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Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Oct 27, 2019 6:00:00 PM

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You might be interested in going to a small college, but just how small is "small," exactly? In general, schools that are considered "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. That way you can decide if going to a small school really is the right decision for you.


List of the Smallest Colleges in the US

These are the smallest four-year, non-profit 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
VanderCook College of Music 107
Visible Music College 127
Art Academy of Cincinnati 175
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film 184
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 200
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 205
Cleveland Institute of Music 227
American Academy of Art 242
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design 251
Johns Hopkins University—Peabody Conservatory of Music 265
San Francisco Art Institute 275
New Hampshire Institute of Art 282
School of the Museum of Fine Arts 349
Moore College of Art and Design 373
New York School of Interior Design 378
Pacific Northwest College of Art 419
New England Conservatory of Music 468
Manhattan School of Music 488


Smallest Religious Colleges

For this list, I've focused on colleges that primarily identify as seminaries or Bible colleges. Also, I've excluded religious colleges that only train religious professionals because they are too specialized for most people.

College Enrollment
Mount Angel Seminary 51
Southern California Seminary 51
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary—Overbrook 56
Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary 67
Kentucky Mountain Bible College 71
Allegheny Wesleyan College 73
Conception Seminary College 75
New Hope Christian College 87
St. Louis Christian College 90
Montana Bible College 100
Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid 103
Yeshiva of the Telshe Alumni 115
Huntsville Bible College 118
Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia 122
Southwestern Christian College 123
Boise Bible College 130
Nebraska Christian College 130
Yeshivas Novominsk 130
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College 138
Rabbinical College of Long Island 143
Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad (West Coast Talmudical Seminary) 144
Kehilath Yakov Rabbinical Seminary 159
Arlington Baptist University 162
Faith International University 162
Holy Apostles College and Seminary 166
Veritas Baptist College 174
Baptist University of the Americas 177
Criswell College 179
Trinity Bible College 191
Trinity College of Florida 205
Mid-Atlantic Christian University 205
Barclay College 213
Dallas Christian College 213
Ecclesia College 218
Manhattan Christian College 219
Central Christian College of the Bible 223
Emmaus Bible College 238
Appalachian Bible College 261
Calvary University 288
Luther Rice College and Seminary 293
Beulah Heights University 300
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary 300
Davis College 302
Northpoint Bible College 323
Grace Christian University 336
Trinity Baptist College 353
College of Biblical Studies—Houston 374
Welch College 376
The King's University 400
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 406
Multnomah University 407
Lincoln Christian University 415
Baptist College of Florida 448
Piedmont International University 500


Smallest Engineering, Medical, and Other Professional Colleges

College Enrollment
Northwestern Polytechnic University 52
Lincoln University 97
Webb Institute 104
Columbia College of Nursing 116
Rush University 121
St. John's College 122
California Northstate University College of Health Sciences 147
Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science 169
Bastyr University 188
Saint Anthony College of Nursing 199
Trinity College of Nursing and Health 210
Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences 264
Allen College 341
Boston Architectural College 343
St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing 386
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 390
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences 401
Bellin College 427
Capitol Technology University 434
Touro University Worldwide 451
Pacific Oaks College 476
Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences 490


Smallest Liberal Arts Colleges

All the colleges on this list offer a variety of degrees and a complete liberal arts education (but note that some of these schools are religiously affiliated).

College Enrollment
California Institute of Integral Studies 61
Hellenic College/Holy Cross 67
American Jewish University 67
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts 90
Antioch College 102
Antioch University Santa Barbara 103
Medaille College—Rochester 145
Stirling College 146
Marlboro College 146
Jewish Theological Seminary of America 147
New Saint Andrews College 157
Kuyper College 160
University of the West 185
Johnson University—Florida 200
Amberton University 217
Bethesda University of California 231
College of St. Joseph in Vermont 237
Judson College 268
Cottey College 277
John Paul the Great Catholic University 286
Randall University 295
Alaska Pacific University 296
Bryn Athyn College 309
Patrick Henry College 309
Selma University 311
Aquinas College 312
St. John's College 320
College of the Atlantic 332
Maharishi University of Management 324
Sweet Briar College 336
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family 346
Southern Vermont College 351
Pine Manor College 374
Bard College at Simon's Rock 390
Sierra NEvada College 397
Beacon College 400
Warner Pacific University 400
Thomas Aquinas 407
Naropa University 419
Penn State Shenango 419
Paine College 426
Soka University of America 428
Penn State—Wilkes-Barre 429
York College 431
University of the Southwest 432
Bethel College 444
Principia College 448
Golden Gate University 450
Prescott College 456
Penn State Greater Allegheny 462
Wells College 470
St. John's College 474
Voorhees College 475
Williams Baptist University 480
Ohio Valley University 481
Urbana University 482
Bennett College for Women 500




Why Are These Schools So Small? 3 Big Reasons

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 three major reasons these colleges are particularly small


Reason #1: 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 religiously affiliated, specialized art schools, or professional schools.

The smallest liberal arts colleges usually have a curriculum that emphasizes unique modes of learning. 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. If you're looking for an outside-the-box college experience, then a small school could be a perfect choice for you.


Reason #2: Spin-Offs of Larger Universities

Some of these schools were once part of larger universities and then branched off to form their own communities. Sometimes this happens when a university system shrinks. Smaller schools that were once affiliated with the flagship university have the option to become independently-functioning entities.

This can also happen if a school no longer fits with the larger campus. They may have developed new types of classes, or perhaps they want to serve a different portion of the student population.

Regardless of the reason why, this legacy goes along with small schools' tendency to be more specialized and attract a much smaller group of prospective students.


Reason #3: Dedication to Personalizing the Academic Experience

Small schools are often committed to restricting class sizes in order to give each student individualized attention. Often, students can design their own curricula and access a level of guidance and support from professors and advisors that's unheard of at larger institutions. At small universities, 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 and more on learning as an ongoing interactive process. In fact, some small schools don't assign course grades at all!



Small colleges tend to be unique...which means that each student will have a unique collegiate experience, too!


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.


Thomas Aquinas College

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

"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." (Source)

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



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." (Source)

"Marlboro does not have class requirements, [so] each student creates a course of study based on their interests and aspirations." (Source)

"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." (Source)


body_marlborocollegeMarlboro College


New York School of Interior Design

"It's a good school but small. The classes get canceled sometimes because of under-attendance. Tuition is too high!" (Source)

"NYSID offers a lot of opportunities outside of class for students, but they don't have a better way of connecting with students outside of emails. Focusing a career in interior design, my favorite experiences have happened outside of the classroom, being involved in organizations such as the Contract Club and IIDA Representative. These experiences have proved invaluable in networking and meeting professionals in my field." (Source)


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.


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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