Small Private Colleges And Universities In The U.S.

By ACO Staff

Published on September 11, 2021

Small Private Colleges And Universities In The U.S. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Privates Colleges Academic Commitment, Community, and Excellence

According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), there are 1,600 private non-profit colleges in the country, serving some 3.4 million students. Small private colleges and universities in the United States offer a commitment to high quality education as well as close personal faculty-student interaction. As a result, they often attract some of the brightest students, which can make admission highly competitive. These colleges often come with some of the highest price tags on tuition, too. Students, however, shouldn't be quick to dismiss their chances of attending these schools. Financial support from small private schools can slash printed tuition costs by as much as half, according to the NAICU. Full-time students at private four-year schools receive on average $17,630 in grant assistance toward their college costs. As much as 20 percent of the students at one small private college in the Pacific Northwest received academic or need-based grants to cover their tuition in 2013. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The Benefits of Small Private Colleges

Even among the relatively low number of small private colleges in the country, there can be great diversity between degree programs. Some are known for their academic specialties, their historical place in American education, or for their faculties. Among them, these are some of the most-attractive assets: Academic Standards. One of the reasons small private colleges enjoy prestige is because they consistently establish high academic standards for the faculty and student body. Admission is highly competitive. The college may be celebrated for specific academic disciplines or for offering a well-rounded liberal arts education based on small class sizes, led by distinguished educators.

Freedom and Personalization

Most small private schools establish and maintain their own requirements for undergraduate degrees, promoting the utmost flexibility for students who want to frame their education around a customized core curriculum. Professors also enjoy the academic freedom to create contemporary and evolving courses to accommodate students' interests and passions.

Faculty Excellence and Commitment

Most private schools do not have graduate programs, so professors do their own undergraduate teaching. In large public institutions, students can find themselves in large lecture halls for classes that are led by student or graduate assistants. Private college professors include world-renowned lecturers devoted to teaching, rather than overworked faculty who juggle teaching with the research and publishing requirements that are typical of many large public colleges.

Mentoring, Class Size and Faculty Access

According to U.S. News and World Report, public and private universities can often have a student body that consists of more than 30,000 students, while small private college enrollment averages 1,900 scholars. The student-faculty ratio at small private colleges averages around 10:1 and may be as low as five students per professor. As a result, students are able to build a more personal relationship with faculty and are mentored by professors that have more time for them than professors would at larger universities.


Because of small class sizes and small-school collegiality, students forge deep friendships based on common goals and philosophies. School academic societies, clubs, and campus activities have an easy intimacy about them since students aren't numbers sitting in 300-person lecture halls; they're known to each other and to their professors, which encourages a sense of community.

Financial Support

Recent education statistics debunk a lot of myths around the affordability of small private colleges. Small schools have a reputation of offering a high percentage of need-based grants. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reports a $12,460 average total (tuition and fees) cost to attend a private four-year college in 2013-2014, which is less than half the $30,090 published tuition at those schools. Students graduating high school with a high grade point average may find that some small private colleges are keen on helping them pay for their higher education. Small college financial aid officers can help students find grants, scholarships and loans to can help slash tuition costs.

AC Online: Private Colleges with Million-Dollar Returns

What's a college education worth? While there's no foolproof way to gauge degree value, certain colleges must be doing something right. Just one percent of colleges across the country have a documented million-dollar return on investment (ROI): alumni whose lifetime earnings surpass those of non-degree holders by seven figures.

The following colleges and universities represent the mere 46 private institutions that make up this Top 1%. These post-secondary juggernauts continually graduate young professionals who earn top dollar over the course of their careers.

To identify the private institutions with seven-figure returns, AC Online examined tuition rates, fees, and alumni salaries for more than 7,000 U.S. colleges and universities. Primary data sources include the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Carnegie Foundation, and – four of the most trusted names in college- and career-related data.

AC Online has compiled a list of affordable small private schools for you to consider. From New York to California, there are plenty of options across the country for students seeking smaller classroom sizes with a modest price tag. All the schools below are accredited, have tuition and fees totaling less than $15,000, and enroll less than 4,000 students.

Best Affordable Small Private Colleges

  1. Amberton University

    Garland, TX



    Amberton University is located in Garland, Texas, and is relatively close to major metropolitan areas throughout the state of Texas. This private university offers incredibly high standards of learning to its students, and Amberton University continues to attract a student population from throughout the country for its varied educational offerings.

  2. Amridge University

    Montgomery, AL



    Amridge University was originally founded under the name The Alabama Christian School of Religion. This school was established by the Churches of Christ, a non-denominational group of Christian believers. The school, located in Montgomery, continues to offer theological degrees as well as ministry training for students.

  3. Arkansas Baptist College

    Little Rock, AR



    Arkansas Baptist College is a relatively small private institution located in the capital city of Arkansas, Little Rock. This college is historically black. Today a variety of students at this school study a comprehensive collection of subjects in pursuit of varied degrees.

  4. Bacone College

    Muskogee, OK



    Bacone College was originally founded as an educational institution for various Native American tribes and nations within the Midwest region of the United States. Today, Bacone College continues to serve Native American students as well as a wide variety of other cultures and religions. This college offers four-year degree programs in the liberal arts.

  5. Baker College of Cadillac

    Cadillac, MI



    The original Baker College was established in Michigan in Flint in the early 20th century. Today, Baker College of Cadillac is one of thirteen different Baker College satellite campuses. This not-for-profit educational institution has regional accreditation, and it predominantly exists to provide career training to students.

  6. Bethune-Cookman University

    Daytona Beach, FL



    Bethune-Cookman University is located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Its location makes it an attractive historically black college for students looking for a warmer climate and varied social opportunities. Bethune-Cookman University operates seven different colleges, including business education, nursing, graduate studies, science and engineering, social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

  7. Boricua College

    New York, NY



    Boricua College is located in New York City, but it is distinct from other New York colleges and post-secondary institutions in that it was originally founded to offer educational opportunities to Hispanic immigrants. Today, the college has four different satellite campuses. Over a thousand students attend the school today with a teaching population of just over 200 instructors.

  8. Brewton-Parker College

    Mount Vernon, GA



    Brewton-Parker College Is located in Mount Vernon, Georgia. This historic college was established in 1904, over a 100 years ago, and the school maintains its Georgia Baptist Convention roots by offering a mix of secular and spiritual courses and degree opportunities. While the school was initially separated by gender, the modern institution is coeducational.

  9. Brigham Young University-Hawaii

    Laie, HI



    Brigham Young University-Hawaii is a satellite campus of the larger Brigham Young University operated out of Salt Lake City, UT. This private college is affiliated with the Mormon church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The School was established in the mid-1950s and offers a wide variety of educational subjects.

  10. Calumet College of Saint Joseph

    Whiting, IN



    Calumet College Of St. Joseph is a private Catholic college located in North Indiana. The school has satellite campuses in Illinois and Indiana. While the college has extensive degree options for associate, bachelor, and master-level learning, the school is also noteworthy for its comprehensive lineup of e-learning courses through online forums and off-campus software.

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