10 Best Deals on Small Colleges in Texas

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but you can still find some great small colleges in the state. This ranking features the best small colleges in Texas. From nationally ranked liberal arts schools to small regional universities, Texas has a wide range of options for students who want a great deal and are looking for the small college experience. Small colleges have a lot to offer. Often access to services and opportunities is superior at small colleges, because opportunities and services often don’t increase proportionally with the student population. The increased individual attention and close-knit communities that form on small college campuses can provide students with both formal and informal support networks, which are instrumental in helping students succeed in the college setting. You can find more information on our methodology and the reasoning behind it in the methodology and FAQ section at the end of the article.

Ranking the Best Small Colleges in Texas

#1. Austin College

Score: 100

Austin College is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. The undergraduate student population is just shy of 1,300, the student-to-faculty ratio is 12 to one. This small college has been featured in top colleges rankings by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger, Forbes, Money, and The Wall Street Journal. Austin College encourages global experience, and about 70% of graduates have at least one international study experience.

  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #102
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $413,000
  • Tuition: $42,590
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 72%

#2. Southwestern University

Score: 99.19

Southwestern University was founded in 1840. It is the oldest university in Texas and is historically affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Southwestern University employs an innovative liberal arts program designed to integrate fine arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and the humanities in a process of learning that prepares students to be able to build new knowledge and adapt to a rapidly changing society. The school has a 12-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and an undergraduate student population of 1,500.

  • U.S. News Ranking: National Liberal Arts #102
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $317,000
  • Tuition: $45,120
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 95%

#3. University of Dallas

Score: 98.54

The University of Dallas is a Roman Catholic university located in Irving, Texas, an inner-ring suburb of Dallas. The school offers a traditional liberal education based on the model outlined by Cardinal John Henry Newman. Most of the classes are discussion based, and the average class size is 16 students in order to facilitate that discussion. The student-to-faculty ratio is 11 to one, with an undergraduate population of 1,475 students.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #6
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $329,000
  • Tuition: $45,160
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 95%

#4. Southwestern Adventist University

Score: 95.15

Southwestern Adventist University is a small Christian college with a 15-to-one student-to-faculty ratio and an undergraduate population of just under 700 students. The university admits roughly 58% of applicants. The Christian faith is central to the campus culture of this school. Most, if not all, students are Seventh-day Adventist, or at least Christian. The school offers programs in biological sciences, business administration, communication, computer science, English, education, mathematics, nursing, religion, and more.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #11
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $300,000
  • Tuition: $22,836
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 80%

#5. Hardin-Simmons University

Score: 91.55

Located in Abilene, Texas, Hardin-Simmons University was originally founded in 1891 as Abilene Baptist College. It retains its affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to this day. The undergraduate student population is around 1,700, making it one of the larger colleges featured in this ranking. Hardin-Simmons takes pride in its 12-to-one student-to-faculty ratio, and tries to cultivate a familial culture on campus. Christian faith and religious practice play a large role in both academics and campus life at the university.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #37
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $245,000
  • Tuition: $31,364
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 95%

#6. McMurry University

Score: 83.57

McMurry University is another Christian university located in Abilene, and it is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. While many universities are historically Methodist but maintain a secular campus, McMurry is very much a Methodist university, shaped by Chrsitian principles. Anyone attending can expect faith to play a large role in campus life and in the classroom. McMurry has an undergraduate population of a little over 1,100 students and a 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #13
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $213,000
  • Tuition: $28,830
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 78%

#7. Lubbock Christian University

Score: 81.21

Lubbock Christian University is associated with the Churches of Christ denomination. Student enrollment is 1,664, and the university strives to keep class sizes small with a 13-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. 15% of the school’s full-time students are in the honors college. LCU offers 61 undergraduate programs and 19 graduate programs. The school’s NCAA division II athletics program have collectively won 17 national championships. So if you’re looking for a small Christian college with a strong athletics program, Lubbock Christian College is a great choice.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #68
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $192,000
  • Tuition: $24,260
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 84%

#8. Texas Lutheran University

Score: 74.20

Over 95% of students at Texas Lutheran University receive financial aid and scholarships. High-achieving students are guaranteed at least $20,000 per year in financial aid from the college itself. The undergraduate student population is 1,445 with a 14-to-one student-to-faculty ratio. Texas Lutheran University is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 19% of the students in attendance are Lutheran. The core values of the university are education, community, and faith.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #4
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $218,000
  • Tuition: $31,850
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 55%

#9. East Texas Baptist University

Score: 72.75

East Texas Baptist University was founded in the early 1900s and is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The school competes in 16 sports in NCAA division III and has 50+ student organizations and ministries. 99% of students receive financial aid. The school maintains a 14-to-one student-to-faculty ratio with an undergraduate population of 1,471 students.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #15
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $76,100
  • Tuition: $27,640
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 85%

#10. Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Score: 70.48

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination and is the only Assemblies of God university in Texas. The school offers undergraduate programs in Bible and theology, business, communication arts, behavioral sciences, criminal justice, English, history, and more. With a student population of 1,683 undergraduates, SWAGU maintains a 10-to-one student-to-faculty ratio, and is one of the most accessible schools featured in this ranking, accepting 88% of applicants.

