50 Most Innovative Small Colleges

best colleges for experiential learning

In this ranking, we highlight the 50 most innovative small colleges in America.

Getting a college degree isn’t what it used to be. With rapidly changing technologies and a global marketplace that demands 21st century skills, college students today need a different kind of education than the ones their parents received. To help them ensure that the small college experience yields big results for their future careers, we’ve evaluated hundreds of colleges to determine the top schools up to the task of meeting the changing needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s professionals.

  1. Hendrix College
  2. Vassar College
  3. Franklin and Marshall College
  4. Colorado College
  5. California Institute of Technology
  6. The Evergreen State College
  7. Hamilton College
  8. Wesleyan University
  9. Kalamazoo College
  10. Prescott College

Rating and Ranking Methodology

  • Awards and Recognition (related to innovation)
    –National Award: 2 points
    –Regional Award: 1 point
  • Progressive Majors: 2 points
  • Innovative Instructional Methods (i.e. experiential learning, web-based instruction, etc.): 2 points
  • Flexible Track Options (distance learning, weekend/evenings, accelerated degree programs): 1 point
  • Technology Focus: 1 point
  • Innovative School Groups/Clubs: 1 point
  • Community Connections: 1 point
  • Wow Factor: 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

50 Most Innovative Small Colleges

Ranking the Most Innovative Small Colleges

We have selected the following 50 schools to be the most innovative small colleges based on their size (i.e. less than 5,000 total students) and their commitment to ongoing innovation, as defined by the ranking methodology above. Please note that we’ve listed colleges that received the same number of points by their net price, so that the most affordable schools in the point group receive the higher rankings. Tuition data was taken from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database. 

#50 – Lafayette College

Easton, Pennsylvania


Points: 6
Enrollment: 2,503
Net Price: $27,019

Inspired by Marquis de Lafayette, Lafayette College is driven by the motto, “Why not?” By inviting students to ask this question of themselves as they study, learn, and dream, the college inspires leaders who aren’t afraid to embrace creativity and innovation. Students can choose majors from 51 different areas of study, including International Affairs, Religion & Politics, Film and Media Studies, and Environmental Studies. Students also have the option to create their own programs of study with the help of their professors, allowing them to pursue their individual passions.

#49 – Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California


Points: 6
Enrollment: 1,324
Net Price: $23,982

As one of the country’s top private liberal arts colleges, Claremont McKenna is a specialized school that combines a core liberal arts curriculum with leadership preparation. Students are invited to choose one of many available traditional and progressive majors, including areas of study such as Environment, Economics, and Politics; Philosophy and Public Affairs; and International Relations. In addition to a major, students may choose to complete a “sequence,” which is a combination of courses selected from Claremont McKenna or from the other Claremont colleges. Some sequences include Asian American Studies, Leadership, and Human Rights, Genocide, and Holocaust Studies.

#48 – Washington and Lee University

Lexington, Virginia


Points: 6
Enrollment: 2,264
Net Price: $20,700

Driven by the motto “not unmindful of the future,” Washington and Lee University is dedicated to providing students with a liberal arts education that embraces technology, multiculturalism, and interdisciplinarianism and is relevant to the 21st century society we live in. At Washington and Lee, students enjoy the close-knit community of a small college while benefiting from the expansive list of degree options typically found at larger universities. Of the 37 undergraduate majors and 29 minors, students will find unique and progressive areas of study such as Environmental Studies, East Asian Studies, and Poverty Studies.

#47 – Pomona College

Claremont, California


Points: 6
Enrollment: 1,650
Net Price: $19,205

Situated in a desert landscape close to the Pacific Ocean, Pomona College in southern California is part of a unique consortium of institutions with 6 other independent colleges. This school centers its approach to learning around blending a small, personalized educational experience with the expansive range of resources typically found in large universities. The nearby Los Angeles region offers progressive community-based learning opportunities spanning public policy, environmental sustainability, art history, and more. For undergrads seeking international higher learning, Pomona has formed program partnerships with 32 countries across six continents.

