30 Great Small Colleges for STEM Degrees

Best Degree Programs - Small Colleges for STEMBy Kelsey Fox
May 2015

With science, technology, engineering, and math-related jobs on the rise, more and more students are spending their college years elbow deep in math problems, computer software, and biology experiments. Unfortunately, a STEM degree is most often associated with larger campuses where class sizes are huge and research opportunities few. Luckily, some of the most respected colleges for STEM have less than 4,000 students! The schools on this list are 30 of those small STEM colleges. They were chosen and ranked based on the following criteria.

  • Size: The schools on this list have an undergraduate population of less than 4,000 students.
  • Research Opportunities: Schools with undergraduate research opportunities were awarded 1 point, while schools with unique or multiple research opportunities were given additional points.
  • Awards & Recognition: Schools received 1 point for appearing on a major “Best of” list.
  • Variety of STEM majors: Finally, schools were rewarded for their variety of offered programs and were given 1 point per offered STEM major.


30 Great Small Colleges for STEM Degrees

    1. Stevens Institute of Technology

    1. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

    1. Andrews University

    1. George Fox University

    1. Earlham College

    1. Albion College

    1. Millikin University

    1. McMurry University

    1. St. Lawrence University

    1. Harvey Mudd College

30. Rockford College

Rockford, Illinois

Points: 11

Rockford College’s stated mission is to educate young men and women to lead responsible lives as productive members of society. Offered STEM programs include anthropology (both physical and social), bio chem, chemistry, computer science, nursing, and math, each of which hinges upon practical experience complemented by the liberal arts. Rockford appears on a number of national rankings, and is consistently named by The Princeton Review as one of the Best Midwestern Colleges.

29. Aquinas College

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Points: 12

For students interested in the sciences, Aquinas College has proven itself a top choice. The Michigan-based liberal arts school is rooted in the Catholic and Dominican tradition, and prides itself on offering a quality education combined with a global perspective and an emphasis in career preparation. In fact, students majoring in a science-related field (environmental science is the most popular) receive four years of professional development guidance that will help them assess strengths, develop goals, hone leadership skills, create a resume, build a portfolio, and network with others.

28. Holy Family University

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Points: 12

With three campuses across Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley, Holy Family University is a comprehensive school known for its programs that are both professional in nature and highly adapted to the real lives of its students. Holy Family has a School of Arts and Sciences and a School of Nursing, both of which include programs such as radiologic science, bio chemistry, pre-med, medical technology science, and behavioral sciences. Prospective students will be especially happy to know that Holy Family’s claimed job placement figures are well above the national average.

27. Albertus Magnus College

New Haven, Connecticut

Points: 12

Founded in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, Albertus Magnus is a four-year liberal arts college of only 550 full-time undergraduates. The college offers only a few STEM-related degrees: biology, chemistry, computer information systems, mathematics, and a pre-med program. Despite this small number, STEM at Albertus Magnus is widely known and respected. Most of the programs offer students unique opportunities to develop practical experience through faculty-directed research and career-related internship experiences.

26. Westmont College

Santa Barbara, California

Points: 13

Westmont College is an undergraduate, Christian-based liberal arts college located in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. The college rejects the idea that institutions of higher learning should create students that are mere repositories of information and professional skills. Rather, Westmont seeks to help its students become thoughtful scholars and citizens. STEM programs are some of the most popular on campus, and students can choose from a variety that includes computer science, engineering physics, kinesiology, math, physics, and pre-med. Research with faculty is encouraged, and many students garner practice and internship opportunities with high-tech firms in the Santa Barbara area.

25. Wofford College

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Points: 14

Though Wofford College offers bachelor degrees in more than 25 major fields of study, it is well-known for its programs in the STEM fields (especially pre-med). Degrees to choose from include biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, math, physics, pre-engineering, pre-dentistry, pre-pharmaceutical, pre-med, and pre-vet. Wofford has recently seen a surge in students interested in environmental studies, an increase that seems to correspond with larger donations and funding. Some of this funding has gone to create the popular Thinking Like a River initiative, which combines perspectives from natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts in order to shape a culture of sustainability centered on local waters.

24. Miles College

Birmingham, Alabama

Points: 15

Miles College is an historically black college that is well respected for its reputation for motivating and preparing students. STEM-focused programs include biology, chemistry, mathematics, environmental science, computer and information sciences, and various programs that prepare students ultimately to teach STEM subjects. All students, regardless of chosen program, learn the importance of research and technological literacy, illustrating Miles’ commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a crucial element of social society.

