By Tracy Eisenberg
With climate change and other environmental challenges facing us, there’s an increasing need for energy research experts at the top of their field.
We selected the following schools with particularly strong academic options in this area of study, all with a net price lower than institutions with this degree. Points were awarded based on the presence of: holistic, progressive learning philosophies; diversity in faculty and student body; a wide range of curriculum and degree options; multiple types of financial aid packages; and any other stand-out features that add value to student seeking a future in energy research. The 20 colleges profiled here scored the highest among schools with maximum enrollment of 7,000 students and a net price (per College Navigator) of $34,000 USD or less.
The schools profiled below are ranked in order of points earned. In the event of a tie in points, the schools with the lower net price are ranked higher. The following serves as a guide for students seeking the best deal on colleges that do not require SAT scores.
#20 – State University of New York at Cortland
Cortland, New York
Net Price/Tuition: $21,053
Part of the affordable and widely respected SUNY system, the State University of New York at Cortland is a diverse, reputable college in Upstate New York. Students pursuing careers in energy will discover multiple course options in the physics department. SUNY Cortland also has an advanced degree in sustainable energy systems. Master’s students explore sustainability, fundamentals of thermodynamics, building design and technology, and engineering mechanics. Both undergraduate and graduate students become versatile, knowledgeable voices in energy-related issues.
#19 – Everglades University
Boca Raton, Florida
Net Price/Tuition: $32,431
Florida’s Everglades University of Boca Raton is a liberal arts college for students seeking a small, highly personalized college experience. The university offers undergraduate and advanced degrees in an expansive range of energy-related specializations, including, environmental policy and energy management. The B.S. in land and energy management is an intensive 123-credit degree track that provides students with leadership skills in land use regulations, gas and energy geopolitics, environmental justice, data analysis, mapping, and many other professional capacities.
#18 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Net Price/Tuition: $22,212
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is among the best educational options for students seeking to advance their knowledge in the sciences research, and technology in its many forms. MIT has opportunities in energy research study through a college-wide program that complements many other courses of study. Energy is considered a cross-disciplinary field throughout the college, and the faculty of over 70 subjects have found relevance in energy research curriculum. Individuals studying energy are engaged in lab-based projects that often address the environmental impact of excess energy consumption.
#17 – University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Net Price/Tuition: $15,965
The University of Massachusetts is a respected research college with a student body of over 17,000. There are over 100 undergraduate, 42 master’s, and 36 doctoral degree programs to select from, many of which involve the study of energy. The renewable energy program has become a particularly attractive program to students, due, in large part to increased employment in the field. Students of renewable energy receive a well-rounded, interdisciplinary education in chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, and related sciences.
#16 – Oregon Institute of Technology
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Net Price/Tuition: $14,723
Founded in 1947, the Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) is a competitive public college known for its commitment to hands-on, experiential learning for all of its students. The college is the first in the region to establish a BS in Renewable Energy Engineering, which has proven enormously popular with incoming students pursuing a career involving energy research. The early curriculum for this major is an interdisciplinary blend of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and electrical / mechanical engineering. The more advanced level students are involved in energy management and auditing, biofuels, photovoltaics, and transportation systems.
#15 – Marquette University
Net Price/Tuition: $12,187
Located in the heart of Milwaukee, Marquette University is a Catholic-based academic institution with over 83 possible degree tracks. Students of energy related fields are placed in the Opus College of Engineering which has a division dedicated to energy research. The diverse faculty of the energy department provide a comprehensive education in topics including physics, thermodynamics, natural gas and energy forecasting, HVAC&R equipment, thermal engineering, alternative fuels, and time series data mining. Marquette’s laboratory environment offers many opportunities for cross-disciplinary study and collaboration.
#14 – State University of New York at Canton
Canton, New York
Net Price/Tuition: $8,507
Set in a remote town in the Adirondacks, State University of New York at Canton is well-respected for its challenging academic options and personalized learning. For students seeking a degree program in energy research, SUNY Canton offers an Alternative and Renewable Energy Systems major that covers a fascinating spectrum of study in this field. Some of the courses offered related to energy include thermodynamics, heat transfer, environmental science, and many more. Students following this major are taught to become solution-oriented professionals on issues pertaining to alternative and renewable energy.
#13 – Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Net Price/Tuition: $26,335
Ranked 30th among the nation’s universities by US News and World Report, Boston College is a prestigious higher education opportunity. Incoming students interested in exploring energy research will find this curriculum in the environmental studies major. The courses of this degree track include alternative energy, energy politics in the U.S., climate change, biodiversity, consumption, sustainability, and many more. Boston College is also home to the Wang Research Lab, a center for scientists to collaborate, study energy conversion, and design high-efficiency technologies.
#12 – Colorado School of Mines
Net Price/Tuition: $25,138
Known for its highly selective admissions process and state-of-the-art research technology, the Colorado School of Mines is a small public university making waves in the world of science. The Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (REMRSEC) is one of the main activity hubs for energy-related discoveries, undergraduate participation opportunities, guest faculty, outreach education programs for the public, and more. The resources and programming at the REMRSEC is largely subsidized by the National Science Foundation, and continues to expand its resources every year.
