The college experience is the perfect time to formulate a strong work ethic, learn new skills, and collaborate with others in serving communities locally and abroad. For students seeking the best in service-oriented colleges, it’s important to take a number factors into consideration. We researched and ranked the following 20 institutions, highlighting the features that matter most to the individual looking to give back to society. These listed have a net price comparatively lower than similar institutions of this size and academic focus. We awarded points based on the presence of service-learning curriculum programs, charity organization partnerships, financial aid packages, and any additional features that help develop a life in service. 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 $33,000 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 small colleges for writing.
#20 – Hope College
Net Price/Tuition: $25,770
Hope College is a leading institution both in competitive academics and community contribution. This college’s student body and faculty have clocked in an astounding 129,000 collective volunteer hours. Hope College’s mission in service was recently recognized by the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. This college hosts a range of service-oriented events. A few of them include “Time to Serve,” which encourages new students to find charity opportunities in the community, and “Dance Marathon,” a student-run fundraising effort for a local children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
#19 – Clark University
Net Price/Tuition: $24,394
Founded in 1887, Clark University is a dynamic academic community with a vast selection of undergraduate and graduate degree options. This college focuses much of its learning style on collaboration with both student peers and faculty. For individuals seeking a service-oriented college experience, Clark is dedicated to providing ongoing work both in the regional community and abroad. Each September, a long list of local organizations visit the Clark campus to introduce service internship opportunities to both incoming and current students.
#18 – Warren Wilson College
Swannanoa, North Carolina
Net Price/Tuition: $23,617
North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College is a liberal arts school whose approach to learning is called the “Triad.” The three components of this triad are academics, work and service. Students seeking a well-rounded education that incorporates community outreach will find a good home at Warren Wilson. This institution requires a minimum amount of volunteer hours for the entire student body, regardless of major. There are over 100 work crews on campus with involvement opportunities in landscaping, recycling, blacksmithing, community food service, and many others.
#17 – Emory and Henry College
Net Price/Tuition: $18,661
Emory and Henry College is a tight-knit community with both competitive academics and a commitment to service-based learning. The college is especially involved with its nearby Appalachian population, much of which is underprivileged. The Appalachian Center for Community Service and Civic Life was established to give students opportunities to engage in a wide range of public service initiatives. E&H also has strong connections with the local faith community and school systems. Emory and Henry’s primary goal in engaging students in service is to encourage a lifelong motivation to improve society’s injustices.
#16 – Wagner College
Staten Island, New York
Net Price/Tuition: $29,226
Located just outside the NYC metro area, Staten Island’s Wagner College is a prestigious institution with a selective admissions process. Over 90% of the faculty has the highest degree in their field, and the low student ratio of 14:1 allows for a truly individualized learning experience. Wagner considers itself a national leader in civic community service, and has a long list of partnerships that allow for optimum student involvement. The Center for Leadership Engagement (CLCE) includes available programs such as the IMPACT Scholars Civic Network, Wagner Cares, Imagining America, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, and more.
#15 – Lebanon Valley College
Net Price/Tuition: $24,394
Ranked among U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges (2016), Lebanon Valley College has a rich history of strong academics and an active campus life. This institution believes that college is the ideal time to prepare for a life of serving others. Students are encouraged to find the outreach work that suits their goals beyond graduation. Students who demonstrate exemplary commitment to volunteer work are presented with awards in recognition for their efforts. LVC award recipients have worked directly with people suffering from physical limitations, impoverished living, abuse, poor health, and similar conditions.
#14 – Birmingham Southern College
Net Price/Tuition: $22,250
One of the most respected institutions in the nation, Birmingham Southern College’s believes “the purpose of education is to make the world a better place.” BSC is considered a service-oriented institution, with two departments dedicated to student volunteer and civic action opportunities. The Bunting Center for Engaged Study and Community Action has many ongoing partnerships with agencies in the Birmingham region, all with distinct needs for student help. The Hess Center for Leadership and Service provides extensive training in how to become proactive citizens in the world beyond graduation.
#13 – Eckerd College
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Net Price/Tuition: $18,251
Recently counted among the 40 “Colleges That Change Lives,” Eckerd College is one of the best recognized institutions for its service-oriented atmosphere. 95% of Eckerd’s faculty hold terminal degrees in their field, and the small student body helps ensure a mentor-based educational experience. One of the most unique elements of the college is the Reflective Service Learning model, in which students are required to do 40 hours of service before graduation. Eckerd is committed to its belief that there is a strong connection between outreach and learning.
#12 – Lee University
Net Price/Tuition: $14,084
Tennessee’s Lee University is a Christian faith-based liberal arts school with a mission to develop well-rounded students of both intellectual and spiritual substance. Individuals at this school are invited to participate in a service-learning program, which provides college credits in exchange for minimum amounts of community service hours. Lee’s service-learning opportunity is launched with “Deke Day,” when freshman are taken to local elderly care homes, retirement communities, and other such facilities for a day of giving and engagement.
#11 – Rollins College
Winter Park, Florida
Net Price/Tuition: $32,621
Rollins College of Winter Park, Florida is a diverse campus of bright, active students who are highly committed to a wide range of societal issues. Rollins’ Center for Leadership and Community Engagement program offers any service-oriented individual the chance to join efforts in social and civic justice, the environment, global poverty, and other important issues. The college also hosts an annual SPARC (Service, Passion, Action, Rollins College) Day of Service, when incoming freshman participate in a day of action, service and education in the nearby Central Florida region.
