By BVS Staff
Welcome to our ranking of the 25 best small colleges for women’s studies majors on a budget.
Each of these top schools offers at least one comprehensive program for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in gender studies (including but not limited to women’s and gender studies, feminist studies, and sexuality studies). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 60%. Of course, to be a best value, these top-ranked schools also have to demonstrate a genuine commitment to affordable education – which means meeting our net price requirements. All of the programs on this ranking have estimated annual costs (as reported on College Navigator) of less than $27,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a gender studies degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!
25. Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA
Mount Holyoke’s affordable feminist studies undergraduate programs challenge the tired notion that a gender studies degree doesn’t lead to a career. In fact, a required field placement gives you the chance to work for a nonprofit, business, or other community organization, putting theory into practice. Every week, you’ll meet with your fellow undergrads to discuss and reflect on your experiences. And if you’re eager to focus on LGBTQ+ issues, you can pair your major or minor in gender studies with the Certificate in Queer and Sexuality Studies, offered jointly by Mount Holyoke and the four other local colleges in its consortium. Requiring just seven courses, it’s a great way to augment your degree and broaden your career prospects.
Net Price: $26,082/yr
24. Clark University
Ambitious students, take note: Clark recommends that students who major in Women’s and Gender Studies double major in a related field (think psychology or sociology) to build on shared themes. But that doesn’t mean the program is somehow flimsy in curriculum or too small to function on its own. In fact, the degree offers five unique, targeted concentrations that range from the expected (like Gender, Identity and Sexuality) to the surprising (like Gender, War, and Militaries or Feminist Critiques of Globalization). No matter which concentration you choose, you can feel proud of the program’s history, which dates back to the 1970s. In the midst of the decade’s political upheaval, student activists demanded – and received – feminist-related coursework at this top college for a gender studies degree.
Net Price: $25,982/yr
23. Southwestern University
Southwestern has the smallest undergraduate population on this women’s studies undergraduate degrees ranking, which manifests in a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and an average class size of just 15 students. The Central Texas-based school offers a minor and a major in Feminist Studies, and you can also choose to combine your degree with coursework in a related subject. This “mix and match” curriculum, along with Southwestern’s diverse range of classes, is ideal for individuals who want some control over the actual disciplines that make up this interdisciplinary program. You could take “Gender and Sexuality in the British Empire” as part of your Historical Perspectives concentration, for example, or “Feminist Disability Studies” as part of your Difference, Power and Resistance in the U.S. concentration.
Net Price: $25,345/yr
22. Lafayette College
The interdisciplinary and affordable small college gender studies program at Lafayette is committed to inclusivity and diversity in viewpoint. As such, the school provides a number of resources to both support students and challenge them academically. One example is the Women’s and Gender Studies Library and Resource Room, a designated “safe space” where undergrads can work on projects and spend time together. Professors also use it as a meeting spot to check in with students who are studying independently or interning off campus. And speaking of internships, Lafayette is a great place to go for real-world experience. In addition to local community organizations, there are a wealth of relevant opportunities with national groups in the area – including several options in nearby New York and Philadelphia.
Net Price: $24,993/yr
21. Bates College
Founded in 1855 by abolitionists, Bates was the first coed school in New England. It was also one of the first to admit students of all races and religions. With this liberal history, it’s no wonder it evolved into one of the best small colleges for women’s studies majors today. Indeed, the curriculum clearly demonstrates Bates’ familiarity with social and gender issues. Courses emphasize the myriad ways that bias and culture influence gender relations in daily life while highlighting the systems of privilege that affect us all. And if you’re planning to pursue graduate work in the field, Bates’ senior thesis requirement will give you solid practice researching and writing long-form papers.