  • U.S. News Ranking: Regional #95
  • 20yr Net Return on Investment: $119,000
  • Tuition: $19,834
  • Graduation/Transfer Rate: 78%

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes this ranking different from the other college rankings?

Well for one thing, we create curated rankings so you don’t have to sift through all the huge databases to find what you want. Then we compare the schools that fit our criteria against each other with a ranking system that values prestige, return on investment, graduation/transfer rate, and tuition. All key components in determining whether or not the school is a great deal. In our ranking articles that feature colleges from a particular state, the colleges are compared and rated only against other schools from that state, so the rankings sometimes spotlight colleges that might get left out of larger rankings with a national or global perspective.

Why are all of the colleges in your ranking Christian? Aren’t there any non-Christian small colleges?

Texas, like most of the United States, has a long history of Christianity. Therefore, many of the first universities, if not all of them, that were founded in the state were Christian universities. Many of the small colleges mentioned here trace their history back into the 1800s when Christians were founding universities all over the West. While it’s not the case in many states, some states have a high number of quality Christian colleges and universities, and Texas happens to be one of these states.

I don’t want to go to a Christian college, any suggestions?

Well, first I would suggest taking a closer look at our #1 ranking here: Austin College. Austin College strives to be diverse, inclusive, and supportive of students of all faiths, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, and disability. While the school does provide Christian students with the opportunity to practice and engage with their faith on their terms, it also strives to ensure that the needs of students with other belief systems are met and that nobody is excluded or pressured into becoming a Christian when they attend the college. Most of the other colleges featured in this ranking are more conservative, so if those colleges just aren’t for you, and you are set on going to a small college in Texas, you might be able to find what you’re looking for in schools with a little higher student population, in say, the 2,000-5,000 range. Good luck!

The colleges may be a good deal, but their tuition still seems somewhat expensive. How do I pay for them?

Well, that’s another advantage of smaller colleges. Often they tend to put much more money into academic and need-based scholarships. So if you have great grades, you are likely to get a lot more financial assistance! However, the FAFSA is arguably the most important component of financial aid for college students. It’s important to apply for FAFSA aid as early in the year as possible, to ensure you get the most aid possible. FAFSA aid comes in the form of grants and both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. The student loans you get through FAFSA will tend to have much lower interest rates than private student loans, so make sure if you do end up needing loans that you get the FAFSA loans first. Only use private loans to supplement your other financial aid if absolutely necessary.

Finally, third-party scholarships are another great way to cover gaps in your student aid. These can be found through community organizations, religious organizations, and various foundations. General scholarships can be applied for by everybody but tend to have the stiffest competition. So when looking for private scholarships, try to find hyper-local scholarships (scholarships available only to students in your town, county, or even high school) or very specialized scholarships (scholarships offered only to students who want to study what you plan to study). These will give you the best chance of scoring the scholarship.


Each category is weighted as follows.

Tuition: 10%
Graduation Rate: 30%
Return on Investment: 30%
National Ranking: 30%
Regional Ranking: 20%

For the national and regional scoring categories, they can only apply to one school at a time. Regional rankings are scored at ⅔ the value of national rankings, as these schools only compete against a smaller pool, limited to schools in their specific region that are not already nationally ranked, for those rankings.

For tuition, the points are awarded according to how much less a given school’s tuition is compared to the most expensive school in the entire pool of schools considered, even if the most expensive school in the pool did not make it into the final ranking.

With this methodology, no school can score 100 because no school has $0 tuition or 100% graduation rate. Once all the schools’ points are calculated, the top school is curved to a score of 100. Then each other school’s score is curved up by adding the same percentage of its own score to its score as the percentage of the top school’s score that was added to the top school’s score to achieve a ranking of 100.


College ROI: Payscale
U.S. News Rankings: U.S. News and World Report
Tuition and Graduation Rate: National Center for Education Statistics


GCD Staff
May 2021

This concludes our ranking of the top 10 small colleges in Texas.