#46 – Johnson C. Smith University

Charlotte, North Carolina


Points: 6
Enrollment: 1,402
Net Price: $19,032

Johnson C. Smith University is a private, historically black liberal arts college that emphasizes diversity and community service. The school offers 23 undergraduate majors including stand-out offerings such as Sport Management and Visual and Performing Arts, as well as a graduate degree program in Social Work. JCSU’s foster care initiative supports children in foster care and helps them set and achieve academic and career goals. The White House has selected the school to participate in the innovative Blue Ocean Strategy, an initiative designed to increase student retention and graduation.

#45 – Carleton College

Northfield, Minnesota


Points: 7
Enrollment: 2, 057
Net Price: $32,017

Carleton College is a small liberal arts college, yet it offers a wide range of academic programs and majors including some unique offerings including Cinema and Media Studies, Cross Cultural Studies, Physics and Astronomy, and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Academic innovation is a core mission for the school, as demonstrated by its various initiatives, including the Carleton Interdisciplinary Science and Math Initiative, the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, and the Quantitative Inquiry, Reasoning, and Knowledge (QuIRK), which supports math across the curriculum.

#44 – Wofford College

Spartanburg, South Carolina


Points: 7
Enrollment: 1,658
Net Price: $24,731

Founded in 1854, Wofford College still operates on its original campus, which is recognized as a national arboretum. Its dedication to multicultural and international studies can be seen through its robust study abroad program. Since 2007, 2,276 Wofford students have studied in 70 different countries on 7 different continents. Thus, the school consistently ranks among the top ten in the nation in the Institute of International Education Open Doors Survey. 51 majors and programs are offered by the school, including Environmental Studies, Intercultural Studies, and Philosophy.

#43 – Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania


Points: 7
Enrollment: 1,542
Net Price: $22,557

Located in a quaint town a mere 11 miles from Philadelphia, Swarthmore College offers an academic experience that is collaborative, progressive and virtually limitless in scopes of study. Its 600+ courses are taught in settings where students have a voice and are encouraged to be leaders in discussions. This institution is part of a tri-college consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges, and also participates in cross-registration with the University of Pennsylvania. Swarthmore commits more than $800,000 in funding for students participating in independent creative projects; these projects may fall within multiple areas of focus, including social action, engineering, natural sciences, and more.

#42 – Middlebury College

Middlebury, Vermont


Points: 7
Enrollment: 2,533
Net Price: $20,903

Located in the remote Champlain Valley in central Vermont, Middlebury College is a top-tier liberal arts institution long renowned for its innovative international programs, breadth of curriculum, environmental studies, and much more. The college offers over 850 courses within its 44 majors in special interest areas. For those whose studies are focused in science, Middlebury’s resources and facilities for this major are considered world-class in its field. Athletics is also an integral part of the campus culture, with 31 NCAA varsity teams and 28% participation percentage of students.

#41 – Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts


Points: 7
Enrollment: 2,126
Net Price: $20,315

Williams College offers 36 full undergraduate majors in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences including standout programs such as Environmental Policy, Geosciences, and Global Studies. Despite what area of study students choose to pursue, they are guaranteed classroom experiences that combine the concepts of experiential learning, civic engagement, and service learning. The college also offers more than 250 opportunities for students to study off-campus, including the Williams-Exeter Programme, which gives students the unique opportunity to study at Oxford University.

#40 – Anderson University

Anderson, South Carolina


Points: 7
Enrollment: 3,112
Net Price: $18,051

Anderson University’s standout breadth of diversity in programs exists throughout its 8 colleges, including: College of Arts and Sciences, School of the Arts, College of Christian Studies, College of Business, School of Criminal Justice, School of Nursing, College of Education, and School of Interior Design. Anderson’s graduate program includes a Master of Ministry, Master of Music, and three Masters of Education degrees. There are 38 majors to choose from, in conjunction with 45 concentrations and special interest areas.

#39 – Carson-Newman University

Jefferson City, Tennessee


Points: 7
Enrollment: 2,362
Net Price: $14,257

Founded in 1851 among the hills of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, Carson-Newman University is a small, private, Christian liberal arts institution whose mission is centered in its five programs known as the “Steeples of Excellence.” These programs are reflective of the school’s goal to produce educated, committed contributors to society. These steeples include the Appalachian Center, the Louis and Mary Charlotte Ball Institute for Church Music, the Center for Baptist Studies, the Center for Global Education, and the Wellness Center. In addition to its 50 majors and 7 available graduate degrees, Carson-Newman is also renowned for its international partnerships with global organizations worldwide.