#10 – Elon University
Elon, North Carolina
Net Price/Tuition: $32,205
Elon University is a vibrant, progressive community that holds high standards in academics and active community engagement. This college is strongly service-oriented, and its Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement is a popular hub of volunteer activity and partnerships. Kernodle’s mission is to develop students into leaders in the outreach community, both locally and abroad. Elon University is considered one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Scholars, Teach for America educators, and Peace Corps volunteers. EU engagement efforts additionally earn recognition from the federal government’s Corporation for National and Community Service department.
#9 – Morehouse College
Net Price/Tuition: 31,707
Morehouse College, an all-male black college, is one of most respected institutions in the nation. Service-oriented students are strongly encouraged to engage in the many opportunities presented by the Bonner Office of Community Service (BOCS). The BOCS at Morehouse exists to establish a culture of volunteer efforts, instill a sense of humility and discipline in young men, and develop longstanding relationships with partnering organizations. Morehouse works closely with all incoming students to design a fitting financial aid package. Over 90% of the student body receives aid through a combination of scholarships, loans, and grants.
#8 – Augsburg College
Net Price/Tuition: $18,460
Augsburg College prides itself on producing responsible, thoughtful, generous citizens. Rooted in the values of the Lutheran church, Augsburg’s faith-based community engages in charitable activities on regional, national, and global scales. U.S. News & World Report ranked this institution as one of the top 25 colleges that dedicates itself to service-based learning. Volunteer hours are a requirement of all students regardless of major, and one of the most popular service opportunities is through Augsburg’s Campus Kitchen. The Campus Kitchen serves over 2,000 meals to low-income families annually.
#7 – Willamette University
Net Price/Tuition: $30,672
Recently ranked among the “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges,” Willamette University is known best for its hands-on learning approach, outside-the-box curriculum, and service-oriented opportunities. Some of the many community engagement opportunities include tutoring, Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, hospice care, and local literacy events. During the 2010 Presidential Service Award selection process, Willamette was one of five colleges and universities to be named a finalist in the Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
#6 – Springfield College
Net Price/Tuition: $28,292
Springfield College is nationally-respected for its academic offerings and its longstanding mission to be serving contributors to society. This college has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its consistent involvement of both student and faculty in addressing the needs of various communities. Springfield students accumulate over 120,000 hours of volunteer work with partnering organizations and neighborhood projects. Another service opportunity offered through the school is America Reads, a literacy tutor program in the Springfield school district. Students who participate in America Reads may earn hours toward a work-study / tuition-assistance arrangement.
#5 – Antioch University
Net Price/Tuition: $26,991
One of five campuses nationwide, Seattle’s Antioch University is one of the most highly regarded locations, both for its breadth of curriculum and consistent community engagement. Service-oriented students will find multiple opportunities to get involved, a few of which include the Women’s Education Project and the Peace Corp. Antioch also has a number of service-related scholarships, including the “Youth Volunteer Scholarship Award”, which is presented to students who maintain a competitive GPA and demonstrate a high level of commitment to charity.
#4 – Brandeis University
Net Price/Tuition: $26,367
The world-renowned Brandeis University is known for its wide spectrum of offerings including high-standard academics, scholar-level faculty, and a culture of community giving. The Division of Student Life and Success includes a community service branch committed to connecting students to volunteer opportunities. There are currently over 20 student-run clubs dedicated to bringing students to partnering organizations on regional, national, and global scales. Brandeis considers its core values of outreach efforts to be citizenship, civility, integrity, respect, and lifelong learning.
#3 – Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, New York
Net Price/Tuition: $19,661
Locatged in the beautiful Mid-Hudson Valley, Vassar College is a globally respected academic institution for its academics, world-class facilities, and progressive ideals. This college is considered to be highly service-oriented, and the Community Action Office was established to connect interested students with volunteer opportunities in nearby Poughkeepsie. These outreach efforts range from soup kitchens, working with the developmentally disabled, and other types of service efforts. The Vassar Student Organization (VSA) is a similar department with additional placement openings in local politics, fundraising, and more.
#2 – Otterbein University
Net Price/Tuition: $26,200
Founded in 1866, Ohio’s Otterbein University has always been guided by progressive core values. Some of these stated values include diversity, equality, inclusiveness, lifelong learning, and service. OU is consistently recognized for its presence and generosity in the communities surrounding the campus. The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) presents any interested students with volunteer work. These volunteer opportunities may include working with senior citizens, tutoring children, delivering food, walking dogs, and more. The Otterbein Sports Pals program connects college student athletes with low-income children at local elementary schools.
#1 – Bates College
Net Price/Tuition: $22,062
Settled in a quaint college town in Maine, Bates College is a small liberal arts school with big impact in its surrounding communities. This college’s approach to learning is largely based in hands-on experience, peer collaboration, and developing practical solutions to real-world problems. Bates College is considered a service-oriented institution, and has a long history of becoming involved in “informed civic action” and community outreach. BC’s students graduate with the tools and drive to continue working toward a better society. The college’s service and engagement efforts are in part facilitated by the Harward Center or Community Partnerships.
By GCD Staff
Other articles of interest:
- 20 Deals: Small Colleges for Environmentally-minded
- 50 Best Deals on Competitive Small Colleges
- Top 50 Great Deals on Bachelor’s Degrees Online
The ranked list above represents the 20 best deals on small, service-oriented colleges.