20 Best Deals: Small Colleges for Athletic Types

The following is a ranking of the 20 Best Deals on Small Colleges for Athletic Types. In building this list, we selected from a pool of institutions with a lower net price than similar colleges of this size and athletic resources. We awarded points based on the presence of advanced training facilities, a wide range of sports teams to join (both competitively and socially), a healthy balance of sports and liberal arts academics, and any additional features that add value for the student athlete. The 20 colleges examined below scored the highest among schools with maximum enrollment of 6,000 students and a net price (per College Navigator) of $30,000 USD or less. The following is a guide for athletically inclined students in search of the best return on investment.

#20 Olivet College

Olivet, Michigan


Olivet College

Points: 12
Enrollment: 1,058
Net Price: $20,253
Olivet College, a small private liberal arts institution in suburban Michigan, is committed to producing well-rounded graduates of strong academic, interpersonal and spiritual backgrounds. With a student body of just over 1,000 students, Olivet maintains an average student-faculty ratio of 17:1. This college has a active athletics department. The resident teams, known as the Comets, compete in men and women’s intercollegiate sports including baseball, basketball, wrestling, volleyball, golf, lacrosse and more. Olivet College has generous options in scholarship assistance both for incoming and current students.

#19 Dominican College of Blauvelt

Orangeburg, New York


Dominican College of Blauvelt

Points: 12
Enrollment: 1,980
Net Price: $20,197

Just a few miles north of New York City, Dominican College of Blauvelt is a quaint college community with scholar-level faculty and a student-faculty ratio of 15:1. To help with tuition costs, this college offers financial aid packages to over 90% of its incoming freshmen, with additional assistance potentially available. If a student is seeking athletic opportunities, Dominican has 14 varsity teams, divided evenly among men and women. Additionally, this school participates in Division II of the NCAA.

#18 Georgetown College

Georgetown, Kentucky


Georgetown College

Points: 13
Enrollment: 1,262
Net Price: $20,764

Founded in 1787, Georgetown College is a Christian liberal arts college. This college is a great choice for students looking for a low student-faculty ratio (11:1) and a vibrant campus community. The campus athletic world is always active, with the Georgetown Tigers competing in over 17 varsity sports, in addition to a dance team, and co-ed sport opportunities. This institution’s athletes and administration stay engaged in the community by hosting youth camps and related programming.

#17 Baker University

Baker City, Kansas


Baker University

Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,957
Net Price: $20,525

Baker University was founded in 1858 by ministers of the United Methodist Church, and is the oldest university in the state of Kansas. Baker has a proud history of liberal arts academics on undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels. Students looking for athletics will feel at home at Baker, with 19 competitive sports teams to select from. Some of these teams include men’s and women’s basketball, tennis, golf, soccer, wrestling, co-ed spirit squad, cross country, and others. The University is also part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an organization of colleges committed to producing athletes with integrity, character, and the ability to balance education with sports.

#16 Warner University

Lake Wales, Florida


Warner University

Points: 13
Enrollment: 164
Net Price: $18,420

Founded in 1968, Warner University is an institution based on Christian values and community. In addition to more than 25 academic degree programs, Warner has a competitive athletics department and is a Division II member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Among the sports teams available to students are basketball, tennis, softball, football, soccer, track and field, volleyball, and more. Warner University also has a Physical Exercise and Sport Studies degree opportunity for the student who aspires to lead other athletes.

#15 Aurora University

Aurora, Illinois


Aurora University

Points: 13
Enrollment: 5,084
Net Price: $17,178

Situated just west of Chicago, Illinois, Aurora University is a liberal arts college that balances challenging academics with opportunities for students to grow as individuals. With an average class size of only 23, degree-seekers will find the faculty highly attentive to personal career goals. The athletics department has a rich, competitive history in a wide range of sports, and nearly 40% of the students  participate on a team. Aurora’s Spartans have won 103 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III championships. More than 96% of incoming students receive financial aid and are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships.

