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Best small colleges in America

  • Best small colleges in America

    Small schools offer unique educational opportunities with favorable teacher-student ratios, access to research projects, and programs in the community, at home, and abroad.

    The best small colleges in America run the gamut from a liberal arts school like Colby College, where students can explore the ecosystems of Belize, to the California Institute of Technology, which works closely with NASA. Some can boast small class sizes and close collaborations with professors while drawing on the resources of a much larger institution, such as Barnard College within Columbia University. Christian institutions infuse their academic offerings with a spiritual outlook, while other schools opened with a religious affiliation but have since become secular institutions. Military schools prepare young men and women for branches of the military from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Merchant Marine, while many others offer first-year seminars to give students a common grounding in critical thinking and writing skills. Students can also take advantage of opportunities to travel abroad and work independently.

    The history of some schools mirrors that of the country—some were established early in New England, where Bowdoin College predates the state of Maine, or by those who moved west. Hamilton College was named after Alexander Hamilton, the country’s treasury secretary. Washington & Lee University’s name reflects the role that George Washington and Robert E. Lee played in the Virginia school.

    What’s different this year is the coronavirus pandemic. Colleges and universities are responding in different ways to COVID-19, with some going entirely to remote learning and others opening their campuses with safety regulations in place.

    Stacker compiled a list of the best small colleges in America using Niche's 2021 rankings. Niche ranks colleges with a variety of factors including academics, admissions, financial, and student life. Colleges with less than 5,000 students enrolled were considered.

    Read on to discover the small schools that could provide the best education for you or your children.

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  • #100. Lipscomb University

    - Location: Nashville, TN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,738
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
    - Acceptance rate: 60%
    - Graduation rate: 65%
    - Six-year median earnings: $43,200
    - Two-year employment rate: 94%

    Lipscomb University is a Christian university in Nashville that offers more than 176 undergraduate majors and minors, as well as 60 master's degree programs and three doctoral degree programs. The staff includes 279 full-time faculty members. The school’s mission is to integrate academics and Christian faith.

  • #99. Allegheny College

    - Location: Meadville, PA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,724
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 64%
    - Graduation rate: 74%
    - Six-year median earnings: $50,900
    - Two-year employment rate: 95%

    Allegheny College encourages students to consider concentrations beyond a single academic division so that they can explore all of their talents—medicine and journalism, for example, or studio art and app development. It is a test-optional school, so it does not require the ACT or SAT for admission, a consideration that might be more important during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • #98. Taylor University

    - Location: Upland, IN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,846
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Acceptance rate: 78%
    - Graduation rate: 82%
    - Six-year median earnings: $38,000
    - Two-year employment rate: 93%

    Originally the Fort Wayne Female College, Taylor University is a Christian liberal arts school with a chapter of MuKappa, an organization focused on missionary and third-culture students. Its Honors Guild typically sends students on a scholarship-funded international trip and brings scholars to the school for talks on themes chosen by the students.

  • #97. The Master's University

    - Location: Santa Clarita, CA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 953
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 77%
    - Graduation rate: 60%
    - Six-year median earnings: $41,700
    - Two-year employment rate: 89%

    The motto of The Master’s University is “For Christ and Scripture,” and it offers undergraduate and graduate programs. In its Biblical studies program, students explore the material in the context of its historical environment so they can apply it to the theological and cultural issues of today. A one-year Bible program offers intense training for soon-to-be missionaries and others.

  • #96. Concordia College

    - Location: Moorhead, MN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,041
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Acceptance rate: 61%
    - Graduation rate: 75%
    - Six-year median earnings: $44,500
    - Two-year employment rate: 97%

    Concordia is a four-year liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. All Concordia students complete two of the school’s integrative learning experiences, or PEAKs, with a focus on learning outside of the traditional classroom. Students can take a non-traditional semester-long course, for example, or go on a three-week trip abroad.

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  • #95. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University—Prescott

    - Location: Prescott, AZ
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,592
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
    - Acceptance rate: 67%
    - Graduation rate: 65%
    - Six-year median earnings: $66,200
    - Two-year employment rate: 94%

    This university traces its roots to “barnstormer” John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry, founders of the Embry-Riddle Flying School. Focused on the aeronautics industry, it boasts many firsts: the first and only undergraduate space physics program, first college of security and intelligence, first spaceflight operations program, first unmanned and autonomous systems engineering program, and the first and only undergraduate aerospace physiology degree.

  • #94. Wofford College

    - Location: Spartanburg, SC
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,653
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Acceptance rate: 64%
    - Graduation rate: 81%
    - Six-year median earnings: $51,500
    - Two-year employment rate: 92%

    Wofford College prepares students through career exploration, community learning, and study abroad. Its Rocket Fuel program is for students in the concept stage of developing a business, at the end of which they have access to seed funding of up to $500. The Terrier Startup Challenge teaches students how to pitch their ventures for substantial funding, while a summer incubator, Accelerator for New Ventures, is a paid opportunity for students with a well-developed business idea or an existing business.

  • #93. College of the Ozarks

    - Location: Point Lookout, MO
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,533
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
    - Acceptance rate: 12%
    - Graduation rate: 66%
    - Six-year median earnings: $32,500
    - Two-year employment rate: 93%

    College of the Ozarks, a Christian liberal arts college, bills itself as “Hard Work U.” Its mission is to provide the advantages of a Christian education, especially to those without the money to pursue a degree. Through on-campus work, a scholarship from the college, and state and federal aid, all students have the opportunity to graduate debt-free (though room and board is not included).

  • #92. University of Evansville

    - Location: Evansville, IN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,992
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Acceptance rate: 69%
    - Graduation rate: 74%
    - Six-year median earnings: $41,800
    - Two-year employment rate: 94%

    The University of Evansville is a private school related to the United Methodist Church and is ranked as a top Midwest university by U.S. News & World Report. It has one of only a few standalone archaeology departments in the country and grants a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, concentrating on the ancient Mediterranean, Near East, and Western Europe. It also has the country’s only ongoing on-campus excavation, the Tin City excavation project, which began in 2003.

  • #91. University of South Carolina - Lancaster

    - Location: Lancaster, SC
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 700
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
    - Acceptance rate: 67%
    - Graduation rate: 39%
    - Six-year median earnings: $44,900
    - Two-year employment rate: 95%

    All students at The University of South Carolina are given a common foundation: the Carolina Core, the first classes in the liberal arts and sciences. The core courses teach communication, analytical reasoning, problem-solving, scientific and information literacy, and the arts, in addition to exploring global citizenship and multicultural understanding. New core courses are added every year.

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