By BVS Staff
Welcome to our ranking of the 20 best small colleges for mechanical engineering majors on a budget.
Each of these top schools offers at least one targeted program or concentration for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (this also includes aerospace, industrial, manufacturing, and materials engineering). 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 $35,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a mechanical engineering degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!
20. Stevens Institute of Technology
At the Stevens Institute of Technology, mechanical engineering students are able to acquire hands-on experience in a range of industries that will pave a career path for them right out of college. Through dedicated programs in Integrated Product Development, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Engineering, and Product Architecture and Engineering, Stevens provides a tangible introduction to promising and lucrative opportunities in groundbreaking, high-tech fields. This affordable small college for mechanical engineering also offers a Mechatronics minor for undergraduates who are interested in coupling their expertise in mechanics with additional certification and coursework in electronics.
Net Price: $34,935/yr
19. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering – often called “Olin” for short – is without a doubt one of the most unique, progressive, and selective technical institutions in the country. Among the best small schools for mechanical engineering, Olin is also one of the very few that provides all admitted students with scholarships. The generous financial awards can cover up to 50% of all tuition expenses (around $20,000 a year), increasing accessibility to individuals who otherwise might not be able to afford an education at all. This naturally makes Olin a top choice for aspiring engineers around the country. No wonder it has such a staggeringly low (8%) admission rate!
Net Price: $32,734/yr
18. Tuskegee University
With undergraduate degree programs in mechanical, aerospace, and materials science engineering, Tuskegee University is one of the foremost Historically Black Colleges (HBC) for future engineers. Since its founding on July 4th, 1881 (by Booker T. Washington, no less), this top college for a mechanical engineering degree has served as a bastion of education for African Americans in the South – and as a vanguard of technical innovation, too. In fact, to this day, Tuskegee remains the number one producer of black baccalaureates in Math, Science and Engineering in the state of Alabama.
Net Price: $28,497/yr
17. Norwich University
At Norwich University’s David Crawford School of Engineering, mechanical engineering students explore a wide range of theories, concepts and methodologies that span virtually the entirety of this expansive field. From transportation to manufacturing, Norwich’s comprehensive curriculum illuminates the multifaceted nature of this essential industry and the many pathways that could lead to promising career. And while some theory must come before practice, juniors and seniors at this affordable small school for mechanical engineering spend three of their final four semesters in design courses. Using computer-aided (CAD/CAM) software as well as manual techniques, upperclassmen and women work on independent projects to bring their ideas to life.
Net Price: $26,733/yr
16. Lawrence Technological University
Lawrence Technological University combines a theoretical curriculum with hands-on learning to create an educational experience that thoroughly prepares graduates for their future careers. Thanks to numerous partnerships with local companies, Lawrence is able to offer all students co-op work/study opportunities in the community. These work experiences qualify as both internships and after-school jobs – and will earn participants course credit at the same time! This allows students not only to finance their education while they learn, but also to apply that education in state-of-the-art technical facilities. It’s no surprise, then, that LTU has earned top mechanical engineering college rankings from the Brookings Institution, Standard & Poor, and other industry mainstays.
Net Price: $26,248/yr
15. Lafayette College
As one might expect from any of the top small colleges for mechanical engineering majors on this list, Lafayette College treats the study of engineering as a verb rather than a noun. This means that lecture-based coursework in math, materials, and dynamics shares space on the curriculum with multiple research-based classes and practical design experiences (in cutting-edge laboratories, of course). In fact, Lafayette’s Engineering Department boasts over 12,000 square feet of laboratory space dedicated to undergraduate work! From Robotics and Automation to Instrumentation and Data Acquisition, engineering majors at Lafayette have access to all the modern resources and equipment they need to become first-rate engineers for the 21st century.
Net Price: $24,993/yr
14. Walla Walla University
College Place, WA
Listed among U.S. News’ Best Regional Universities in the West, Walla Walla University is one of the premiere Christian institutions of higher education in the country. Its top mechanical engineering college ranking only further contributes to this well-deserved reputation. Mechanical engineering majors at WWU study diverse concepts and applications that range from kinematics to machine design, regularly expanding their horizons to embrace a deeper knowledge of their field. Unsurprisingly, this Christian college also stresses the importance of global stewardship, and socially conscious learners can even opt for an additional credential in Global Humanitarian Engineering (GHE).
