By Tracy Eisenberg
Published January 2016
In the following ranked list of 20 Best Deals on Small Colleges for Politically Active Students, we selected small colleges with a lower net price than similar sized institutions, and academic focus. We awarded points based on scholarship availability, diversity in both faculty and student body, student political organizations, international exchange opportunities, flexible degree track options, progressive curriculum, and other notes of distinction that add value for the politically motivated student. The 20 colleges profiled below scored the highest among schools with maximum enrollment of 6,000 students and a net price (per College Navigator) of $32,000 USD or less. The following is a guide for politically active students seeking the best deal for their higher education.
#20 - Prescott College
Net Price: $26,382
Prescott College, a small liberal arts institution in central Arizona, is a great option for students looking to be active in environmental advocacy. This institution is part of the well-regarded Eco League, a six-college cooperative of colleges with environmental studies programs. This league was created in response to students expressing interest in addressing issues of preservation. Prescott is also a member of the Center for International Environmental Law, a not-for-profit law firm founded to strengthen global environmental law and policy.
#19 - Earlham College
Net Price: $20,589
Earlham College, a small liberal arts college in rural Indiana, was founded by Quakers in 1847. While the student body has long since diversified, the Quaker tradition of service to the community remains a cornerstone of the College's philosophy. Earlham’s campus welcomes students from over 80 countries, and is a leading institution in producing award-winning academic scholars. For the politically active student, Earlham sponsors a wide range of school organizations, including Global Affairs, Students for Free Tibet, and Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine.
#18 - Marlboro College
Net Price: $28,854
Located in a liberal town in the Green Mountains of Vermont, Marlboro College is a progressive school with about 230 students. Marlboro encourages independent thinkers and outspoken leaders on a wide range of political issues. For budding student activists, the political science department spans subject areas including comparative politics, international theory, constitutional law, and political ecology. MC makes every effort to keep tuition low with the aid of merit-based scholarships and generous financial aid opportunities. A recent survey revealed that its alumni student debt is more than $5,000 below the national average.
#17 - College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, Maine
Net Price: $16,359
College of the Atlantic, in beautiful Bar Harbor, is a highly selective institution that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in subject areas related to human ecology. The politically active student interested in environmental issues will find this college to be a promising opportunity. Focus study areas at COA include environmental sciences, humanities, sustainable food systems, socially responsible business, and international studies. This school encourages open political discourse and supports organizations such as the COA Council on Foreign Affairs, Zero Waste Club, and Student Framework for Environmental and Social Justice.
#16 - Berea College
Net Price: $0
Berea College, just south of Lexington, Kentucky, is a work-college that offers a free higher education to select students. The work-learning experience is a unique education structure that integrates work, learning, and service in exchange for tuition. Berea is known for its consistent contributions to the local community and abroad. Politically active students may select the political science degree track, which offers an in-depth understanding of government structure, political theories, international relations, and other topics related to the field. For student activists focused on gender equality, Berea's courses in women’s and gender issues offer a thorough understanding of this global matter.
#15 - Saint Anselm College
Manchester, New Hampshire
Net Price: $30,980
Saint Anselm College of Manchester, New Hampshire provides a variety of outlets for the politically active student. The department of politics offers a wide-range curriculum that instills an understanding of political history, international relations, political economy, and government institutions around the world. Students of politics participate in a course at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics where they engage with guest speakers and analyze the current election season. For students seeking internships and volunteer work, Saint Anselm’s Center for Experiential Learning connects individuals with an extensive list of organizations both locally and abroad.
#14 - Hampden-Sydney College
Net Price: $29,533
Hampden-Sydney College is an all-male college in Virginia, about an hour from Richmond. The school’s historic Civic Engagement program is one of the ways a politically active student can find a place to participate. This program has 3 areas: volunteer service, engaged learning, and community partnerships. Students who follow the political economy path receive an in-depth education on the relationship between political structures and social outcomes. Hampden-Sydney also has longstanding partnerships with activist community groups including Habitat for Humanity and Circle K International.
#13 - Claremont McKenna College
Net Price: $23,982
Claremont McKenna College is consistently ranked among the best liberal arts colleges by such respected publications as Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and Washington Monthly. The government department will hold special interest to incoming politically active students, with top faculty scholars offering education in such areas as public law, comparative government, international relations and American politics. As a member of a seven-college partnership, CMC is able to offer its student body access to academic resources in six other nearby colleges.
#12 - New College of Florida
Net Price: $12,353
The New College of Florida is a small college with a big presence in political activism. The student body at this school consistently participates in local and national protests. The New College Student Alliance (NCSA) is the college’s student government organization, highly influential in most decisions impacting the campus and college community. The College is recognized in part for its unique degree path that includes narrative evaluations, contracts of agreed-upon expectations with faculty, independent research, and concluding with a mentor-based senior thesis. This progressive program does not use letter grades or grade-point averages, allowing for more personalized and collaborative learning.
#11 - Warren Wilson College
Asheville, North Carolina
Net Price: $23,617
Warren Wilson is a unique liberal arts college with a proud history of service and community engagement. The school’s well-rounded curriculum blends high-standard academics, field work, and public service, also known as The Triad. For the politically active student, WW has a program for students who want to dig into issue areas including the environment, housing and homelessness, race and immigration, animal welfare, and matters affecting the LGBTQIA community. Within these issue areas, Warren Wilson has formed partnerships with a long list of organizations for volunteer service and political involvement.