#38 – New College of Florida

Sarasota, Florida


Points: 7
Enrollment: 834
Net Price: $12,353

New College of Florida’s innovative philosophy consists of attracting top students from around the country, placing them in the same room alongside world-class professors and encouraging them to solve problems together. Ideal for intellectually curious students who learn by doing, New College of Florida is the official honors college for the liberal arts for the state of Florida. Students here gain independence and a sense of empowerment as they chart their own academic courses of study, selecting classes from the school’s three main divisions: Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.

#37 – Berea College

Berea, Kentucky


Points: 7
Enrollment: 1,621
Net Price: $1,990

Berea College’s distinction lies in the fact that it charges no tuition. Instead, all enrolled students must commit to working at least 10 hours per week in service of the campus. The school was founded on the principles of learning, labor, and service, and its mission is to equip students with real-world skills that will help them succeed in life after graduation. Students can choose between one of 28 different undergraduate majors or create an independent major such as Ecological Design, Film and Video Studies, Sustainable Environmental Studies, and Outdoor Education and Recreation.

#36 – High Point University

High Point, North Carolina


Points: 8
Enrollment: 4,339
Net Price: $36,105

With academic areas ranging from arts to business, health to education, High Point University, while small in size, promises state-of-the-art resources and an individualized educational experience, especially with the recent addition of 51 new academic, residential, and athletic facilities. High Point was also handed the honor of being one of 100 universities to be added to the Templeton Foundation’s Honor Roll for Character-Building Colleges. In addition, there are over 60 first-year seminars for first year students seeking an in-depth perspective on unique and progressive subject areas.

#35 – Scripps College

Claremont, California


Points: 8
Enrollment: 988
Net Price: $35,037

Also called The Women’s College, Scripps College is one of The Claremont Colleges in Claremont, California. An all-female liberal arts school, the college is centered around the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities, a foundation which prepares students to think critically and challenge themselves intellectually. The school is home to the only art conservation program on the West Coast and features 30 studio art courses. Princeton Review recently ranked Scripps as #9 of the “Best 380 Colleges” for best classroom experience.

#34 – Marlboro College

Marlboro, Vermont


Points: 8
Enrollment: 230
Net Price: $28,854

Marlboro College is the smallest school on our list. The school keeps enrollment numbers low in order to maintain its impressive 5 to 1 student ratio and to keep its self-governing student community a close-knit one. In lieu of traditional degree paths, students at Marlboro College complete a personalized, interdisciplinary Plan of Concentration that results in a major work of scholarship. The college also offers study-abroad and student exchange programs intended to broaden students’ learning experiences and foster a global understanding of the world.

#33 – Babson College

Wellesley, Massachusetts


Points: 8
Enrollment: 3,049
Net Price: $27,437

Babson College is an independent, not-for-profit institution that seeks to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in each and every student. The school’s world-renowned Entrepreneurial Thought and Action methodology marries experimentation and creativity with sound business principles to create well-rounded innovators and leaders. Its diverse student body is comprised of students from 43 different countries who speak more than 29 different languages. Sustainability is a core value of Babson College, as the school strives to reach a state of carbon neutrality by 2050.

#32 – University of Richmond

Richmond, Virginia


Points: 8
Enrollment: 4,182
Net Price: $24,011

A hallmark of the Richmond experience is The Richmond Guarantee; every undergraduate student enrolled at the University of Richmond will receive a fellowship of up to $4,000 for a summer internship or faculty-mentored research project. As of 2014, over $1 million in fellowship funds have been awarded to the next generation of learners and leaders. The Richmond education is one that combines the liberal arts with law, business, leadership studies, and continuing education. This combined with a rich student life experience makes UR a satisfying and innovative choice for aspiring graduates.

#31 – Abilene Christian University

Abilene, Texas

Points: 8
Enrollment: 3,727
Net Price: $23,949

Described by the university as a learning environment of “21st Century Classrooms,” Abilene Christian University is led by a team of esteemed educators who engross students in an engaging education in unique environments. ACU is renowned for its utilization of cutting-edge technology, and even recently found itself among a short list of institutions named “Apple Distinguished Schools.” Additionally, ACU physics faculty and undergraduates have co-authored four of the top 20 research papers in the field over the last ten years.

