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Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Jan 17, 2018 6:00:00 PM

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You might be interested in going to a small college, but just how small? In general, schools labeled small have fewer than 5,000 students in total. However, quite a few schools are actually at least 10 times smaller than this.

In this article I’ll describe the characteristics of small colleges and then provide a list of the smallest colleges in the nation by category.


Why Are These Schools So Small?

It might seem unorthodox for the enrollment of an entire college to be the same size as your high school class (or even smaller!). Though definitely uncommon, these schools usually have a solid rationale for keeping their student bodies so tiny. There are several reasons these colleges are particularly small:


Extremely Specialized Curriculum

Often, small colleges have a very specialized curriculum that caters to a narrow demographic of students. Many of the smallest colleges are religious schools of a particular denomination, art schools, or professional schools. 

The smallest liberal arts colleges usually have a curriculum that emphasizes certain modes of learning and exploration of subjects. For example, some of these schools have a “Great Books” curriculum, meaning that all students must read a collection of classic texts as part of the college’s universal academic requirements.


Began as Parts of Larger Universities

Some of these schools were once part of larger universities and then branched off to form their own communities. This goes along with their tendency to be more specialized and attract a much smaller group of prospective students. 


Dedicated to Personalizing Each Student's Academic Experience

These schools are committed to keeping class sizes small and giving each student individualized attention. Often, students can design their own curricula and access a level of guidance and support from professors and advisors unheard of at larger schools. Students frequently collaborate with professors and are asked to give self-evaluations.

Tiny schools treat the college experience as an evolving dialogue between students, their teachers, and their communities. This enables them to focus less on grades alone and more on learning as an ongoing interactive process.


What Is the Tiny College Experience Like?

So you can get a sense of what the smallest schools are actually like, I’ve compiled a few student testimonials that provide perspective on the pros and cons of attending these colleges.


Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts

"There are a lot of unorganized student events, but there is little to do in terms of clubs, student government, and the like."

"The college is currently building a dorm, but there is no Dorm Life. I live at a rental home and enjoy being with my roommates, but this is not the typical college experience."


Thomas Aquinas College

"They create an academic bubble of seclusion, quite literally."

"The rules are a bit extreme, and never think that someone is not watching. At a school this small, everything gets out in the open."

"I admit that this school does wonders with the mind. Thomas Aquinas delves into critical thinking and reading beyond the text."


Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula California (Harold Litwiler/Flickr)


Marlboro College

"Marlboro is the best place for independent students who want to take a serious role in the pursuit of their education."

"Marlboro does not have class requirements, each student creates a course of study based on their interests and aspirations."

"Marlboro College classes expect serious work ethic. Class sizes are small, so sleeping in and missing your 8 AM is not an option if you think your professor won't notice."


body_marlborocollegeMarlboro College


Neumont University

"There is always something to do and it is a very tight, close community who all are willing to help each other when/if someone asks."

"There is no leeway for those who just want to coast on by, and get a degree for something. This is an active learning environment."

"There is no meal plan, you are expected to buy your own groceries and prepare your own meals."

As you can see from all of these school quotes, the smallest colleges are often limited in their housing and dining options and campus activities.

However, they might be the right fit for students who are interested in a specific academic field or mode of learning. One benefit you can count on is a close bond with professors and other students.


List of the Smallest Colleges in the US

These are the smallest four-year colleges in the nation sorted by type and enrollment number. This list includes schools with fewer than 500 students but more than 50 students because colleges with fewer than 50 students are extremely rare and not relevant to enough students to merit inclusion.

All enrollment data is from the College Board's Big Future website.


Smallest Arts Colleges

College Enrollment
Creative Center 51
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts 78
Paier College of Art 79
Southwest University of Visual Arts 119
Oregon College of Art and Craft 123
Curtis Institute of Music 131
VanderCook College of Music 133
Design Institute of San Diego 143
O'More College of Design 170
Art Institute of Tucson 176
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 188
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 192
Art Academy of Cincinnati 201
Interior Designers Institute 229
Cleveland Institute of Music 233
Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film 238
Platt College: San Diego 255
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design 260
Southern California Institute of Architecture 262
Johns Hopkins University: Peabody Conservatory of Music 265
American Academy of Art 297
Memphis College of Art 338
San Francisco Art Institute 338
New Hampshire Institute of Art 343
School of the Museum of Fine Arts 349
Boston Architectural College 360
New York School of Interior Design 362
Columbia College Hollywood 367
Moore College of Art and Design 368
Montserrat College of Art 377
Pacific Northwest College of Art 405
McNally Smith College of Music 409
New England Conservatory of Music 413
New School of Architecture and Design 414
Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College 428
Manhattan School of Music 457
Maine College of Art 459



Smallest Religious Colleges

For this list, I've excluded religious colleges that are exclusively seminaries—i.e., ones that only train religious professionals—because they are too specialized for most people.