23. U.S. Coast Guard Academy

New London, Connecticut

Points: 15

Graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and you will not only have a highly respected STEM degree, you will also have the title of Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. Two hundred students are admitted to the Academy each year, all of which receive a full scholarship. The academy, which consistently ranks among the nation’s top undergraduate colleges, offers degrees in both math and engineering, though the latter is undoubtedly the most popular. The four available engineering majors are civil, electrical, mechanical, and naval architecture and marine. Capstone projects require seniors to design a ship that could accomplish missions of the Coast Guard or commercial maritime industry. Following graduation, students are obligated to serve five years in the U.S. Coast Guard.

22. Niagara University

Lewiston, New York

Points: 17

For students interested in a STEM-related career, but concerned about the religious implications, Niagara University could be the perfect option. Steeped in the Vincentian and Catholic heritage, Niagara seeks to instill in its students a deep concern for the rights and dignity of the human person. In fact, The Templeton Foundation has numbered Niagara among the 100 best colleges that inspire students to lead ethical and civic-minded lives. Popular STEM programs at Niagara include biochemistry, environmental studies, computer and information sciences, math, nursing, and life sciences.

21. St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

Winona, Minnesota

Points: 18

St. Mary’s University of Minnesota is located in the small town of Winona and serves just over 1,300 undergraduate students. In addition to the more traditional STEM degrees in biology, chemistry, etc., the university offers a number of more unique programs, such as cytotechnology, nuclear medicine technology, radiography, and physics life sciences. Despite these more unique options, biology remains one of the more popular majors on campus. Like with most St. Mary’s STEM programs, the biology degree specifically aims a student towards independent study through an experience in research.

20. Colby College

Waterville, Maine

Points: 18

Serving 1,850 students and founded in 1813, Colby College is the 12th oldest private liberal arts college in the country. The college is known for its rigorous academics that encourage educational exploration and collaborative learning, so it’s not surprising that so much of the curriculum is enhanced by real-world research and project-based problem solving. Some of the more popular STEM degrees offered at Colby include biology, chemistry, environmental studies, physics, science and society, and geology. Required capstone projects vary from conducting research in the Rockies or South Africa, to completing an independent research project on something like the creation of ultra-cold plasmas, to designing an integrative project that could further society.

19. Christopher Newport University

Newport News, Virginia

Points: 19

Though Christopher Newport University (CNU) is one of the youngest schools on this list, it has wasted no time making itself known and respected. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked CNU the 18th best university in the South and 7th best among southern public universities. STEM-related degree options include biology, mathematics, chemistry, computer engineering, computer foundations applied physics, electrical engineering, biology and life sciences, computational chemistry, neuroscience, and psychology. Appealingly, undergraduate research is greatly stressed at CNU, and all seniors must complete an academic inquiry that involves discipline-specific methodologies.

18. Connecticut College

New London, Connecticut

Points: 20

STEM-inclined students at Connecticut College can choose from a long list of degrees that include anthropology, applied statistics, arts and technology, astronomy, cognitive science, geology, and physics. Uniquely, Connecticut College also offers a degree in botany, with concentrations available in terrestrial ecology, plant systematics, ethnobotany, and plant cell biology. Botany students have nearly unlimited access to research opportunities in the nearby coastal, marine, and estuarine centers. In other departments, research opportunities are just as plentiful, and recent projects have taken students to other parts of the U.S., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Venezuela, and Peru.

17. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Socorro, New Mexico

Points: 20

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is often referred to as a research institution that happens to have a university. Though this is mostly a joke, it’s really not far from the truth. Besides the 400+ graduate students conducting research at any given time, nearly every professor on campus is also maintaining an active research project — and both groups routinely employ undergrads. Undergraduate seniors, regardless of department, must complete a capstone project that often includes frequent Institute partners like General Electric, Yates Petroleum, NASA, and various national labs and high-tech companies. Students can choose from myriad programs, including engineering, computer science, earth and environmental sciences, math, mineral engineering, and petroleum engineering, among others.

16. Westminster College

New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

Points: 21

Nestled within the charming town of New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, Westminster College consistently ranks as one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country. Catering to 1,400 undergraduate students, Westminster’s campus includes multiple laboratories, including a 100-acre outdoor lab. STEM majors include bio chemistry, chemistry, biology, computer information systems, environmental science, molecular biology, neuroscience, and engineering, among others, though one of its most popular programs is undoubtedly the pre-med program. Westminster claims that graduates who apply to medical school are admitted at nearly double the national average.

15. Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Points: 21

Williams College offers a unique curriculum that is sure to appeal to any student interested in a STEM subject. Instead of pairing a major with a minor, students can choose a concentration that groups courses from many different disciplines (for example: cognitive science). Popular STEM degrees include anthropology, geosciences, statistics, and science and technology studies, though those with a talent and energy for working independently can choose to design their own “contract major.” Williams is also one of the few universities in the country that gives research opportunities to undergraduates, such as the Williams in Omrit program, in which students from all programs travel to Israel to take part in an archaeological field school.

14. Davidson College

Charlotte, North Carolina

Points: 22

With only 2,000 students, Davidson College prides itself on small class sizes that allow faculty to work closely with students in both the classroom and research laboratory. The college offers a wide variety of STEM-related degrees, including pre-engineering, archaeology, astrophysics, computer science, digital studies, experimental physics, medical humanities, and neuroscience. Davidson also boasts one of the few genomics programs in the nation, and students taking on the program work closely with bioinformatics, proteomics, glycomics, metabolomics, systems biology, and synthetic biology. Davidson College consistently ranks amongst America’s strongest and most selective liberal arts schools.

13. Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado

Points: 22

Colorado School of Mines is a public research university that devotes itself entirely to educating students in fields of engineering and applied science. Its programs are specialized and nationally recognized, so it should come as no surprise that the school has some of the highest admissions standards of any public university in the U.S. Students can choose to major in various concentrations of math and engineering, one of the most popular of which is resource engineering. Encompassing environmental, geological, geophysical, petroleum, mining, and energy engineering, Mines’ resource engineering students work to develop the most innovative technologies to find new ways to use the Earth’s resources. Best of all, the school has first-rate facilities and often partner with industry, national laboratories, other universities, funding agencies, and international institutions for research.

12. St. Mary’s University

San Antonio, Texas

Points: 23

Founded in 1852 by Marianist brothers and priests, St. Mary’s University was the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and is the oldest Catholic university in both Texas and the Southwest. The university, which prides itself on the personal attention that comes with a student/faculty ratio of 12 to 1, is consistently recognized for its unique curriculum that integrates the liberal arts with professional preparation and ethical commitment. Students interested in STEM have a huge number of degree options from which to choose, including applied physics, computer science, engineering management, forensic science, military science, and software engineering.

11. Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Points: 23

STEM-inclined students at Colorado College can choose from myriad majors including molecular and cellular biology, organismal biology and ecology, environmental policy, computer science, astrophysics, and chemical physics, among others. More than 100 clubs and activities also exist on campus, many of which are STEM related. But most unique about Colorado College is its use of the Block Plan, in which students take one class at a time for an intense 3.5 weeks. Though this may limit in-class, longer-term research opportunities, the Block Plan also means one need not study for five big finals at once.

10. Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Points: 23

Harvey Mudd College’s broad curriculum takes a liberal arts approach to the STEM subjects. Though students can major in subjects such as biology, chemistry, engineering, or physics, required core courses also include a healthy dose of humanities and social science courses to ensure that an interest in music or art need not be sacrificed. Students also have the unique option of completing a joint major in either computer science and mathematics, or mathematics and computation biology. The capstone of a Harvey Mudd education is the Clinic Program, during which students conduct projects in tandem with corporations, national laboratories, and agency sponsors.

9. St. Lawrence University

Canton, New York

Points: 25

Students studying for a STEM-related degree at St. Lawrence University aren’t just limited to classrooms and on-campus laboratories. Rather, St. Lawrence prides itself on its commitment to diverse learning settings, and offers students the chance to study on the trails of the Adirondacks, the streets of New York City, or in 21 countries on six continents. Popular majors include anthropology, geology, computer science, math, statistics, and neurology, among others. One such other is the popular and unique Conservation Biology, which studies the discipline of protecting Earth’s biodiversity. St. Lawrence University’s undergraduate program is widely respected, and 50% of students choose to pursue an advanced degree within five years of graduation.

8. McMurry University

Abilene, Texas

Points: 25

McMurry University may not be the most well-known school in Texas, but it is undoubtedly one of the most respected. U.S. News & World Report named it the 15th best college in the west, while Washington Monthly named McMurry one of the top 100 schools in the nation. Part of McMurry’s success is its dedication to STEM programs, which are characterized by small and challenging classes, student-centered teaching, uncommon research opportunities, and a core commitment to Christian faith. Popular STEM programs include physics, pre-engineering, nursing, life sciences, biomedical studies, and geosciences.