#30 – Davidson College

Davidson, North Carolina


Points: 8
Enrollment: 1,770
Net Price: $22,457

With over 26 majors and 17 interdisciplinary minors to choose from, the highly selective Davidson College prides itself on investing in the best that academia has to offer. One of the more distinct benefits of attending Davidson is taking part in its “Honor Code.” Once signed by each student, this agreement provides a unique set of freedoms that include non-proctored final exams, take-home tests, and similar privileges that instill a sense of confidence in its students. This unusual level of trust is in part what cultivates Davidson’s strong, confident academic community.

#29 – Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania


Points: 8
Enrollment: 1,194
Net Price: $22,409

Haverford College is a small, tight-knit academic community a mere few miles from central Philadelphia. Its innovation is found in part in its nationally recognized academic centers, each established to provide funding and state-of-the-art resources to chosen undergraduates with scholarship ideas of their design. These centers encompass fields of study that include natural sciences, arts and humanities, and global citizenship. Haverford students have an unusual amount of involvement with college operations, as demonstrated by their taking part in hiring decisions, chairing administration committees, event organization, and more.

#28 – Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine


Points: 8
Enrollment: 1,805
Net Price: $22,289

Bowdoin College offers students several flexible options for completing their undergraduate education including double majors, coordinate majors, interdisciplinary majors, and even student-designed programs. Some of the unique and progressive areas of study available include Earth and Oceanographic Science, Environmental Studies, and Gay and Lesbian Studies. Students at Bowdoin also have the option to immerse themselves in research projects, internships, community service projects, and even study-abroad opportunities. The school’s longstanding commitment to sustainability is evident through its many environmental efforts and its goal to become carbon neutral by 2020.

#27 – Catawba College

Salisbury, North Carolina


Points: 8
Enrollment: 1,300
Net Price: $19,665

Founded in 1851, Catawba College is a private liberal arts college that offers students over 70 academic fields of study to choose from, including several pre-professional programs. Some of the school’s unique offerings include Sustainable Business & Community Development, Sport Management, and Therapeutic Recreation. Students also have the option to work alongside professors to create their own individualized majors. Among its many awards and recognitions, Catawba College has been named one of the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges by Princeton Review.

#26 – Hampshire College

Amherst, Massachusetts


Points: 9
Enrollment: 1,376
Net Price: $36,197

Students enrolling at Hampshire College will be in for a truly unique college experience. Unlike most undergraduate schools, Hampshire offers no “off-the-shelf” majors; instead, students are encouraged to create their own programs of studies based on their personal interests and career goals. Instead of traditional departments like Science, History, or English, the curriculum is centered around interdisciplinary schools, including Cognitive Science, Natural Science, and Critical Social Inquiry. Rather than grades, students receive a narrative evaluation, which the school believes provides them with more meaningful feedback.

#25 – Merrimack College

North Andover, Massachusetts


Points: 9
Enrollment: 3,337
Net Price: $29,429

For three years running, Merrimack College has ranked among the 10 best colleges in the Northeast by U.S. News and World Report, and “Best in the Northeast” college by Princeton Review. There are over 90 academic programs for students to choose from, and depending on one’s special interests, a diverse set of groups including the Honors Program, Compass Program, Writers House, Mucci Capital Markets Lab, and many more.

#24 – Roanoke College

Salem, Virginia


Points: 9
Enrollment: 2,050
Net Price: $29,077

Roanoke College is a private, small and unique liberal arts school in Salem, Virginia that is gaining national recognition for its renowned faculty and high quality of academic offerings. With its wide range of over 35 majors to choose from and a unique, progressive core curriculum, this college is focused on truly preparing undergraduates for their chosen career path. Of its many other attractions, Roanoke has expanded its diverse list of student clubs and organizations to over 100 involvement opportunities.

#23 – Kenyon College

Gambier, Ohio


Points: 9
Enrollment: 1,662
Net Price: $26,734

Kenyon College is a private, residential liberal arts college located just 45 miles from Ohio’s state capital of Columbus. The highly selective school offers 33 undergraduate programs for its diverse student population, including 13 that are interdisciplinary. Enrolled students also have the chance to study off campus, choosing from over 150 different programs in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. The Kenyon Farm on campus is a place where students work and learn about a sustainable lifestyle.

