By BVS Staff
Jewish studies programs look at almost four thousand years of prominent figures, rich culture, music, and history. Choosing to pursue a degree in Jewish studies offers both modern and historical perspectives on the religion, and completing such a program will prepare you for job opportunities both inside the synagogue and out.
The following is a list of the 10 best small colleges for Jewish studies majors on a budget. The colleges listed have shown their dedication towards affordability and providing an excellent education by adhering to our high standards:
- Each of the programs available offers a full program (not including minors) for students who are seeking a degree in Jewish Studies or a related area
- Overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 85% (That's far beyond the national average of 56%)
- Estimated annual costs of less than $36,000 a year, as reported by College Navigator
You won't believe which college made it to #1!
Each of these top schools has at least one full program (not including minors) for students seeking a bachelor's degree in Jewish studies or a related area (such as Hebrew). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 85%. 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 $36,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a Judaic studies degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!
For more information on the methodology, click here.
10. Scripps College
With a net price that tops $35,000 a year, it might be hard to imagine what Scripps College is doing on our affordable Jewish Studies program ranking. Keep in mind that the emphasis here is on value; not only does Scripps offer one of the only Judaic Studies degrees in the country, but its program is also one of the best. Undergraduates who are interested in this field should petition the college to pursue a self-designed major or minor, a move which will allow them to work one-on-one with an academic counselor to conceive a personalized curriculum.
Net Price: $35,211/yr
9. Muhlenberg College
Compared to some of the other colleges on this top Jewish Studies program ranking, Muhlenberg offers a much more structured academic experience. Students who would prefer a traditional course sequence - with clear requirements in pre-determined areas - will thrive at Muhlenberg. They will also find many like-minded peers. In fact, the college was originally motivated to devise a Jewish Studies major because the minor has been so consistently popular over the years. To earn their degree, program members must complete two semesters of Hebrew (or otherwise demonstrate proficiency) and take at least two courses each in the areas of Jewish "Religion, Literature, and Thought" and "History, Experience, and Culture."
Net Price: $34,943/yr
8. Dickinson College
As one of the world's oldest religions still in practice today, Judaism provides a unique lens through which to explore not only the Jewish faith, but the evolution of religion itself. This is the approach that Dickinson, undoubtedly one of the top colleges for Jewish Studies majors, takes in educating its students. As such, it should come as no surprise that Dickinson's Judaic Studies program is also deeply interdisciplinary. In addition to classical texts and the Hebrew language, undergraduates acquire knowledge of ancient civilizations, Middle Eastern politics, and European history from the Crusades through WWII.
Net Price: $34,079/yr
7. Claremont McKenna College
In typical liberal arts fashion, Claremont McKenna College offers a curriculum that doesn't conform to the traditional selection of majors and minors; it also offers "sequences." These course set lists are less structured than minors and pair nicely with CMK's established degree programs. Students interested in the Jewish Studies sequence, for example, can seamlessly blend the required coursework with an existing departmental major in Religious Studies; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; History; or Middle East Studies. Although the sequence only officially requires five classes, Claremont McKenna offers dozens of courses that fall under the umbrella of Judaism and Jewish history. Or for a more somber but politically informative experience, students can add a second sequence in Human Rights, Genocide, and the Holocaust.
Net Price: $29,894/yr
6. Smith College
If age is synonymous with quality, then Smith College may very well have the best undergraduate program in Jewish Studies. That's because Smith brings more than 30 years of experience in Judaic education to the table. What started as a minor in 1985 quickly grew in popularity, and before long students were submitting requests for self-designed majors in Jewish Studies. In 2007, Smith finally added the subject to its official list of degree programs. But although the program has been a standard on campus for nearly a decade, it has maintained a distinctly ad hoc, customizable feel. Undergrads can assemble their required credits through all sorts of unique experiences, such as summer Hebrew courses in Israel and one-on-one "Special Studies" courses with a faculty member.
Net Price: $26,318/yr
5. Trinity College
Trinity College joins Muhlenberg as one of the few liberal arts schools on this list to offer a Jewish Studies degree that follows the traditional course structure. Other than four open electives, the major requirements at Trinity are largely set in stone; students must complete four Hebrew language courses (biblical or modern) along with four "core" classes in topics like "The Jewish Tradition" and "Modern Jewish History." In addition, all majors must complete a senior thesis and research tutorial under the guidance of a professor in the department. What's more, this affordable college for Jewish studies majors offers financial and academic support in the form of five annual prizes that it awards to promising undergrads in the department.
Net Price: $23,980/yr
4. Barnard College
New York, NY
In terms of course structure, Barnard's Judaic Studies program is probably most similar to Claremont McKenna's - although geographically the two schools couldn't be further apart! Through its dual major program, Barnard offers East Coasters the chance to combine the study of Jewish culture and history with a related topic in the humanities or social sciences. Officially, students major in Jewish Studies but "frame" their degree within the context of an existing department, such as Anthropology, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Religion, or Classics. This unique approach, which accommodates multiple disciplines without losing sight of its central focus on Judaism, easily earns Barnard status as one of the best small colleges for a Judaic Studies degree.
Net Price: $23,741/yr
3. Wellesley College
If there is every any question as to which of these top undergraduate programs in Jewish Studies is the most comprehensive, take note: the answer is Wellesley. In fact, Wellesley is one of the very few - if not the only - liberal arts college in the nation to actually offer concentrations within the major. As a baseline, undergrads in the department take at least two semesters of Hebrew (Yiddish is also an option) and receive an introduction to Jewish culture from political, historical, philosophical, and sociological perspectives. Once they have developed a keen understanding of their chosen field, students have the option to specialize in particular area of interest. Potential concentrations include Hebrew Language and Literature, Biblical Studies, and European or Eastern Jewry, among others.
Net Price: $22,138/yr
2. Vassar College
The history and evolution of Jewish culture spans thousands of years and multiple continents. Thus, the course architects at Vassar College understand that it would be futile to try to design their top undergraduate program in Jewish Studies around a specific list of classes. Instead, students interested in this major have the opportunity to "chart their own paths through the diversity of disciplinary methodologies and subject areas" that the college offers. This approach gives undergrads the unique privilege of defining their own points of interest, whether it be the religion, history, politics, literature, or culture of the Jewish people. Other features of the degree include a junior year study abroad experience and language courses in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic.
Net Price: $21,265/yr
1. Middlebury College
As the top-ranked college on this affordable Jewish studies program ranking, Middlebury's primary appeal to Judaic scholars is its attractively low net price. Admittedly, students who choose Middlebury won't enjoy the same depth of study in this discipline that they could at some of the more expensive schools. But as we noted at the other end of this list, the keyword is value, and Middlebury offers a selection of high-quality courses drastically disproportionate to its low net cost. More specifically, Middlebury undergrads can indulge their curiosities through two separate minors: Jewish Studies and Hebrew. The college is particularly proud of "the depth of study possible in Hebrew," and it supports coursework in both the modern and classical variations of the language.
Net Price: $20,197/yr
Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable undergraduate programs in Jewish studies? Check out the U.S. Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Center.
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