Welcome to our ranking of the 10 best small colleges for data science majors on a budget.
Each of these top schools offers at least one full major or relevant concentration for students seeking a bachelor's degree in data science (which also includes but is not limited to programs in data analytics, informatics, business analytics, and big data). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 45%*. 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 $31,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a data science degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!
*With one exception (Faulkner University). We allowed an exception in this case because data science programs are so uncommon at the undergraduate level.
10. Simmons College
Simmons College's annual net price is higher than what most people expect to see from an affordable small college for data science majors. But keep in mind that this ranking is all about value, and Simmons has got it in spades. Although data analytics is a relatively new topic on college campuses, Simmons has already developed three undergraduate programs on the subject. The most comprehensive of these is the B.S. in Data Science and Analytics, which covers topics like data mining, statistical design, and regression analysis. A similar degree is available in Biostatistics, but with additional coursework in biology and environmental science. Lastly, Simmons' interdisciplinary B.S. in Health Informatics blends statistical analysis with a stronger emphasis on programming and IT.
Net Price: $30,232/yr
9. Denison University
As of 2016, the B.A. in Data Analytics is the newest major available at Denison University. Although the program is still in its infancy, it already sports a robust curriculum – and plenty of student interest. This early success is due to Denison's deeply interdisciplinary approach to academics, which has proven the perfect breeding ground for a multifaceted major like data science. Undergrads in this program become the ultimate shape-shifters, easily pairing their lessons in computation and statistics with a career in politics, sociology, businessâ¦the list goes on! All in all, Denison has one of the best small college data science programs for students with big ambitions and few career boundaries.
Net Price: $28,761/yr
8. Washington & Jefferson College
The ever-increasing capabilities of technology make it possible to use computers for just about anything these days, and Washington and Jefferson's Computing and Information Studies program is a direct reflection of that versatility. CIS majors can pick an emphasis from a wide-ranging set of topics, one of which is Big Data. WJC is one of only two colleges on this data analytics degree ranking to offer a concentration in this field, rather than a complete major. However, don't dismiss it too quickly. The program has plenty of merits and nearly enough coursework to create a standalone data science curriculum, from classes in "Data Mining" to "Information Visualization."
Net Price: $27,315/yr
7. Concordia University Irvine
Like Washington and Jefferson College, Concordia University-Irvine has organized its data science coursework in the form of a concentration. But at Concordia, aspiring data analysts won't go through the computer science program; instead, they'll major in business and choose the Business Data Analytics track. Due to this structure, data science courses at Concordia emphasize the applications of big data to the corporate world. Classes like "Optimization and Decision Analysis" and "Econometrics" provide useful tools for future managers and consultants who want to make a career out of maximizing efficiency. This is also one of the best data analytics undergraduate programs for those who want to put their skills to work in finance, economics, or public policy.
Net Price: $26,643/yr
6. Smith College
A field like statistics, which involves a lot of number-crunching and complicated graphs, may not seem like the best path for creative types. But data science is turning that assumption on its head, and Smith College is happy to assist the process. In Smith's Statistical and Data Sciences (SDS) program, students must rely on their ingenuity to interpret, analyze, and communicate complex situations. The program's focus on hands-on problem-solving and student-driven projects – a dead giveaway that this is one of the best colleges for a data science degree – also enables majors to incorporate unique topics into their work. For example, a class project might address a pressing issue in criminology or simulate natural processes from biology or neuroscience.
Net Price: $26,318/yr
5. Trinity University
San Antonio, TX
Of all the schools on this top data analytics degrees ranking, Trinity University probably shares the most in common with Concordia – at least when it comes to its data science curriculum. At Trinity, a B.S. in Business Analytics and Technology (BAT) resides within the Department of Finance and Decision Sciences, which is part of the School of Business. As such, this major is most likely to attract students who want to unleash the potential of big data within corporate finance – although careers in operations management and information systems are also possible. Note that the degree requirements include at least 13 credits of BAT coursework as well as a large number of core courses in business, accounting, finance, and economics.
Net Price: $26,165/yr
4. Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA
Mount Holyoke College's data science major is undoubtedly one of the most unique on our affordable data analytics degrees ranking. Actually, it's not technically a major at all! Instead, it is part of MHC's innovative Nexus Program, which aims to help undergrads "deepen then knowledge and expand their skills" by drawing clear connections between the liberal arts and professional careers. The Data Science Nexus is open to majors in any field, and designated Nexus advisors work with students to map out a path that suits their "domain-specific interests." This strategy grants program members unprecedented flexibility to pair upper-level classes in data science and statistics with coursework in biology, geography, psychology, or just about any other degree that MHC offers.
Net Price: $26,082/yr
3. Faulkner University
Faulkner University sticks out on our best data analytics degrees ranking with a program that is slightly different from the rest. The school offers a degree not in data science, but in informatics. Although definitions of these two disciplines vary, most experts generally agree that there is significant overlap in the two fields. And Faulkner's curriculum clearly reflects the similarity between these two fields; required classes cover topics like database systems, information design and evaluation, and statistics – all subjects that appear regularly in data science programs. It's also worth noting that Faulkner is a religious college affiliated with the Churches of Christ, and therefore undergraduates must take courses in Christian Literacy as part of their core curriculum.
Net Price: $20,119/yr
2. Ottawa University – Ottawa
Because Ottawa University focuses primarily on adult and online education, its degree offerings tend to focus on subjects that are ready-made for the job market. This characterization extends to the school's residential campus in Kansas, where undergraduates can earn a B.S. in Data Science and Technology. The program highlights the "increasingly aggressive demand for qualified data analysts" in fields ranging from national intelligence to healthcare. As such, required classes provide a broad overview of topics pertinent to business, computation, and information science. However, the curriculum also reveals a unique focus on security; with classes in "Ethical Hacking and Intrusion Detection," "Information Forensics," and "Cybersecurity," Ottawa likely has one of the top small college data science programs for fighting cyber crime.
Net Price: $20,094/yr
1. St. Mary's University
San Antonio, TX
At just over $17k a year, St. Mary's is by far the most affordable data analytics undergraduate program on our list – and perhaps in the country. But the B.B.A. in Accounting and Data Analytics at this small college is also rich in resources and big on opportunities. The program is rigorous – students must complete 120 credits in business and accounting plus another 30 in data science – but the potential pay-off is huge. With a business degree that pairs traditional knowledge of financial principles with expertise in the trending topic of big data, graduates of St. Mary's should have no problem finding a job in their chosen field.
Net Price: $17,164/yr
Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small college data science programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Center.
For information about our methodology, click here.
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By Iris Stone