#22 – Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts


Points: 9
Enrollment: 1,542
Net Price: $22,557

Amherst College, located in Western Massachusetts, is a small liberal arts college among a five-college consortium that includes Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire College, and UMASS Amherst. The college engages its student body in an innovative open curriculum structure, whereby undergraduates and faculty advisers work together to design a highly individualized degree track. Amherst has a vibrant student community that is free to express itself creatively; its state-of-the-art venue, The Powerhouse, provides a student-operated space to convene, perform, exhibit art work, and participate in many other capacities.

#21 – Bates College

Lewiston, Maine


Points: 9
Enrollment: 1,773
Net Price: $22,062

Bates College in Lewiston, Maine is a small institution with big academic achievements. Its tenured faculty in its entirety have the highest degrees in their field, a level of expertise each student can draw from given its 10:1 student-to faculty-ratio. Its unique academic calendar structure (2 semesters, 1 “short term”) allows for optimum focus in the spring on an individual study initiative of the student’s choice. This independent project may be in fieldwork, international travel, internships, social service, and limitless other opportunities.

#20 – Valparaiso University

Valparaiso, Indiana


Points: 9
Enrollment: 4,507
Net Price: $22,058

A Lutheran university of over 4,000 students, Valparaiso University is best described as an institution with a unique integration of liberal arts and professional studies. Undergraduates can pursue majors in an impressive, expansive list of over 70 fields of study in its series of five colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, Nursing and Health Professions, and Christ College. The University has formed partnerships with over 25 study abroad programs across five continents to further enhance one’s academic enlightenment.

#19 – John Brown University

Siloam Springs, Arkansas


Points: 9
Enrollment: 2,850
Net Price: $18,924

Recently ranked as the #1 college in the South by the US News and World Report Best Colleges Guide, John Brown University is producing budding professionals in over 40 undergraduate programs, as well as graduate degrees in counseling, education, and business. JBU is recognized for innovative expansions in the areas of academics, technology, student life, and new faculty. One of these advancements include a widely expanded offering of online degree opportunities, developing further global access to its quality education.

#18 – Alverno College

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Points: 9
Enrollment: 2,389
Net Price: $17,044

Alverno College is an all-girls, independent Catholic school with a focus on innovative teaching methods. The school’s unique ability-based curriculum emphasizes eight core abilities: communication, analysis, problem solving, valuing, social interaction, developing a global perspective, effective citizenship, and aesthetic engagement. Instead of traditional grades, the school awards each student a narrative transcript of their progress. Alverno’s diverse range of majors includes such offerings as Art Therapy, Community Leadership, Global Studies and International Affairs, and Women’s and Gender Studies. The school’s innovative approach to teaching and learning has been lauded by national publications including U.S. News & World Report and Time Magazine.

#17 – College of the Ozarks

Point Lookout, Missouri


Points: 9
Enrollment: 1,433
Net Price: $14,152

The unique experience students have when enrolled at the College of the Ozarks is referred to as “Hard Work U.” The school combines Christian values, patriotic principles, and a strong work ethic to prepare students both intellectually and morally for a successful life after graduation. In lieu of tuition, all students work campus jobs in exchange for the cost of their educations, which allows them to graduate without the burden of student loan debt. In 2015, U.S. News & World Report recognized the school’s service learning program as one of its “Programs to Look For.”

#16 – Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California


Points: 10
Enrollment: 804
Net Price: $33,137

Harvey Mudd College is one of the newer colleges on our list, having been founded in 1995. As one of the contiguous Claremont Colleges, Harvey Mudd has a renewed vision, which consists of six major themes: innovation, leadership and impact (especially in engineering, science, and mathematics); focus on experiential and interdisciplinary learning; unsurpassed excellence and diversity; nurturing and developing the whole person; global engagement and informed societal contributions; and improvement of infrastructure and resources. Among many other recognitions, the school has been named one of Forbes’ Most Entrepreneurial Colleges.

