There are many advantages typically associated with attending a small college: more personal interaction with professors; more flexibility in schedule and in major requirements; smaller classes; and a greater sense of individual significance within the college, to name a few. While the best small colleges with five thousand or six thousand students may indeed exhibit these qualities, they can be even more pronounced at truly tiny college. By choosing to attend one of these tiny colleges, students open the possibility of joining a unique educational community.
Best Tiny Colleges Methodology
Starting with an initial list of over 125 tiny colleges, we narrowed them down to a list of the best 20. We started with a list of schools that have fewer than 500 undergraduate students but still a minimum of 5 academic programs so they will have an appeal to a broad range of students. These smallest of colleges were then scored according to statistics that would reflect students’ experience and success in the school (based on data from collegenavigator.com). The statistic that aligns most clearly with the advantages of a tiny college is the teacher-to-student ratio, the most heavily weighted information in our ranking system. This was followed by the graduation rate and retention rate, which show students’ success and satisfaction respectively. The final consideration in ordering the top schools was affordability, based on the college’s tuition.
20. Warner Pacific University
Warner Pacific is an urban Christian liberal arts university affiliated with the Church of God. This tiny college offers 32 majors, 27 minors, 7 pre-professional programs, 5 graduate programs, as well as the option to design your own major. The average class size is just 14, and multiple times over the past decade, the school as been included on US News and World Report’s Best Regional West list.
19. Bethel College – North Newton
North Newton, KS
Bethel College was the first Mennonite college founded in North America. Bethel offers over 43 areas of study, and a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio. The tiny college promotes community service and diversity, and offers the opportunity to study abroad at 19 colleges and universities in 17 countries. Hands-on learning is a priority, and before graduating, 100% of the students test their knowledge through either internships, research, or public performance.
18. Virginia International University
Virginia International offers both undergraduate and graduate level programs of study in the following 5 schools: business, computer information, education, language studies, and public and international affairs. Their student body represents over 100 countries, as the tiny college also offers an intensive program in ESL (English for Speakers of other Languages).
17. Penn State University – Penn State Shenango
The Shenango campus of Penn State University is the only urban campus in the Penn State system. Students at Shenango have the option to start one of Penn State’s more than 275 majors on campus, and then finish the program at another campus. They offer an 11:1 teacher to student ratio, and over 93 % of the students receive some form of financial aid.
16. Maharishi University of Management
Maharishi University offers a unique experience, with an emphasis on natural health and wellness, inner growth, and self-care, creating a holistic experience for the student. All students and faculty practice transcendental meditation twice a day, a technique used to encourage personal growth. They are the first university in the nation to offer freshly prepared, organic, vegetarian meals. In order to reduce stress, single rooms are standard, and block scheduling allows the student to focus on only one course at a time. The tiny college offers degrees in the arts, sciences, business, and humanities.
15. Landmark College
Landmark College is a private college exclusively for students diagnosed with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, autism, or ADHD. The school offers both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, and an impressive 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio. High school students can take advantage of their dual enrollment program, and the tiny college has summer program opportunities, as well. Their research institute is the nation’s only on-campus institute exclusively serving students with learning disabilities. US News and World Reports recently included Landmark College as #1 both on the list of Best Undergraduate Teaching, as well as on the list of Most Innovative Colleges.
14.Lincoln Christian University
Lincoln Christian University is a private Bible college with many opportunities for students, offering various undergraduate degrees, as well as certifications, master’s, and doctorate programs. They also have a seminary and an online learning program. The tiny college has an average class size of 13, and have 6 varsity teams in the NCCAA Division 1 conference. LCU’s LEAP program for high school juniors and seniors allows them to take college classes at a discounted rate.
13. Wells College
Included in the Princeton Review’s list of Best Northeast Colleges, Wells College offers many unique opportunities for students. It offers “cross-registration” with Cornell University, allowing students enrolled at Wells to take classes of their choosing at Cornell. Additionally, Wells has affiliations with partnership institutions that allow students to earn both their undergraduate degree at Wells and their professional degree from the cooperating school, all within 5 years. The tiny college offers dozens of locations for study abroad and was recently listed in the US News and World Report’s review as one of the top 125 best liberal arts colleges, as well as #14 on the list of “social mobility” among liberal arts schools.
12. Penn State University – Penn State Greater Allegheny
The Greater Allegheny campus of Penn State University is a 52-acre, nine-building campus located on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Offering the extensive resources of a large research university with a small-campus experience, the school allows students to receive their bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or certification in a wide range of fields. Additionally, the school offers 13 USCAA men’s and women’s athletic teams.