Net Price: $24,956/yr
20. Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
The top small college gender studies program at Skidmore requires just nine courses for the major, but you’ll likely want to take more. That’s because the school offers a variety of intriguing course options that allow students to examine this vexing topic from just about any angle. For example, you could study the social history of body modification in “The Social Skin: Gender, Beauty & Body Modification” or the way culture influences the perception of female bodies in “Too Fat? Too Thin? Women and Eating Disorders.” And particularly ambitious students can graduate with honors in the major by maintaining a required GPA and completing a thesis or senior paper.
Net Price: $24,038/yr
19. Trinity College
Trinity’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality program includes comprehensive study of the interplay between sex and gender, making it one of the best colleges for a gender studies degree that includes a strong LGBTQ+ focus. Indeed, one of the program’s learning goals is to empower students to apply both feminist and queer theory to their studies. You can also expect to explore issues of race, class, and nationality, showing Trinity’s commitment to offering an inclusive and intersectional degree. And if you’d like to continue your studies outside the classroom, Trinity encourages undergrads of all majors to pursue internships and study abroad opportunities for course credit.
Net Price: $23,980/yr
18. Barnard College
New York, NY
As a women’s college, Barnard offers an especially fitting environment for undergrads who wish to study the social constructs of gender and sexuality. One of the program’s primary strengths lies its dedication to interdisciplinary education. Between a partnership with the Africana and American Studies departments and a conjugate concentration in Race and Ethnicity, Barnard emerges as one of the best small colleges for women’s studies majors whose interests traverse a wide range of social justice and cultural issues. The college also offers some unique opportunities by way of its connection to resource-rich Columbia University. This includes access to the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, where students can attend seminars and participate in salon-style discussions.
Net Price: $23,741/yr
17. Bowdoin College
Although many colleges on this women’s studies undergraduate degrees ranking feature small classes just by virtue of the campus’s small enrollment, Bowdoin goes a step further, capping its intermediate-level seminars at only 16 participants. This means that you can expect intense discussions, collaborative work, and an overall personalized learning experience – no matter what class you are taking. For women’s studies majors, these classes ultimately help shape their chosen concentration (general women’s studies or the more narrowly defined sexuality studies). Finally, a capstone seminar during the end of your junior or beginning of your senior year gives you the chance to synthesize your knowledge in a rigorous research-based project.
Net Price: $23,156/yr
16. Franklin and Marshall College
Franklin and Marshall’s affordable feminist studies undergraduate program may be new (the college added it as a major/minor in just 2015), but that means its core principles reflect the most modern thinking on gender and sexuality studies. You can expect the program to take a global perspective, broadening its focus far beyond the Western Hemisphere. In addition, its sexuality-based courses embrace the full range of identities (like “Constructing Sexualities: LGBTIQ Life, Theory and Culture,” for example). If you want to study abroad, F&M recommends focused programs in countries like Chile and the Netherlands, where you can study topics like cultural identity or international perspectives on gender and sexuality.
Net Price: $23,092/yr
15. Davidson College
Davidson boasts a plethora of student-led organizations all over campus dedicated to gender and sexuality issues. This feature makes it one of the best small colleges for women’s studies majors with an interest in activism and social change. One such organization is Davidson Women’s Committee, which supports women’s and gender identity issues by offering frequent lectures, fundraisers, discussions, and even theater productions. A second group, known as the Women’s Leadership Conference Planning Committee, puts together an annual conference to address intergenerational issues affecting women. A number of social and support clubs are active as well, including Queers and Allies, For Loving Yourself (which promotes body positivity), and a confidential LGBTQ+ meeting group.
Net Price: $22,865/yr
14. Augustana College
Rock Island, IL
Augustana has serious gender studies credibility: the school hosted Betty Friedan back in 1973, before WGS was even an official major. Today, the department offers an intersectional approach to the topic, making sure that students understand the relationship between sex, gender, race, class, religion, and more. And the effects of Augustana’s affordable small college gender studies program extend beyond the classroom. The school’s Safe Zone initiative (led by the Women’s and Gender Studies program) aims to make the campus an inclusive, safe, and affirming place for all students. Participants (which can be individuals, clubs, or whole departments) attend workshops and receive a Safe Zone sticker to let others know that theirs is a welcoming environment.