#15 – Allegheny College

Meadville, Pennsylvania


Points: 10
Enrollment: 2,023
Net Price: $27,773
Allegheny College continues to receive accolades from some of the most reputable publications and peers in the academic community. Among the highlighted details of distinction are ranking 24 among 255 Best Liberal Arts Colleges according to Washington Monthly and #1 of 40 Colleges that Change Lives, chosen by New York Times retired education editor, Loren Pope. Allegheny also boasts a 21% diversity percentage with a student body from over 45 countries. This institution encourages one’s liberal arts experience to embody “Unusual Combinations” of fields of study, with students concurrently majoring/minoring in subjects spanning creative writing, physics, dance, environmental science, and more.

#14 – Pitzer College

Claremont, California


Points: 10
Enrollment: 1,076
Net Price: $26,082

Founded in 1963, Pitzer College, one of The Claremont Colleges, is a highly selective liberal arts college focused on the tenants of social justice, intercultural understanding, and environmental sensitivity. Alongside a wide range of  traditional majors, the school offers several progressive degree paths including Environmental Analysis, International and Intercultural Studies, International Political Economy, and Science, Technology, & Society. Maintaining strong community connections is a core value for Pitzer; the school’s student body  was recently recognized by Princeton Review as among the “Most Engaged in Community Service.”

#13 – Grinnell College

Grinnell, Iowa


Points: 10
Enrollment: 1,734
Net Price: $24,896

Located in a small, rural Iowan town, the esteemed, progressive Grinnell College has produced some of the most highly accomplished graduates in their fields. The college’s alumni have gone on to be international leaders in a wide range of areas including science, music, public service, medicine, engineering, and more. Grinnell continuously ranks in the top 10 of U.S. higher education institutions for its high percentage of graduates going on to earn Ph.D.s. One of the college’s strongest commitments is to community service, as demonstrated by its development of “Grinnell Corps,” a postgraduate opportunity in Asia, Africa, and North America.

#12 – Colgate University

Hamilton, New York


Enrollment: 2,888
Net Price: $21,649

Founded in 1819, Colgate University is a selective liberal arts institution that offers an expansive list of minors and majors for undergraduate students, including progressive options such as Environmental Biology, Environmental Economics, and International Relations. The school has a robust off-campus study program. It was ranked first by the Institute of International Education in terms of the percentage of students participating in off-campus study programs. It is the school’s mission to create a vibrant learning environment that fosters an intellectually challenging curriculum for all Colgate students.

#11 – Colby College

Waterville, Maine


Points: 10
Enrollment: 1,847
Net Price: $18,477

Colby College’s unusually diverse academic community (students are accepted from over 70 countries), richly unique core curriculum and specialized degree track structure are just a few of the reasons this college continues to gain recognition from peers and esteemed academic publications. One of its most respected initiatives, the “January Program,” provides an immersive independent study opportunity not available during academic semesters. The explorations undergone during this program fall under 3 focus areas: Undergraduate Research and Independent Study, Cross-disciplinary Exploration, and Career Explorations.

#10 – Prescott College

Prescott, Arizona


Points: 11
Enrollment: 848
Net Price: $26,382

Prescott College is a unique institute of higher learning that emphasizes collaboration over competition and focuses on pressing world issues such as social justice, the environment, and multiculturalism. Students can opt to receive traditional grades or narrative evaluations as they progress through courses deeply embedded in the philosophy of experiential learning. Strong community connections and project-based learning opportunities empower every Prescott student to become a scholar activist in the state of Arizona and across the country. The school offers several stand-out majors and areas of study including Wilderness Leadership, Sustainable Community Development, and Interdisciplinary Arts and Letters.

#9 – Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo, Michigan


Points: 11
Enrollment: 1,461
Net Price: $26,064

One of the oldest, most well-respected institutions in the country, Kalamazoo college continues to rank among the best colleges to earn a degree through highly experiential learning. More than 85% of its undergraduates immerse themselves in international opportunities in 41 available partnerships spanning six continents. Its overarching mission, known as the “K-Plan,” lives within an educational experience focused on combining liberal arts and sciences, experiential learning, global engagement, and a senior individual project of the student’s design.

