College may not be a household name, but thanks to its highly rigorous and selective Oxbridge Honors Program, students at this relatively unknown school can receive a world-class education for half the price of comparable institutions. A portmanteau of Cambridge and Oxford, Oxbridge is a tutorial-style program that piles attention, expectation, and, of course, a generous heap of homework on each individual student. Within this program, the Institutions and Policy major stands out as one of the best undergraduate political science programs in the country, preparing students for academia, law, and business alike.

  6. Hamilton College

    Clinton, NY



    Hamilton College is an affordable small college for political science majors that want to ask big questions. In particular, the school's Government Department, which is equipped with a comprehensive array of interdisciplinary coursework, will challenge students' most fundamental assumptions about the law and the role of the state in governing. Even within this program, students can choose from three pathways: Government (the most general approach), World Politics, and Public Policy. While they all share a common core curriculum, each program allows students to choose a topic of study that fascinates them, whether it be a particular region, problem, or question pertaining to government.

  7. Austin College

    Sherman, TX



    Featured in Loren Pope's seminal book, Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College tops multiple "best-of" lists in fields like international studies and political science. What makes these programs at Austin so groundbreaking is the intimacy of the educational environment. With fewer than 1,300 students enrolled at any given time, poli-sci and international studies majors have unprecedented access to faculty members, and they comfortably share resources that would be stretched paper thin at a larger university. This affordable small political science school also allows students to concentrate in sub-fields like Advocacy to gain meaningful experience in their prospective career path.

  8. Skidmore College

    Saratoga Springs, NY



    Although Skidmore's political science degree only officially includes ten major-specific courses (or 33 credits), the program is anything but a cakewalk. In fact, students are likely to spend most of their time walking from the classroom to the library…and back again. That's because this writing-intensive major asks students to write dozens of papers throughout their college career, culminating in a 40-page (10,000 words) thesis on a topic of their choice. Admittedly, this approach may lose some points among applicants looking for a more "hands-on" education. Nevertheless, Skidmore stands out as one of the top political science schools in the nation, especially for students interested in earning a master's degree or attending law school.

  9. Lafayette College

    Easton, PA



    Relations, studies, affairs—whatever you call it, there's no denying that Lafayette College is among the best small colleges for political science and international relations degrees in the US. In addition to its requirement that all program members master a second (or third) language, Lafayette's International Affairs curriculum features an abundance of travel opportunities that encourage students to look beyond their own horizons. These include summer language-study intensives in Italy, Germany, Mexico, and Spain; sister programs in DC and Manhattan; and semester-long courses in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The best part? Students can apply their financial aid towards funding for any and all of these travel opportunities.

  10. Lake Forest College

    Chicago, IL



    Located just outside of the international city of Chicago, Lake Forest College is a top small college for international relations and political science students alike. Where the former have access to internship opportunities at institutions such as the Polish American Chamber of Commerce and the International Visitors Center, the latter are surrounded by the political intrigue of the Windy City. Students in either program can expect a heaping dose of challenging coursework in law, economics, history, and sociology, as well as a range of hands-on learning opportunities in communities around Chicago.

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

See also: Top 9 Cheap Online Political Science Degree Programs (Bachelor's) 2016


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