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Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

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Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Dec 14, 2020 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 73
Visible Music College 137
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film 146
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 164
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 205
American Academy of Art 205
San Francisco Art Institute 210
Art Academy of Cincinnati 212
Cleveland Institute of Music 230
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design 251
Johns Hopkins University—Peabody Conservatory of Music 265
School of the Museum of Fine Arts 278
New Hampshire Institute of Art 282
New York School of Interior Design 349
Moore College of Art and Design 373
New England Conservatory of Music 471
Juilliard School 486
Pacific Northwest College of Art 488
Manhattan School of Music 490

 

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
Allegheny Wesleyan College 54
Faith International University 54
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary—Overbrook 56
Heritage Christian University 61
Southern California Seminary 62
Kentucky Mountain Bible College 64
Hellenic College/Holy Cross 67
Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary 67
Catholic Distance University 72
St. Louis Christian College 76
Beth Hamedrash Shaarei Yosher Institute 80
Yeshiva Derech Chaim 84
New Hope Christian College 87
Conception Seminary College 95
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College 98
Montana Bible College 100
Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid 103
Huntsville Bible College 118
Southwestern Christian College 123
Yeshiva Karlin Stolin 128
Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia 130
Nebraska Christian College 130
Yeshivas Novominsk 130
Boise Bible College 135
Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad (West Coast Talmudical Seminary) 144
Veritas Baptist College 151
Baptist University of the Americas 152
Arlington Baptist University 162
Yeshiva Gedolah Imrei Yosef 164
Holy Apostles College and Seminary 174
Manhattan Christian College 174
Criswell College 178
Central Christian College of the Bible 186
Mid-Atlantic Christian University 186
Davis College 188
Appalachian Bible College 189
Trinity Bible College 190
Dallas Christian College 194
Barclay College 198
Emmaus Bible College 203
Ecclesia College 205
Trinity College of Florida 209
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary 222
Beulah Heights University 237
Holy Family College 265
Calvary University 267
Welch College 290
Luther Rice College and Seminary 293
Baptist College of Florida 296
Grace Christian University 296
Northpoint Bible College 322
Trinity Baptist College 335
Piedmont International University 348
Multnomah University 362
College of Biblical Studies—Houston 374
Lincoln Christian University 398
The King's University 398
Nazarene Bible College 428
San Diego Christian College 460
Christendom College 493

 

Smallest Engineering, Medical, and Other Professional Colleges

College Enrollment
Northwestern Polytechnic University 52
Lincoln University 98
Webb Institute 102
Rush University 110
Columbia College of Nursing 116
St. John's College 119
Lakeview College of Nursing 148
Trinity College of Nursing and Health 163
Bastyr University 169
Northwestern Health Sciences University 175
California Northstate University College of Health Sciences 179
Logan University 179
Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science 184
Saint Anthony College of Nursing 202
Southern California Institute of Architecture 235
Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences 247
St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing 320
Allen College 338
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 347
Bellin College 381
Roseman University of Health Sciences 385
Capitol Technology University 391
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences 437
Pacific Oaks College 476
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology 478
Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences 490
Touro University Worldwide 497

 

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 69
American Jewish University 67
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts 90
Antioch College 95
Bryn Athyn College 99
Antioch University Santa Barbara 104
Sterling College 119
Kuyper College 135
St. John's College 144
University of the West 145
Medaille College—Rochester 145
New Saint Andrews College 145
Marlboro College 146
Jewish Theological Seminary of America 147
Bay Atlantic University 150
Iowa Wesleyan University 156
Alliant International University 158
Goddard College 160
Johnson University—Florida 182
Amberton University 187
Doral College 194
College of St. Joseph in Vermont 237
Bethesda University of California 244
Judson College 245
Pine Manor College 246
Maharishi University of Management 255
Cottey College 256
Alaska Pacific University 266
John Paul the Great Catholic University 271
Ohio Valley University 280
Patrick Henry College 290
Randall University 291
Penn State Shenango 306
Selma University 311
Aquinas College 312
St. John's College 317
Sweet Briar College 334
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family 346
College of the Atlantic 350
Sierra Nevada College 350
Southern Vermont College 351
Penn State—Wilkes-Barre 366
Naropa University 370
Bard College at Simon's Rock 391
Principia College 402
Soka University of America 406
Wells College 407
Beacon College 416
York College 422
SUM Bible College & Theological Seminary 431
University of the Southwest 432
Penn State Greater Allegheny 433
University of Maine at Machias 434
Bennett College for Women 435
Thomas Aquinas 439
Paine College 440
Catawba College 445
Bethel College 450
Prescott College 465
St. John's College 474
Warner Pacific University 478
Blackburn College 480
Stephens College 481
Urbana University 482
Brewton-Parker College 491
Eureka College 498
Golden Gate University 499

 

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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!

 

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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)

 

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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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