Net Price: $22,715/yr
13. Wesleyan University
There’s a lot to like about Wesleyan’s top feminist studies undergraduate program. From the ability to design your own concentration to the impressive speakers who visit campus for symposia and lectures, the program has lots to offer undergrads. But students interested in animal issues and how speciesism relates to matters of gender, sexuality, race and class will find something else to like: the school’s ecofeminist internship grant. The $3,000 award – sponsored in partnership with Wesleyan’s animal studies program – goes to a student who’s pursuing experiential learning in that topic through an internship or research project. It’s a unique opportunity and worth a close look if you’re interested in this precise set of issues.
Net Price: $22,257/yr
12. Wellesley College
If you enjoy shaping your own learning experience, you’ll appreciate Wellesley’s Women’s and Gender Studies major. At this all-women school, WGS students design their own concentrations based on their areas of interest. Examples provided by the college include Global/Transnational Feminism; Health, Science, and Bioethics; and Gender and American Cultural Studies, to name a few. Concentrations require only four classes to fulfill, making it relatively easy to find courses that support your interests. And when it’s time to complete the capstone project, Wellesley again lets you choose your path: you can participate in a seminar, conduct field work, or write a thesis. These options make Wellesley’s program one of the most flexible on this women’s studies undergraduate degrees ranking.
Net Price: $22,138/yr
11. Hamilton College
Most schools on this list require a senior thesis or paper, but Hamilton offers another option for its seniors to demonstrate their intellectual growth: a performance. For example, a recent graduate wrote a play that examines the millennial generation’s approach to dating and relationships, incorporating both creative writing and women’s studies topics. Hamilton also encourages undergrads to pursue research, and faculty help interested students pursue grants and stipends to fund summer work. By incorporating performance-based projects and encouraging hands-on research, Hamilton offers one of the best colleges for a gender studies degree with a non-traditional bent.
Net Price: $21,907/yr
10. Colgate University
Like many of the other affordable small college gender studies programs on this list, Colgate’s degree is interdisciplinary; students use a feminist lens to evaluate and analyze a variety of topics. And if you want to bolster your degree with a relevant minor, Colgate offers an affiliate LGBTQ Studies program that will complement your major coursework with deeper discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. In between study breaks, you’ll find valuable resources at Colgate’s Center for Women’s Studies, which meets both the social and academic needs of program members. There, you can access media on pertinent issues, peruse the library, or attend the weekly brown bag lunch on gender issues.
Net Price: $21,741/yr
9. Williams College
At Williams, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies majors must meet a unique “cluster” course requirement. Essentially, this component serves in place of a standard concentration, allowing students instead to piece together a custom focus area as they go. Over the course of your time at this Massachusetts-based top college for a gender studies degree, you’ll work with an academic advisor to select at least three electives that share a common theme or disciplinary connection. For example, you could focus on queer studies or look at gender in a particular historical moment. Another bonus of attending Williams? The school boasts the best graduation rate on this list.
Net Price: $21,546/yr
8. Vassar College
The affordable feminist studies undergraduate program at Vassar stands out in part because of its flexibility. You can elect to pursue Women’s Studies as a comprehensive major (culminating in a senior thesis or project) or as correlate sequence (similar to a minor) to pair with another subject. But for the strongest possible foundation in gender and sexuality issues, undergrads might want to combine their Women’s Studies major with an associated correlate in Queer Studies. Thanks to the range of options and clear depth of coursework available through this program, Vassar alumni have gone on to pursue careers in a number of fields relevant to their undergraduate degree, from midwifery to social work.
