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Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Jan 27, 2019 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 that's 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.

  

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."

 

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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."

"Marlboro does not have class requirements, [so] 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, 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
Oregon College of Art & Craft
109
VanderCook College of Music
122
Visible Music College
127
Art Academy of Cincinnati
175
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
188
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
205
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film
205
Cleveland Institute of Music
227
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design
260
American Academy of Art
260
Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory of Music
265
San Francisco Art Institute
299
New Hampshire Institute of Art
308
School of the Museum of Fine Arts
349
Moore College of Art and Design
373
McNally Smith College of Music
409
Pacific Northwest College of Art
419
Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico
433
New England Conservatory of Music
436
Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico
441
Columbia College Hollywood
453
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
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary—Overbrook
57
Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary
58
Southern California Seminary
62
American Jewish University
67
Kentucky Mountain Bible College
76
Hellenic College/Holy Cross
78
New Hope Christian College
87
Crossroads College
96
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College
98
Montana Bible College
100
Huntsville Bible College
118
Southwestern Christian College
123
Boise Bible College
130
Faith International University
144
Nebraska Christian College
145
Jewish Theological Seminary
162
Arlington Baptist University
162
Holy Apostles College and Seminary
164
Baptist University of the Americas
177
Johnson University—Florida
180
Kuyper College
184
Trinity College
189
Trinity Bible College
191
Mid-Atlantic Christian University
192
Criswel College
198
Dallas Christian College
213
Calvary University
223
Virginia Baptist College
227
Barclay College
229
Ecclesia College
232
Central Christian College of the Bible
239
Bethesda University of California
256
John Paul the Great Catholic University
260
Emmaus Bible College
269
Theological University of the Caribbean
271
Appalachian Bible College
274
Marygrove College
285
Beulah Heights University
288
Luther Rice College and Seminary
295
Faith Baptist Theological Seminary
300
Davis College
302
Northpoint Bible College
323
Grace Bible College
336
Piedmont International University
339
Welch College
348
Trinity Baptist College
353
Multnomah University
394
The King’s University
400
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
406
Baptist College of Florida
427
College of Biblical Studies—Houston
428
Lincoln Christian University
464
Columbia International University
486
Williams Baptist University
493


 

Smallest Engineering, Medical, and Other Professional Colleges

College
Enrollment
California Institute of Integral Studies
50
Northwestern Polytechnic University
52
Webb Institute
98
Rush University
109
Columbia College of Nursing
116
Lincoln University
120
St. John’s College
122
United States Sports Academy
124
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
169
Bastyr University
197
Saint Anthony College of Nursing
199
Trinity College
213
Amberton University
217
Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences
272
Maharishi University of Management
324
Allen College
329
University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences
341
Boston Architectural College
343
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
380
Bellin College
397
St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
406
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences
419
Touro University Worldwide
484
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
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
90
Logan University
98
Antioch University
103
Antioch College
133
University of the West
185
New Saint Andrews College
141
Medaille College—Rochester
145
Sterling College
146
Marlboro College
183
Goddard College
189
College of St. Joseph in Vermont
237
Cottey College
270
Patrick Henry College
277
Alaska Pacific University
296
Randall University
304
Selma University
311
Aquinas College
312
Sweet Briar College
319
St. John’s College
322
Bryn Athyn College
326
Beacon College
348
College of the Atlantic
349
Southern Vermont College
361
Marylhurst University
364
Judson College
366
Thomas Aquinas College
370
Silver Lake College of the Holy Family
388
Bard College at Simon’s Rock
390
Prescott College
391
Warner Pacific University
400
Soka University of America
412
Pine Manor College
419
Naropa University
419
Pine College
426
York College
431
Sierra Nevada College
435
Principia College
455
Penn State—Wilkes-Barre
456
St. John’s College
458
Green Mountain College
468
Golden Gate University
470
Wells College
470
University of Minnesota—Rochester
472
Voorhees College
475
Penn State—Shenango
490
Bennett College for Women
493
Christendom College
493
Penn State—Greater Allegheny
497

 

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.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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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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