Net Price: $24,104/yr
13. Trinity College
Technically, Trinity College does not offer a dedicated degree program in mechanical engineering. However, it does host a general B.S. in Engineering through which majors can select a specific concentration. Students with a particular interest in statics, fluid dynamics, and thermal systems can choose the mechanical engineering track, which consists of seven courses in topics like “Mechanics of Materials” and “Heat Transfer.” But unlike many technical colleges, Trinity maintains the importance of a well-rounded education, requiring undergrads in all departments to take classes in the humanities and arts as well as the sciences. Although it’s not for everyone, this traditional liberal arts philosophy makes Trinity one of the top colleges for a mechanical engineering degree that doesn’t neglect other subjects.
Net Price: $23,980/yr
12. Andrews University
Berrien Springs, MI
Like Walla Walla, Andrews University is living proof that a religious affiliation and a globally competitive STEM education are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Andrews’ faculty members see Christian faith and spirituality as a vehicle to inform – and enhance – the mission of their engineers-in-training. In addition to a school-wide honor code that cultivates integrity throughout the student body, Andrews encourages students to devote their knowledge and resources to the betterment of mankind through sustainability, safety, and charity. As such, community service and outreach play an integral role in the curriculum at this affordable small school for mechanical engineering.
Net Price: $23,491/yr
11. Illinois Institute of Technology
With a name like the Illinois Institute of Technology, one would expect this school to host a wide array of mechanical engineering degrees. Of course, IIT easily lives up to its name, providing dedicated programs in mechanical, materials, and aerospace engineering – plus dual majors for those who are ambitious enough to cross-specialize. Within each degree, this top small college for mechanical engineering majors puts forth an exhaustive curriculum that brings a number of in-demand (and lucrative) careers well within reach. But perhaps the school’s greatest resource is its faculty and their respective labs, where undergraduates participate in research (a cornerstone of the IIT experience) and gain valuable training for a career in industry.
Net Price: $23,371/yr
10. California Institute of Technology
It probably goes without saying that the California Institute of Technology is one of the foremost scientific research institutions in the US – if not the world. And just like most of its programs, CalTech’s robust mechanical engineering department pretty much puts all but the best colleges for a mechanical engineering degree to shame. In terms of both quantity and quality, there’s almost no comparison between CalTech and any other school on this list. Undergraduates can choose from degree options in Aeronautics, Aerospace, Materials Science, and Applied Mechanics (among others). But it’s not all about depth and breadth; just as importantly, these elite programs are available at a surprisingly affordable net price.
Net Price: $23,213/yr
9. LeTourneau University
Although LeTourneau University may not have the venerable pedigree of a world-class institution like CalTech, its academic programs are anything but unimpressive. This includes a popular mechanical engineering degree, which comes with a full helping of industry-relevant coursework in subjects like fluid dynamics, mechanical vibrations, and machine design. Undergraduates at this affordable small school for mechanical engineering also develop their technical skills through special “Senior Design” projects; recent tasks have included improving a wheelchair design and building an off-road vehicle for an intercollegiate racing competition. As if that’s not enough, LETU houses the Kielhorn Welding & Materials Joining Engineering Lab, which is the “largest stand-alone lab of its kind in the country.”
Net Price: $23,024/yr
8. Swarthmore College
Widely regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Swarthmore College might be the last school one would expect to find on our mechanical engineering colleges ranking. In fact, Swarthmore may be one of the only liberal arts colleges in the US to even have an engineering department! Yet what Swarthmore ostensibly lacks in technical resources it makes up for in individualized education, prestigious faculty, and a comprehensive liberal arts core. Where many engineering students at schools like Olin or CalTech could probably graduate without reading a single line of poetry, Swarthmore graduates learn to exercise the left and right sides of their brains equally.