College Enrollment
St. John Vianney College Seminary 61
Southern California Seminary 62
American Jewish University 65
Boston Baptist College 77
Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary 77
St. Louis Christian College 82
Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary 83
Kentucky Mountain Bible College 83
New Hope Christian College 87
Virginia Baptist College 88
Montana Bible College 89
Pontifical College Josephinum 90
SAGU American Indian College 91
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts 92
Crossroads College 109
Huntsville Bible College 119
Hellenic College/Holy Cross 120
Nebraska Christian College 120
Oak Hills Christian College 124
Laurel University 126
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College 128
Great Lakes Christian College 133
World Mission University 133
Holy Apostles College and Seminary 135
American Baptist College 139
Boise Bible College 139
Southeastern Bible College 143
Southwestern Christian College 143
St. Joseph Seminary College 154
Providence Christian College 164
Johnson University: Florida 184
Arlington Baptist College 185
Mid-Atlantic Christian University 186
Trinity College of Florida 189
Trinity Bible College 190
Hobe Sound Bible College 203
Kuyper College 208
Baptist University of the Americas 223
John Paul the Great Catholic University 227
Northpoint Bible College 227
Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary 231
Grace University 238
Central Christian College of the Bible 239
Ecclesia College 246
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary 249
Barclay College 250
Dallas Christian College 252
Emmaus Bible College 258
Appalachian Bible College 269
Manhattan Christian College 274
Patrick Henry College 277
Bethesda University of California 293
Bryn Athyn College 295
Piedmont International University 298
Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College 311
Aquinas College (Nashville, TN) 312
Welch College 330
Davis College (Johnson City, NY) 335
Grace Bible College 336
Luther Rice University 351
Trinity Baptist College 351
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family 354
Multnomah University 394
Selma University 399
Ohio Valley University 403
Beulah Heights University 405
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 414
Voorhees College 415
Baptist College of Florida 427
Paul Quinn College 436
College of Biblical Studies-Houston 450
The King's University 450
Lincoln Christian University 464
Christendom College 477
Principia College 482



Smallest Engineering, Medical, and Other Professional Colleges

College Enrollment
Northwestern Polytechnic University 52
Webb Institute 98
Herzing University: Omaha School of Massage Therapy and Healthcare 105
Lincoln University (Oakland, CA) 120
Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science 139
Columbia College of Nursing 142
American National University: Salem 145
Rasmussen College: Appleton 149
Jones College 182
Rasmussen College: Moorhead 190
Silicon Valley University 206
SUNY Upstate Medical University 211
Amberton University 214
Platt College: Aurora 215
Chamberlain College of Nursing: Cleveland 218
Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences 222
Saint Anthony College of Nursing 238
Bryant & Stratton College: Eastlake 254
Research College of Nursing 264
Chamberlain University: Indianapolis 265
Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences 272
Florida Career College: Riverview 275
Jose Maria Vargas University 300
Medical University of South Carolina 306
Herzing University: Brookfield 307
Herzing University: Kenosha 316
SUNY Downstate Medical Center 338
Coleman University 342
Rasmussen College: Fargo 346
Allen College 360
Carlos Albizu University 363
Bellin College 364
Stratford University: Woodbridge 378
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 380
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology 387
Rasmussen College: Mokena/Tinley Park 396
Neumont College of Computer Science 429
Capitol Technology University 432
University of Minnesota: Rochester 435
Chamberlain College of Nursing: Houston 439
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences 443
Globe Institute of Technology 450
Golden Gate University 454
Berkeley College (White Plains, NY) 467
Herzing University: Kenner 468
Touro University Worldwide 484
Chamberlain College of Nursing: Jacksonville 485
Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences 490



Smallest Liberal Arts Colleges

College Enrollment
Shimer College 63
University of the West 106
Medaille College: Rochester 145
Sterling College 146
New Saint Andrews College 162
Goddard College 194
Marlboro College 196
College of St. Joseph in Vermont 230
Martin University 279
Cottey College 288
St. John's College (Santa Fe, NM) 326
Judson College 334
Maharishi University of Management 337
College of the Atlantic 338
Beacon College 348
Prescott College 356
Bard College at Simon's Rock 362
Sweet Briar College 365
Southern Vermont College 376
Thomas Aquinas College 389
Naropa University 397
York College 417
Soka University of America 419
St. John's College (Annapolis, MD) 434
Pine Manor College 461



What's Next?

If you're just starting your college search, you might not be sure whether a big or small college is the best choice for you. Learn about the major differences between the two. 

Another factor to consider in the college search process is location. Do you want to stay close to home or start over somewhere new? Read this article to find out if a college close to home is the right choice for you.

For more advice on how to conduct your college search, read my guide on how to choose the best college for you and my review of the top 10 college search websites.


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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

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