#8 – Wesleyan University

Middletown, Connecticut


Points: 12
Enrollment: 3,224
Net Price: $24,156

Since its founding in 1881, Wesleyan University has upheld its high standard of academia and progressive goals for its graduates. The impressive range of resources on its 316-acre campus includes a sprawling 11 building arts complex, a six-story science center, state-of-the-art athletic facilities, and much more. More than 1,000 courses are offered in its 46 departments, and there are over 150 international exchange partnerships available. Wesleyan also sponsors over 200 clubs and organizations that reflect the evolving special interests of its students.

#7 – Hamilton College

Clinton, New York


Points: 12
Enrollment: 1,904
Net Price: $22,392

One of America’s first liberal arts colleges, Hamilton College is renowned for its progressive approach to higher learning. This highly diverse college community encourages collaboration, independent thinking, creativity, and an ethical foundation in one’s intellectual development. Hamilton is highly invested in the advancement of its undergraduates, sponsoring over 220 research studies and internships in summer 2015 alone. One of this school’s most progressive programs is in its “Sustainability” department, where students engage in study of up to 11 subject areas of environmental protection.

#6 – The Evergreen State College

Olympia, Washington


Points: 12
Enrollment: 4, 219
Net Price: $13,630

The Evergreen State College is a national leader in environmental education with a fresh perspective on teaching and learning. Its diverse group of faculty and students immerse themselves in just one class at a time in order to maximize learning. Students have over 60 undergraduate programs to choose from, including unique areas of study such as Queer Studies, Outdoor Leadership and Education, Aesthetics, and Consciousness Studies. Evergreen also offers three graduate degree options, including a Master of Environmental Studies. Flexible study options such as evening and weekend studies and individual studies allow students to complete their coursework on their own terms.

#5 – California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California


Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,209
Net Price: $26,910

Often recognized as one of the most forward-thinking universities in the world, Caltech (as it is commonly called) is committed to training creative professionals equipped with the skills to solve some of the most complex problems faced by modern society. It is a small school with an unheard of 3 to 1 student/teacher ratio, but despite its size, it has made a big impact. For instance, 33 of its alumni and faculty have been named Nobel Prize recipients, and the school has been named the World’s Top University by Times Higher Ed four years in a row.

#4 – Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado


Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,067
Net Price: $24,141

Found in the gorgeous city of Colorado Springs, Colorado College has distinguished itself as a strong higher education choice for those who are seeking a progressive and highly unique curriculum structure. In a framework coined “The Block Plan,” aspiring graduates take 1 class at a time in 3 and a half week sections, and an unusual amount of discretion is given to its faculty in terms of length of classes and their locations. The college is also home to the beautiful I.D.E.A. Space (InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts) where students are invited to display their innovative art creations.

#3 – Franklin and Marshall College

Lancaster, Pennsylvania


Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,209
Net Price: $22,974

In its 227 year history, Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania continues to evolve as an academic institution committed to academic excellence, gained through the design of highly individualized learning experiences for its small student body. With a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, undergraduates have optimum access to personal development and mentorship. Nearly two-thirds of students participate in a self-designed major degree track, and the college offers over 200 schools around the world for international research projects and opportunities.

#2 – Vassar College

Poughkeepsie, New York


Points: 13
Enrollment: 2,421
Net Price: $19,661

Located in the majestic Mid-Hudson Valley in upstate New York, the world-renowned Vassar College has a long history of being a stand-out school of highly progressive values and academic success. It holds one of the most expansive library collections, with over one million print volumes, 50,000 serial titles, and a rapidly expanding number of electronic resources. Vassar’s resistance to traditional curricular structure is one of the ways the college ensures its students that they will graduate having explored and studied as independent thinkers and individuals.

#1 – Hendrix College

Conway, Arkansas


Points: 14
Enrollment: 1,358
Net Price: $23,078

Ranked #1 in US News & World Report’s list of “Up and Coming” liberal arts colleges, Hendrix College is a small liberal arts college in Arkansas and is a stand-out higher education institution with a broad range of experiential learning opportunities. Its innovative undergraduate curricular component, Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning, places value on its vision that education should be an adventure in multi-faceted approaches to learning. This program requires students to choose one of three experiential ways to complete their Odyssey requirements: specialized courses, participating in pre-approved activities, or proposing their own special projects.

Related Resources:

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris