Hidden Gems for Nursing | 2020 Rankings

Hidden gems - best colleges for nursing

Did you know that nursing is one of the fastest growing careers out there? In fact, by 2026 the career is estimated to employ nearly 1.7 million nurses! It’s certainly a noble career path, so it’s no surprise that it’s a very popular college major. There are many colleges with amazing nursing programs, but we wanted to highlight the ones that aren’t quite as well known. For this list, we’ll look at the best colleges for nursing students who are looking for smaller campuses with quality nursing classes.

To make this list, we created a calculated score consisting of the density of undergraduate nursing majors at Hidden Gem-qualified schools and it’s College Raptor Ranking. We then limited the results to our top 300 overall College Raptor rankings. Schools with a higher calculated score are higher up on the list!

 To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, the school must meet the following requirements:

  • Fewer than 5,000 applications
  • Fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students

Future nurses, please consider the listed colleges for nursing below. You may find the ideal college for you!

Hidden Gems for Nursing

While it’s undergraduate program is for women, Simmons does run a coeducational graduate program. Students compete as the Sharks on the athletic fields, playing basketball, crew, field hockey, volleyball, and plenty more. Simmons has a six-year graduation rate of 80%.
Location Boston, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,082
Registered Nursing, Organizational Leadership, Social Work, Psychology, and Business Administration are the five most popular majors at Union University. Union has an 88% first year retention rate. Known as the Bulldogs, Union athletes compete in NCAA Division II sports---including baseball, basketball, and soccer among others.
Location Jackson, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,247
Bethel University is a private religious institution that asks students to sign and live by the Covenant for Life Together. While students don’t have to live on campus, there are multiple residence halls, including ones specifically for freshmen students. Interestingly, the official school colors are navy blue and Vegas gold.
Location Saint Paul, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,692
Point Loma Nazarene University has undergone seven name changes before settling on its current title in 1998. Their campus is located right next to the Pacific Ocean. Though 75% of incoming students come from California, PLNU has students from all over the country. Green and gold are the school colors.
Location San Diego, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,592
Saint Anselm College was founded in 1889, and still has a fully running Benedictine abbey today. Students attending the college are required to take three philosophy and theology courses to graduate. Not only that, the vast majority of students take on an internship at some point.
Location Manchester, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,024
Most incoming students at Samford University come from either Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, or Florida. Graduates of Samford include Emmy and Grammy award-winning artists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, sports legends, and notable politicians, among many other successful careers.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,619
Though a women’s college at the undergraduate level, Saint Mary’s College is coeducational when it comes to graduate studies. The campus sits next to a river also bearing the title of a saint---St. Joseph River. Though 28% of the incoming class calls Indiana home, many students come from all across the country.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,611
Known as the Titans, student athletes at Illinois Wesleyan University wear green and white while competing. A total of 539 athletes play for the school, and IL Wesleyan is classified within the NCAA Division III (with football). This school does not have an application fee for undergraduate students.
Location Bloomington, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,693
The College of Saint Benedict is a women’s college that has a partnership with Saint John’s University---a men’s college. Students at CSB compete as the Bennies and wear red and white to represent their school. CSB offers up to a bachelor’s degree level, therefore, you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,782
Originally named the College of Steubenville, the school received its university status in 1980, and changed its name to Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1986. The most popular majors and programs offered at the university include Theology, Registered Nursing, Psychology, and Education.
Location Steubenville, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,028
Maroon and gold are the official school colors of Calvin. On the athletic fields, students compete as the Knights. Popular sports include track, lacrosse, soccer, and swimming, among others. Engineering is the most popular major, followed by Business and Registered Nursing.
Location Grand Rapids, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,732
Hope College is fairly nonselective, accepting 76% of applicants. Class sizes are approximately 11 students for every 1 faculty member. Approximately 89% of first year students return to the school the following year. While students are not required to live on campus, 21 residence facilities are provided by the university at various locations throughout Hope’s campus.
Location Holland, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,149
Messiah College is home to the Falcons, whose official school colors are navy and white. The school has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a first year retention rate of 87%. Engineering, Health Services, Business, Registered Nursing, and Family & Community Services are the 5 most popular majors on campus.
Location Mechanicsburg, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,375
Truman State University is named for the Missouri-born President Harry Truman. Business Administration, Biology, Psychology, Kinesiology, and Accounting are the top 5 most popular majors studied on campus. Their school seal features two bears and the US motto “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,853
Luther College runs on a four-one-four academic plan. The school does not require students to pay an application fee. Popular majors at the college include Biology, Business, Music, and Psychology. Luther is also a member of the NCAA Division III (with football), with a total of over 470 athletes.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,005

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

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