Net Price: $21,580/yr
7. Northwest Nazarene University
Northwest Nazarene University offers more than 60 majors, minors, and concentrations, but very few of these programs can complete with the popularity and high regard of the school’s Department of Physics and Engineering. With a nearly 100% graduate school acceptance rate and scores of alumni holding executive roles at top companies like Intel and Boeing, NNU’s engineering degrees are a proven pathway to success in academia and industry alike. The overwhelming level of graduate achievement is likely an outcome of the strong “real-world” experience mechanical engineering majors receive at NNU. From internships to faculty-led laboratory research, no one leaves this affordable small college for mechanical engineering majors without getting their hands dirty – a lot.
Net Price: $19,789/yr
6. Oklahoma Christian University
With an average net price of less than $19,000 a year, Oklahoma Christian University makes it possible for aspiring engineers to acquire the skills and experience they need to build a career – without breaking the bank. OCU doesn’t cut corners to create this cutthroat price tag, either. Low cost of living and good old fashioned Christian generosity allow OCU to deliver resources (like a state-of-the-art thermal-fluids lab) at less than half the price of its competitors. In other words, OCU isn’t just one of the most affordable colleges for a mechanical engineering degree, but one of the best values, too!
Net Price: $18,758/yr
5. St. Mary’s University
San Antonio, TX
St. Mary’s University enjoys widespread recognition as one of the best values in higher education, and its Industrial Engineering Program is no exception. For less than $18,000, engineering majors at St. Mary’s have 24-hour access to world-class engineering labs and facilities, including a robotics design lab. But price is not the only factor that makes this affordable small school for mechanical engineering stand out. Outside of coursework and research, many students pursue internships at local companies like Phillips and Motorola. Some also volunteer as peer tutors. And for the particularly ambitious, St. Mary’s offers a five year combined bachelor’s/master’s that can catapult graduates into coveted job positions within the industry.
Net Price: $17,164/yr
4. Christian Brothers University
A small Christian school in Tennessee, CBU might not be the first choice that comes to mind for potential engineering students. But in fact, CBU boasts individual programs in the full suits of sub-fields, from chemical to civil to electrical engineering – all that’s missing is a top aerospace engineering undergraduate program! And students within the Mechanical Engineering major have even more options, thanks to separate concentrations in Energy Systems (i.e., “energy conversion and fluid/thermal systems”) and Mechanical Systems (i.e., “dynamics and mechanics”). CBU’s Engineering Department is also home to a number of intradepartmental collaborative opportunities like the CBU Rover Challenge Team.
Net Price: $15,556/yr
3. Virginia Military Institute
Appropriately nicknamed the “West Point of the South,” the Virginia Military Institute is a state-funded military school with a strict code of conduct and a rigorous commitment to high quality education. Practical and technical majors dominate at VMI, where programs focus almost exclusively on science, information technology, and politics. In particular, the mechanical engineering degree is an enticing option for anyone interested in either aeronautics or nuclear energy. Within the program, students can put their skills to the test at the Cooperative Engineering Center, where they work in teams to address real issues facing clients in the community. Ultimately, it’s this focus on responsible problem-solving that makes VMI one of the country’s top colleges for a mechanical engineering degree.
Net Price: $15,197/yr
2. New Mexico Tech
Formerly known as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico Tech has close ties to the energy industry – but that doesn’t mean its programs are entirely devoted to mineral extraction and drilling. In fact, NMT features a surprisingly varied set of programs in mechanical and materials engineering, including concentrations in metallurgy and biomaterials. But NMT isn’t just one of the most academically diverse tech schools; it’s also one of the cheapest and boasts #2 ranking on USA Today’s 2014 list of Best Value Colleges. At the end of the day, there are few programs that can provide the same education for even twice the price of this affordable small school for mechanical engineering.
Net Price: $12,489/yr
1. United States Coast Guard Academy
New London, CT
Like the VMI, the United States Coast Guard Academy is a government-funded college that maintains a disciplined and challenging academic environment – and at a steep discount. But outside of the aquatic setting, the biggest difference between these two top colleges for a mechanical engineering degree is that the USCGA is completely free! For the low net price of exactly zero dollars a year, mechanical engineering majors receive an education that approaches the study of mechanics and energy from a decidedly practical, analytical perspective. Upon graduation, all cadets must serve at least five years in the Coast Guard, although many make their maritime service a lifelong career.
Net Price: $0/yr
Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small schools for mechanical engineering? Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Net Price Calculator Center.
See also: 50 Best Value Engineering Schools 2016