#14 Dowling College

Oakdale, New York


Dowling College

Points: 14
Enrollment: 2,453
Net Price: $22,931

Dowling College is a small, diverse institution renowned for its beautiful campus and close-knit academic community. For the student athlete, there are plenty of options for participation. Dowling is an NCAA Division II East Coast conference member, and competitive lacrosse, cross country, golf, soccer, volleyball, softball, and hockey. This college works with students in securing tuition financing, with a combination of federal, scholarship, work-study, and other types of aid available. 96% of recent alumni reported full-time employment or graduate study within 6 months of graduation.  Dowling is in the top 12% of colleges producing the highest paid graduates.

#13 Lynchburg College

Lynchburg, Virginia


Lynchburg College

Points: 14
Enrollment: 1,093
Net Price: $20,253

Lynchburg College, a private college in central Virginia, is an ideal choice for students who enjoy progressive learning and the great outdoors. The Outdoor Leadership Program is an especially active community for athletes, with organized adventures such as hiking, camping, boating, fishing, rock climbing, canoeing, and more. Lynchburg also has a competitive roster of teams in men's and women's sports including rugby, field hockey, softball, track and field, soccer, and others. The Lynchburg College Hornets compete in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, and have recorded 148 conference titles since becoming a member.

#12 North Park University

Chicago, Illinois


North Park University

Points: 14
Enrollment: 3,185
Net Price: $19,152

North Park University  is a diverse academic community with a dynamic campus life. This college offers more than 40 majors, minors, and pre-professional programs. Among its degree options is Physical Education, which prepares students of all athletic abilities to become leaders in coaching, personal training, high school athletics, and more. Graduates of North Park are physical education professionals in primary schools, universities, recreational centers, and park districts. This university is home to 17 men and women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III teams, all of which compete in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.

#11 Aquinas College

Grand Rapids, Michigan


Aquinas College

Points: 14
Enrollment: 1,933
Net Price: $18,358

Aquinas College, a Catholic institution,  is a widely respected school recently named among the "Best Regional Universities - Midwest" by U.S. News & World Report. For students interested in athletics, this college has a competitive list of teams in ice hockey, women’s lacrosse, baseball, tennis, softball, dance, and many other sports to be part of. Aquinas has a Sports Management degree in its business division, a great option to diversify one’s athletic background. This institution works closely with students in designing financial aid packages, and reports that recent graduates have less debt than the national average.

#10 Wilmington College

Wilmington, Ohio


Wilmington College

Points: 15
Enrollment: 1,200
Net Price: $21,715

Wilmington College in rural Ohio is a vibrant and diverse campus with a faculty that believes great careers stem from a personalized academic approach. Student athletes will find many opportunities to engage both in  sports and learning the business aspects of the field. The Sport Management program here has received positive recognition for its wide curriculum in the business, legal, marketing, and financial components of the athletics world. Additionally, Wilmington College has exciting internships with a growing number of sports organizations including the Cincinnati Reds, the Columbus Clippers, Wilmington City Parks and others.

#9 Northwestern College

Orange City, Iowa


Northwestern College

Points: 15
Enrollment: 1,205
Net Price: $21,390

Located just outside Sioux City, Iowa, Northwestern College is a community of about 1200 students and 300 faculty. Though primarily a school of Christian faith, this school encourages diversity and inclusiveness in its recruitment. For the student athlete, Northwestern has a high-caliber sports division that competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC). The college has won over 20 national championships in the GPAC since it began participating in 2000. Northwestern athletic coaches encourage a healthy balance of academics, sports, and involvement in an active campus life.

#8 Cumberland University

Lebanon, Tennessee


Cumberland University

Points: 15
Enrollment: 1,481
Net Price: $18,137

Cumberland University, located a little east of Nashville, Tennessee, is an exceptional academic institution known for its vast range of degree options, athletic opportunities, and energetic campus life. For students seeking a future in athletics, this college’s sports department designs its curriculum to help graduates have a long and relevant career in the field. The Health and Human Performance degree offers a well-rounded course load that includes sport ethics, sport finance, sport economics, sport marketing, and more. An MS in Sport and Exercise Science is also available at Cumberland for graduates wanting to advance in their athletic specialization.

#7 Bowie State University

Bowie, Maryland


Bowie State University

Points: 15
Enrollment: 5,695
Net Price: $11,663

Bowie State University in rural Maryland is a liberal arts institution that is one of the oldest historically black colleges in the country. Bowie's educational approach combines intensive academics with personalized, mentor-based learning. This university is a solid choice for students seeking an active athletic department. Bowie’s Bulldogs compete in the NCAA’s Division II of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. A few of the many sports this college participates in are basketball, football, cross country, bowling, track and field, tennis, and softball.

#6 - Barton College

Wilson, North Carolina


Barton College

Points: 16
Enrollment: 1,035
Net Price: $20,199

Barton College, a small liberal arts school , is a close-knit academic community offering over 30 majors. This college has a respected reputation in athletics, with 18 teams and a multidisciplinary curriculum in sports education. The School of Allied Health and Sport Studies is home to undergraduate degrees in physical education, exercise science, health promotion, and sports management. This wide variety of options enables athletically inclined students to build a lasting future in the world of sports.

#5 - Alfred University

Alfred, New York


Alfred University

Points: 16
Enrollment: 2,310
Net Price: $20,306

Alfred University, a selective academic community in western New York, offers more than 40 degree programs that are led by scholar-level faculty. This college has much appeal to the student athlete, with 22% of current undergraduates playing a varsity sport. The athletic division competes in basketball, football, soccer, swimming, equestrian, tennis, track and field, women's volleyball, and women's softball. AU was recently ranked a "Great School at a Great Price" in the U.S. News and World Report annual college guide.

#4 Newberry College

Newberry, South Carolina


Newberry College

Points: 16
Enrollment: 1,093
Net Price: $20,253

Located in the historic small town in South Carolina, Newberry College has earned a reputation often recognized by publications including U.S. News and World Report. Both male and female student athletes will find a diverse selection of sports including basketball, baseball, cross country, tennis, volleyball, cheerleading, and tennis. The Newberry athletics department is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II, as well as the South Atlantic Conference (SAC). This college ranks 5th among all southern colleges in having alumni with the lowest student debt.

#3 Fort Lewis College

Durango, Colorado


Fort Lewis College

Points: 16
Enrollment: 3,791
Net Price: $16,631

Ft. Lewis College is an academic environment of personalized learning and hands-on, active learning experiences. There is a wide spectrum of athletic activity on campus, with competitive varsity teams in basketball, cross country, soccer, lacrosse, softball, golf, football, and cycling. For student athletes looking to play for fun with a bit less commitment, Ft. Lewis has intramural teams for everything from badminton to kickball. Additionally, the college’s Outdoor Pursuits department oversees a 3,000 ft. climbing wall, open to the entire student body.

#2 Castleton University

Castleton, Vermont


Castleton University

Points: 16
Enrollment: 2,183
Net Price: $16,168

Castleton University, in Vermont’s beautiful Lakes Region, holds the historic distinction of being the first higher education institution in the state. This college has over 30 academic programs, led by a faculty that is 96% at scholar-level. Incoming athletic students may take interest in becoming a Castleton Spartan in  skiing, field hockey, baseball, softball, lacrosse, or basketball. Castleton teams achieved a 205-134-9 overall record, which included a 129-36-7 mark in conference play during the 2013-14 season. The athletics facilities at this university are state-of-the-art and were recently renovated to accommodate more students and spectators.

#1 - Adelphi University

Garden City, New York


Adelphi University

Points: 17
Enrollment: 5,071
Net Price: $25,441

Adelphi University  is a small liberal arts college consistently recognized by publications including the Princeton Review, Forbes, Money Magazine, and Fiske Guide to Colleges. This institution’s athletics department is especially notable, with as many as 385 athletes and 23 intercollegiate teams on campus. Adelphi’s Panther Athletics has won six national championships since 2001. Adelphi makes certain its student athletes excel in their other academic areas as well as maintaining a minimum GPA. The on-campus sports facilities have recently expanded to a 76,000 square-foot complex with a three-court gymnasium, running tracks, and much more.

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By Tracy Eisenberg
Published August 2016

The schools described above were ranked in the interest of athletic students seeking the best deal on a small college.