#10 - Reed College
Net Price: $18,671
Reed College is a small liberal arts college that supports student voices being heard in the local community and abroad. The politically-inclined student can find opportunity in the college’s SEEDS (Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service) program, which connects students to global outreach through a long list of partnerships. Some of the more politically active SEEDS partners include Amnesty International, The Green Party, Oregon Action, and Criminal Justice Policy Coalition. Reed College has a 9:1 student/faculty ratio, which enables an individualized, mentored educational experience.
#9 - Amherst College
Net Price: $14,687
Located in Western Massachusetts, Amherst College is known for its vast variety of student organizations of interest to the politically active. The College’s small enrollment and reasonable tuition price makes it an excellent choice for students of all backgrounds. Among the more than 100 school-sponsored campus groups are Amnesty International, Partners for Animal Welfare, Political Union, Project Sunshine, and Habitat for Humanity. For the environmentally conscious, Amherst is committed to maintaining a green campus with extensive sustainability efforts.
#8 - Grinnell College
Net Price: $24,896
Founded in rural Iowa in 1846, Grinnell College is a Midwestern college with many opportunities for the civic-minded and politically active student. Some of the most popular campus groups at Grinnell include the Social Justice Action Group, Save the Planet, and a philanthropic initiative program where student volunteer hours generate money for the organizations they’re working with. This college reports that 60% of the students are involved in public service projects both locally and internationally. Grinnell’s unique curriculum structure allows students to design their degree track independently with the aid of a faculty adviser.
#7 - The Evergreen State College
Net Price: $13,630
The Evergreen State College of Olympia, Washington is a progressive public liberal arts college with a long history of experimental methods in higher education. Instead of making the typical choice of major, Evergreen students select one of the multi-disciplinary “programs,” in which faculty members from different subject areas lecture in teams of 2 to 4. Politically active students may take interest in the college’s Activism, Advocacy and Citizenship program, which focuses on community-building and how citizens can be successful advocates in social, legal, ecological, and economic issues affecting the world.
#6 - Trinity College
Net Price: $25,120
Located on a scenic 100-acre campus, Trinity College has a competitive reputation for its high academic standards and personalized degree options. Trinity has advocacy opportunities in human rights, urban and global studies, and a long list of local government partnerships. For the politically active student, the Political Action/Lobbying internship Department provides hands-on learning in interest areas including NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, Clean Water Action, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, Connecticut Association for Human Services, and more. Trinity College attempts to make education affordable by committing more than $30 million of its own funds to subsidize financial assistance to incoming students.
#5 - Bates College
Net Price: $22,062
Founded in 1855 , Bates College is consistently ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in the country. In 2015, Bates was named “Fulbright Top Producer,” with 18 Fulbright Scholars among its alumni. Politically active students seeking a major in this field will find a rewarding curriculum that covers a wide range of theoretical, cultural, and methodological perspectives on politics. Concentrations for a degree in politics include governance and conflict, identities and interests, philosophical and legal studies, and political economy.
#4 - Macalester College
St. Paul, Minnesota
Net Price: $27,999
Macalester College, located just outside St. Paul, Minnesota, has earned global recognition for its scholarly staff, highly diverse student body, and commitment to encouraging ethical engagement on campus and abroad. This college is an excellent choice for the politically active student, as it offers internships that focus on human rights and humanitarian efforts. A few of these internship opportunities include the Center for Victims of Torture and Advocates for Human Rights. Courses offered in the political science department include Politics of Urban Education, Presidential Campaigns and Elections, and Transitional Justice. Macalester offers extensive financial aid and scholarship options for incoming students of all levels of need.
#3 - Vassar College
Net Price: $19,661
The world-renowned Vassar College, in the scenic Hudson Valley of New York State, offers progressive educational opportunities to a small, diverse, and highly select student body. A student with a special interest in politics may select a major in political theory and add concentrations in American, comparative, and international politics. Vassar graduates go on to achieve success in career areas including law, public administration, business, journalism, and economics. Vassar College draws visiting lecturers from around the world and sponsors campus-wide events with a wide spectrum of special interests.
#2 - Bard College at Simon’s Rock
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Net Price: $29,305
Bard College at Simon’s Rock is the esteemed institution’s Great Barrington, Massachusetts campus. This location is an “early entrance college” for students ready to begin higher education in 10th or 11th grade. The enrollment of only 329 shows the college’s selective admissions process in creating a dynamic community of intellectually curious individuals. For students interested in a politically active degree track, the political studies division provides a multi-disciplinary curriculum spanning American politics, law, policy, society, and ethics study. 95% of the Bard faculty holds the highest degree in their field, and 78% of students go on to graduate study.
#1 - Brandeis University
Net Price: $26,367
Brandeis University is a liberal, progressive college just west of Boston, Massachusetts. This college’s educational approach focuses on interdisciplinary knowledge and preparing students to be upstanding contributors to society. The politics major at Brandeis offers politically active students a thorough knowledge of history, theories, and real-world conflicts happening worldwide. Politics degree graduates often pursue careers in governmental public service, journalism, law, and policy analysis. Brandeis is strongly committed to assisting students with financial aid, offering a long list of available scholarship opportunities and work-study programs.
The preceding is a ranked list of the 20 Best Deals on Small Colleges for Politically Active Students.