Net Price: $21,265/yr
7. Colorado College
Colorado Springs, CO
Most schools on this top women’s studies undergraduate degrees ranking explore women’s and gender issues on a primarily theoretical basis. However, Colorado College has an altogether more concrete commitment to “…eradicat[e] inequality and privilege in our local, national, and global communities whether or not they are explicitly academic.” As such, faculty members are committed to helping Feminist and Gender Studies majors find relevant careers after graduation, and students can access a comprehensive list of local organizations where they might find jobs. To prepare for this work and to make connections, students frequently participate in fellowships and internships – some of which receive funding from the school’s career center.
Net Price: $21,027/yr
6. Middlebury College
Thanks in part to its Queer Studies House, Middlebury stands out as one of the best small colleges for women’s studies majors who want to be part of a tight-knit community. This student interest house provides not just a safe gathering space for undergrads of all gender identities and sexualities, but also a hub for academic discussion and engagement. Another great on-campus resource is Chellis House, a center that serves all program members in the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department. Although this isn’t a residential house, it does have a dining room, kitchen, and living room where students can relax and hang out.
Net Price: $20,197/yr
5. Colby College
With its idyllic location in Waterville, Maine, Colby offers students a top education in a beautiful New England environment. But Colby has more than just good looks going for it: it’s one of the best colleges for a gender studies degree. Faculty encourage students to take their learning beyond the classroom, whether through a service project or other activism. And Colby supports this type of work with Senior Scholars, a program through which students can earn credits for intensive work on a significant project. Working with a tutor, you’ll design the project and work on it throughout an entire year to fortify your research skills (while strengthening your resume, too).
Net Price: $18,908/yr
4. Pomona College
The affordable feminist studies undergraduate program at Pomona comprises two options for majors. One is a theoretical track and focuses on the theory of feminist scholarship and research. The other is a joint major track, which lets students pair Gender and Women’s Studies with another discipline. Faculty encourage degree seekers in both groups to participate in undergraduate research – and in fact, more than 50% of Pomona’s undergrads pursue research across a variety of departments and disciplines. Whether you want to conduct fieldwork or take a research deep-dive, Pomona can help you find external funding and a faculty advisor to support your work.
Net Price: $18,423/yr
3. Amherst College
One significant perk of enrolling in Amherst’s top small college gender studies program is the access it affords to each of the other four schools in the Five College Consortium. For example, UMass – Amherst houses the Stonewall Center, one of the first LGBT college support centers in the country. And Hampshire College’s Center for Feminism is a progressive anti-sexist organization with a noble agenda of making college campuses inclusive and safe. As you complete your Sexuality, Women’s, and Gender Studies major (known as SWAGS on campus), you might appreciate that Amherst doesn’t require a senior thesis: You can opt instead to submit a comprehensive portfolio that showcases your work and includes a reflective essay on your studies.
Net Price: $16,861/yr
2. University of Minnesota – Morris
You might find it difficult to analyze gender studies themes objectively. That’s why it’s notable that Morris acknowledges – and encourages – students to view their studies from a personal perspective. Even the one-credit capstone paper is personal, challenging seniors to write about their own experiences and reflect on their work over the past four years. To pass their senior capstone, undergrads must also deliver a presentation and participate in a panel discussion, which provide ideal preparation for those who intend to attend graduate school. Overall, UMM’s embrace of students’ personal motivations and interests helps make it one of the best small colleges for women’s studies majors who see significant overlap between their past life experiences and their future life goals.
Net Price: $13,352/yr
1. Berea College
Berea makes its mark on this top women’s studies undergraduate degrees ranking for a few distinct reasons. First, it’s a Christian school with a proud history of providing an interracial and coed education in Kentucky. It’s also a “no-tuition” college; a generous endowment and frugal spirit mean that student expenses are practically nonexistent. Like all Berea’s majors, the Women’s and Gender Studies program reflects the school’s guiding principles. This includes participation in the Student Labor Program, an initiative that works doubly to offset tuition costs and uphold the school’s strong Christian work ethic. To add to this practical experience, Berea encourages undergrads to participate in internships and directed study courses that help translate theoretical knowledge into real-world skills.
Net Price: $3,125/yr
Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small college gender studies programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator Center.
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