BEST VALUE SMALL COLLEGES FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE DEGREE

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From 2016 to 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in the environmental science sector will grow by 11%, which is much faster than average. From becoming a marine biologist to a sustainability consultant, there are many diverse job opportunities available within the field.

We’ve created a list of the 20 best small colleges for environmental science majors on a budget. To make it onto our list, each college has to adhere to our strict criteria:

  1. First, each of the schools listed has a minimum of three relevant programs for students seeking a degree in environmental science or a related area.
  2. Second, each school has to maintain an undergraduate graduation rate of at least 40%.
  3. Finally, all of the programs have an estimated annual rate of less than $34,000 a year, as reported by College Navigator.

Keep reading to find out which college secured the #1 spot!

Methodology

Each of these top schools has a minimum of three relevant programs for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies or a related area (including but not limited to ecology, environmental engineering, forestry, marine biology, natural resource conservation, sustainability studies, and wildlife science). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 40%.

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 $34,000 a year.

But which of these is the most affordable small college for an environmental science degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

For more information on the methodology, click here.


Rank School Location
1 Washington College Chestertown, MD
2 St. Lawrence University Canton, NY
3 Sewanee: The University of the South Sewanee, TN
4 Tuskegee University Tuskegee, AL
5 Smith College Northampton, MA
6 Albright College Reading, PA
7 Florida Southern College Lakeland, FL
8 Barnard College New York, NY
9 Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA
10 Colgate University Hamilton, NY
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  1. Washington College
    Location

    Chestertown, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in tiny Chestertown, Maryland, Washington College offers an idyllic haven for nature lovers. Environmental science students couldn't dream of a better location to access the great outdoors; not only is the Chester River within walking distance of campus, but the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays - as well as the Bombay Hooke National Wildlife Refuge - are all less than an hour away. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Undergrads can pursue myriad opportunities within the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, which houses two bachelor's degrees in this field. The top college for environmental science majors also sponsors field courses in Bermuda and Ecuador, where you can study the ecology of coral reefs and tropical rain forests up close.

  2. St. Lawrence University
    Location

    Canton, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Like most majors, there is no single set of characteristics that defines the best small colleges for an environmental science degree. However, if your goal is to combine a love of the environment with a more traditional science education, then St. Lawrence is the dictionary definition of a smart choice. Although the school also offers an independent degree, it has also pioneered a combined major program that permits students to link their environmental studies coursework with one of 10 other traditional degrees. Approved options include natural science programs (ex. Geology or Chemistry) as well as social science majors (ex. Philosophy or Economics).

  3. Sewanee: The University of the South
    Location

    Sewanee, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Out of all the schools on this environmental science colleges ranking, few can rival the breadth of Sewanee's course offerings. The list of "green" majors at this southern school is especially impressive considering its small size. For roughly 1,800 undergraduates, Sewanee provides more than half a dozen eco-conscious programs. These include majors like Ecology and Biodiversity, Forestry, and Natural Resources and the Environment, plus a certificate in Watershed Science. You can even minor in Religion and the Environment! All of this is part of Sewanee's Integrated Program in the Environment (SIPE), which also supports field study in "the Domain." This one-of-a-kind outdoor laboratory encompasses 13,000 acres of woodlands, caves, farms, and lakes where SIPE students can conduct research and connect to nature.

  4. Tuskegee University
    Location

    Tuskegee, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Initially, you may be surprised to find one of the nation's best colleges for environmental science majors in central Alabama. But saving the planet isn't all about wandering through the rain forest and hugging panda bears (although that does sound nice). At Tuskegee, "going green" means taking a practical approach to resource conservation. The university's Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (DAES) has spearheaded this effort, designing career-oriented concentrations that address real problems. For example, the Plant and Soil Sciences major emphasizes plant production and trains students for careers in crop biotechnology. Another option focuses on natural resource conservation and management, making it ideal for aspiring park rangers or wildlife biologists.

  5. Smith College
    Location

    Northampton, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A women's college with deep roots in the liberal arts, Smith has earned a well-deserved reputation as an open-minded institution with a penchant for progressive thinking. Thus, it's only fitting that the school take a non-traditional approach to environmental education. In fact, despite being one of the best small colleges for an environmental science degree, Smith doesn't actually have a degree in environmental studies at all! It does, however, feature a robust interdisciplinary program in Environmental Science and Policy, where you can learn how to communicate your passion for the planet in way that "transcend[s] disciplinary boundaries." Or for an education that's less humanities and more hands-on, the Environmental Geoscience track will provide the perfect precursor to a career in archaeology or environmental engineering.

  6. Albright College
    Location

    Reading, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    In stark contrast to its neighbor on this best environmental science colleges ranking, Albright employs a straightforward approach to the study of sustainability. For undergrads at this small school in Pennsylvania, the choice is between a broad-based program in environmental studies or environmental science, or a slightly more focused track in environmental chemistry. The latter two options are laboratory-based and will appeal primarily to science-minded students with an interest in research and technology. The former option leans more heavily on the social sciences, encouraging students to explore the earth's role in disciplines as diverse as economics, sociology, and public policy.

  7. Florida Southern College
    Location

    Lakeland, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Residing in the appropriately-named town of Lakeland, Florida Southern College has not overlooked the unique opportunities that its aquatic home affords. Many of the environmental science courses at FSC include a "strong outdoor component," with plenty of opportunities to collect data and tour local agencies. Another major benefit is the school's proximity to Tampa, which provides for an easy commute once you land an internship with an organization such as the Lowry Park Zoo or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. But FSC isn't just a top college for environmental science majors; its marine biology program offers similar perks to students interested in the ecology of ocean life.

  8. Barnard College
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At Barnard College, studying the environment is serious business. This top small college for an environmental science degree emphasizes "the need for well-trained scientists" and sustainability advocates in every area of society. As such, Barnard supports three academic programs that represent a range of interdisciplinary interests: Environmental Science, Environmental Biology, and Environmental Policy. The department can also accommodate double and "special" majors for undergraduates who want to apply their love of nature to a different industry, such as law or journalism. And if you start to miss the flora and fauna while living in the concrete jungle, you can always apply for an off-campus program like the SEA Semester or Columbia's Summer Ecosystem Experiences for Undergraduates (SEE-U).

  9. Franklin and Marshall College
    Location

    Lancaster, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A few minutes on Franklin and Marshall's website should convince just about anyone that this is one of the best small colleges for an environmental science degree on the East Coast, if not the entire country. The opportunities available to students in F&M's "Earth and Environment" department far outpace any expectations for a school of this size. Each of the department's degree programs - Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Geosciences - incorporate hands-on learning tools that help put environmental issues in context. Fields trips in particular are an essential part of the curriculum; past expeditions have included traveling to Yellowstone to study the predatory habits of wolves, visiting Hawaii to explore active volcanoes, and undertaking independent research in places as far away as Malaysia!

  10. Colgate University
    Location

    Hamilton, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    If you find yourself drawn to interdisciplinary programs - or you simply can't make up your mind between two fields of study - Colgate University may be the answer. In addition to the traditional environmental studies major, the university also offers four blended programs that combine eco-conscious coursework with one of four other disciplines: biology, geology, economics, or geography. As a result, Colgate graduates enjoy versatile careers that may land them in a laboratory, corporate office, or even on Capitol Hill. And yet, Colgate has taken its commitment to being one of the best small colleges for environmental studies even further, pledging to be a "carbon neutral" campus.

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

See also: Top 10 Colleges for a Cheap Online Degree 2019

Sources:

College Navigator

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