7. Millikin University

Decatur, Illinois

Points: 26

Millikin University, founded in 1901, has a long tradition of academic excellence and “performance learning.” In fact, Millikin has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Princeton Review. Popular STEM programs are biology education, computer art, information systems, nursing, physics, pre-med, pre-engineering, and math. With only 2,200 undergraduates, Millikin’s STEM students have unique access to research and internship opportunities in Illinois, the nation, and international markets. But perhaps most appealing is the fact that each year, an average 99% of graduates gain employment or graduate school entry within six months of graduation.

6. Albion College

Albion, Michigan

Points: 26

Albion College is a private liberal arts school that has recently been racking up national accolades. The Princeton Review named the school known for its rigorous academics as one of the “Best 378 Colleges” in the nation, while U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and Forbes all included Albion on their lists of top colleges overall. Students interested in STEM at Albion have plenty to choose from. Popular options include anthropology, earth science, environmental studies, pre-engineering, pre-med, pre-vet, and pre-physical therapy. Uniquely, Albion also offers a joint math/physics degree for those who want to combine the two areas without having to be limited by one or the other. Recently, Albion was named by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s best colleges for helping women to succeed in STEM fields.

5. Earlham College

Richmond, Indiana

Points: 27

For such a small institution, Earlham College is well-known for its STEM degrees and research opportunities. Consistently ranked among the top colleges in the nation by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and Princeton Review, Earlham was also included among the 40 colleges chosen by Loren Pope for his classic text Colleges That Change Lives. STEM majors offered at Earlham include biology, bio chemistry, chemistry, computer science, environmental science, geology, math, neuroscience, physics, and astronomy. Collaboration and research opportunities are key for these majors, and 85% of faculty report having conducted research with students involved.

4. George Fox University

Newberg, Oregon

Points: 31

George Fox University is one of the most recognized universities in Oregon and the United States. It currently sits on eight national ranking lists, including those of U.S. News & World Report and Forbes. Best of all, George Fox is included amongst the 100 schools chosen for the John Templeton Foundation’s “Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges.” Three of the school’s largest majors are STEM-related — nursing, biology, and engineering — though other popular STEM offerings include bio chem, cognitive science, computer science, information systems, mechanical engineering, pre-med, pre-vet, and health and human performance.

3. Andrews University

Berrian Springs, Michigan

Points: 32

From the time of its founding in 1874, Andrews University has sought to combine serious scholarship, quality research, and practical Christianity (it’s the only Seventh-day Adventist institution that is recognized as a national university). Students can choose from a variety of STEM-related programs, including agriculture, animal science, zoology, web design, horticulture, medical laboratory science, and nursing. Andrews is also distinct as the only university on this list to offer a Department of Aviation. Students interested in planes and flying can choose to study Aviation Flight, Aviation Maintenance, or specialized mission aviation training, or just partake in flight lessons conveniently located at the campus airport.

2. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, Massachusetts

Points: 32

Founded in 1865 to promote the most beneficial science and engineering knowledge, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has become one of the most respected colleges for STEM in the nation. Operating under the motto “theory and practice,” WPI has been the location of countless breakthroughs in biotechnology, fuel cells, nanotechnology, and information security. Popular majors include math, aerospace engineering, bioinformatics and computational biology, robotics, systems dynamics, and manufacturing engineering, among many others. Because engineering at WPI can mean anything from cleaner water, to more advanced aircraft, to cutting-edge robots and video games, students have the chance to gain cultural experiences outside of the country, at the Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

1. Stevens Institute of Technology

Hoboken, New Jersey

Points: 39

Nicknamed “the Innovation University” since its founding in 1870, Stevens Institute of Technology has been widely known and respected for its education and research programs for more than 145 years. Unique majors include art and technology, bioanalytical chemistry, bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, cyber-security, math sciences, music and technology, quantitative finance, naval engineering, and science and law. Stevens students also have plenty of research opportunities at the institute’s three research centers. The Maritime Security Center was recently selected by the Department of Homeland Security as a Center for Excellence for Maritime Research, while the Systems Engineering Research University Affiliated Research Center and the Atlantic Center for the Innovative Design & Control of Small Ships have both been recognized repeatedly by the Office of Naval Research and the Department of Defense. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stevens Institute of Technology currently appears on more than 28 national rankings.

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