11. Welch College
Welch College is a private Christian college owned and operated by the National Association of Free Will Baptists. With more than 40 programs of studies to choose from, there is a strong emphasis on the integration of faith and learning. The tiny college has a 9:1 student to teacher ratio, and in 2018 they were listed as #5 on US News and World Report’s list of best value colleges and universities in Tennessee.
10. Emmaus Bible College
Emmaus Bible College is a small Christian college featuring a 9:1 student to teacher ratio. They offer more than 35 degree emphases for majors and minors, both in the areas of religious studies, as well as in various professional fields. 98% of Emmaus students receive some form of financial aid.
9. Alaska Pacific University
Alaska Pacific University is a small liberal arts college with an emphasis on active learning. Their vision is based on honoring Alaska’s Indigenous heritage while supporting community engagement. APU organizes their majors into institutes, and all academic programs are based on their 5 core competencies – effective communication, critical thinking, cultural and historical perspective, scientific inquiry, and ethical engagement. The tiny college offers a full-time dual credit Early Honors program for high school seniors wanting to get a head start on their college education.
8. Judson College
Judson College is a private Baptist college for women that was founded in 1838. Judson offers 4-year degrees in both liberal arts and the sciences. Students can choose from 20 majors and 22 minors, as well as 10 pre-professional programs. Over the past 20 years, 96% of Judson graduates have either been employed or entered graduate school within a year of their graduation.
7. Parker University
Parker University specializes in health and wellness education. The tiny college has a special emphasis in chiropractic studies, but offers many other applied science degrees. Their unique evidence-based curriculum offers 35 private practice partnerships and an integrated clinical curriculum with the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Dallas. They have their own research institute that has been internationally recognized. The school has a passion for wellness that has produced many industry-leading graduates who are prepared to excel in their career in medicine.
6. Finlandia University
Finlandia University is a private Lutheran University founded in 1896. They are the only private university in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and they were listed as a Best Value School in 2017-2018 by University Research and Review. At the student’s time of enrollment, their tuition rate freezes until they finish their program, and 100% of their full-time students receive financial aid. Finlandia is transfer-friendly, as they have a simplified process, making it easy for students to enroll.
5. The Baptist College of Florida
The Baptist College of Florida is a Christian college that builds both its curriculum and campus life around spiritual disciplines. The tiny college has a 9 to 1 teacher to student ratio, and offers the degree programs completely online, as well. Juniors and seniors in high school who either homeschool or attend a private school have the opportunity to enroll in their Dual Enrollment program, offering credit completion while still in high school.
4. Bard College at Simon’s Rock
Great Barrington, MA
The Bard College at Simon’s Rock offers the only residential college experience for students entering 11th or 12th grade. The average age for incoming students is 16; they earn an Associate of Arts after two years, and have the choice to either transfer or continue on to earn a Bachelor of Arts. With an average class size of 11 students, they offer more than 35 areas of study, and 78% of their students go on to get their PhDs. With a faculty to student ratio of 8:1, they received an academic rating of 92 from Princeton Review, which is higher than either Harvard or Princeton.
Marlboro College prides itself on giving its students a voice, and the inclusive-minded school is based on a community-governance model in which all members of the student body have a say in decisions that are made. Their non-traditional approach to academics places a strong emphasis on writing effectivity, and rather than asking students to choose a major, they offer many “fields of study”, encouraging students to combine study tracks, or even to create their own. The average class size is 7 students, and the tiny college was recently ranked #12 in “Social Mobility” on US News and World Report’s 2020 list.
2. Principia College
Principia College is a Christian Scientist school that boasts a long list of recent recognitions, including being ranked #6 in “Best Value” in the 2020 US News and World Report college rankings. They also named it #11 on the list of “Most International” colleges and universities, and it was recognized by the Princeton Review in 2018 in their list of “Greenest Colleges”, based on campus sustainability and curriculum. Principia offers over 30 majors and minors, and their graduates have an impressive 96% career placement rate. The tiny college also offers an extensive study abroad program, which 59% of 2019 students took advantage of.
1. Bryn Athyn College of the New Church
Bryn Athyn, PA
Bryn Athyn College of the New Church is a private coed liberal arts college founded in 1877. The tiny college follows a New Church approach to education, which combines challenging academics with spiritual inquiry. Their unique approach to academics aims to help their graduating students be useful in the world by learning from a core program based on the following four practices: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, public presentation, and experiential education. Their small classroom size averages a 6:1 faculty to student ratio, with an average class size of 14 students, helping to earn the number one spot on our list of the best small colleges.