#11 – Stanford University
Net Price/Tuition: $17,952
The prestigious Stanford University of California is a leading academic institution with an expansive range of fields and courses of study. One of the most highly regarded divisions on campus is the Precourt Institute for Energy (PIE) which will hold particular interest to those pursuing a future in energy research. PIE functions as a network of science scholars, collaborating and applying their expertise to devise renewable energy solutions. This institute also offers a Summer Undergraduate Program on Energy Research (SUPER), a faculty-mentored experience in strengthening one’s research skills in the field.
#10 – University of California at Berkeley
Net Price/Tuition: $16,655
The University of California at Berkeley is a large, diverse academic community in one of the most progressive cities on the west coast. UC Berkeley is home to the world-renowned Energy and Climate Institute which has hosted scholars in science, engineering, climate change, and current challenges in the field. The Energy and Resources Group (ERG) is another related department whose mission is to provide a science-based knowledge of our environmental impact. Students who declare a minor with the ERG are encouraged to become critical analysts of energy consumption and potential alternatives.
#9 – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Net Price/Tuition: $15,850
Home to some of the brightest minds in scientific research, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is known for its discoveries in nanoscience, energy, life sciences, and other interdisciplinary initiatives. UM’s research work receives over $795 million in support from the federal government alone. Students seeking courses in energy research will find them within multiple academic units including the Medical School, Science, the College of Engineering, and the School of Environment and Engineering. The University of Michigan also hosts an annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, a three-day technology showcase involving experts in the field.
#8 – San Juan College
Farmington, New Mexico
Net Price/Tuition: $13,579
San Juan College, located in the beautiful state of New Mexico, is considered one of the region’s best higher education opportunities. Energy research students have multiple options for advanced study, including one of the longest running renewable energy degree programs in the nation. This program has particular emphasis on solar thermal systems, the National Electric Code, and the implementation of alternative energy systems. The curriculum of San Juan’s energy academics encompass energy consumption, conservation, and potential solutions to environmental challenges.
#7 – Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Net Price/Tuition: $28,537
The world-renowned Cornell University is not just a prestigious academic community, but also one of the foremost institutions in research. Students in both undergraduate and graduate programs are invited to practice research in their chosen field, and the faculty is highly invested in project collaboration. The KAUST-Cornell Center for Energy and Sustainability, Atkins Center for Sustainable Future, Energy Materials Center, and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise are just three of the locations where advancements and discoveries are made in energy research every year.
#6 – Ecotech Institute
Net Price/Tuition: $17,464
Located in the downtown Denver, Ecotech Institute is the nation’s only college focused solely on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Ecotech has eight degree programs and students are prepared for an increasingly relevant career in energy and clean technology. The curriculum for each degree track is consistently evaluated by scholars in the field, and with a student body of under 500, there is a strong mentor-based learning environment. Ecotech is a great option for individuals who require a flexible course schedule, with both day and night classes available.
#5 – Iowa State University
Net Price/Tuition: $13,899
Boasting world-class research facilities and scholar-level faculty, Iowa State University represents the elite of academia. For students seeking to learn from the best and latest in the energy field, ISU is home to the Center for Building Energy Research. This complex is focused on devising ways to build energy efficiency, sustainability, and reduce future energy consumption. Iowa State is also the site of the world’s largest tornado simulator, which has contributed to discoveries and initiatives in wind energy. Additionally, the college’s Bioeconomy Institute is instrumental in developing alternative, renewable energy sources.
#4 – Georgia Institute of Technology
Net Price/Tuition: $12,187
Consistently high-ranked and recognized by industry peers, Georgia Institute of Technology is a leading research university with state-of-the-art facilities. There are over 100 study centers dedicated to interdisciplinary work, and this college has contributed pivotal discoveries in energy and other scientific research. Georgia Tech founded the Strategic Energy Institute in 2004, which has provided a broader understanding of challenges facing our environment through excess energy consumption. The overall mission of Georgia Tech’s energy education is to turn students into informed, innovative leaders who are eager to create viable solutions.
#3 – Texas A & M University – College Station
College Station, Texas
Net Price/Tuition: $25,138
Texas A&M University of College Station is the site of an impressive range of academic study, taught by faculty who are leaders in their fields. For incoming students looking to work in energy research will find a great education at the Texas A&M Energy Institute. This renowned research center seeks to change the landscape of interdisciplinary discovery, multi-scale energy systems engineering, fossil and non-fossil based energy technologies, and more. Texas A&M University seeks to educate a well-rounded and resourceful next generation of energy experts.
#2 – University of Colorado – Boulder
Net Price/Tuition: $21,053
Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the University of Colorado – Boulder is an enormous academic community with expert faculty and challenging courses. Although the student body is over 32,000, the university has an instructor staff large enough to maintain an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute was established in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This institute provides facilities and educational opportunities for students, faculty, and industry experts to address the complex issues of energy science, analysis, and engineering.
#1 – North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Raleigh, North Carolina
Net Price/Tuition: $13,579
North Carolina State University at Raleigh is an enormous higher education complex with academic opportunities in hundreds of study areas. Energy research enthusiasts will find great opportunities to study through the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, established in 1988. This is the site of renewable energy research from both technical and social perspectives. NCCETC also conducts technology testing of solar thermal systems, small wind energy systems, photovoltaic systems, and passive solar options. North Carolina State is part of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium (RTEC), in collaboration with Duke University, NC State University, The University of Chapel Hill, and RTI International.