Top 25 Best Hidden Gem Colleges with Alternate Tuition Plans | 2021 Rankings

There is a multitude of ways to pay for college—savings plans, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, loans, etc. But did you know there are alternate tuition plans too? Some colleges offer more than just the standard payment plan. In fact, there are three main alternates—Prepaid Tuition, Tuition Guarantee, and Tuition Payment.

Not all colleges provide them, and not all students will be eligible, however, they’re a great option to look into if you’re wanting to save money. You can read more about alternate tuition plans here.

We wanted to highlight the best Hidden Gem schools that offer students alternate tuition plans! To qualify as a Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Have an acceptance rate above 10%

Hidden Gem Colleges with Alternate Tuition Plans

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering is unique in that it has an extremely small student body and only three majors: Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. Additionally, students who attend have half of their tuition covered by the Olin Scholarship. The school has an acceptance rate of 16%.
Location Needham, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 390
Soka University of America is a unique school -- it offers one degree: Liberal Arts. Students can choose one of four tracks; students also participate in Learning Clusters and must study a language during their time at Soka University, culminating in a study abroad experience. With such a small student population, it’s no surprise that the average class size is eight students for every one faculty member.
Location Aliso Viejo, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 442
Haverford College is part of the Tri College Consortium and the Quaker Consortium. As a liberal arts college, Haverford requires students to take a wide variety of classes. The school also upholds the Honor Code, run entirely by students. Some of the more popular majors at Haverford include Psychology, Economics, and Political Science and Government.
Location Haverford, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,310
96% of students at Hillsdale receive some form of institutional aid and 96% of students receive some form of grant aid. Around 1,500 students attend the college, which means that class sizes are also relatively small -- typical classes have about 9 students to every 1 faculty member. Hillsdale’s highest degree offered is the doctoral degree.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,521
Scripps College, an all-women’s college, is the second-oldest school in the Claremont Colleges. The school is known for its high selectivity, academic resources, and its beautiful campus. In fact, its campus was the first to receive the Getty Campus Heritage Initiative Program. Scripps College only accepts 24% of all applicants and has a 92% first-year retention rate.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,071
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded with the idea that higher education was for every qualified individual and should be free. Staying true to their ideals, Cooper Union admitted students regardless of their gender, race, or religious beliefs. Around 2,400 students apply to this highly selective college every year, though only 400 of them are accepted.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 952
Located not far from the Connecticut River, is a liberal arts college for women. It is part of the Seven Sisters, all-women’s schools created to rival the Ivy Leagues. Holyoke is the oldest of the Sisters, founded in 1837. Computer Science, Biology, Econometrics, English, and Experimental Psychology are the top 5 most popular majors.
Location South Hadley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,335
Often called RISD, this school has 19 art-centric majors to choose from. Among RISD’s notable alumni are actors, writers, sculptors, painters, architects and more. 81% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level, though RISD offers up to a master’s degree. The acceptance rate is 26%.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,467
Wheaton College was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the college has a student body of almost 3,000 attendees. Incoming students have a typical ACT score between 26 to 32 and an SAT score between 1,250 to 1,450. Popular majors at the college include Business/Managerial Economics, Speech Communications, and Health Services.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,944
Whitman College was founded in 1859 and was the first college in the Pacific Northwest to have a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter, as well as the first school in America to require comprehensive exams if students wanted to graduate. Today, almost 1,500 students attend Whitman College, many of whom major in fields such as Biology, Psychology, and Economics.
Location Walla Walla, WA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,475
For students who want to focus on engineering, science, or math, take a look at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The institute only offers majors in those three areas, with the most popular ones being Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Science. Almost all students attending receive some form of grant or institutional aid.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,142
Centre College was named because it was in the “centre” of the Commonwealth when it was first established. Incoming students have an average ACT score of 27 to 32 and an SAT score of 1,280 to 1,470. With the small student body, class sizes are also proportionately small -- the student-to-faculty ratio is 11 to 1.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,434
Pitzer College is part of the Claremont College consortium, which means that Pitzer College students can take classes at the other Claremont colleges. Its motto is “Provida Futuri” or “Mindful of the Future.” Over 4,300 students apply to Pitzer College every year, but only 13% of them are accepted. Incoming students typically have an ACT score between 24 to 29 and an SAT score between 1,190 to 1,370.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,072
Thomas Aquinas College is quite unique. It offers only one major: Liberal Arts. The college also doesn’t accept direct funding from the government -- instead, the college primarily relies on private donations to give students financial aid. Only 407 students attend the college and the student-to-faculty ratio is 11 to 1. Thomas Aquinas College boasts a 91% first-year retention rate.
Location Santa Paula, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 407
DePauw University was founded in 1837 and has since had a long and colorful history. It was the birthplace of the Society of Professional Journalists, the oldest journalist society in the US. DePauw’s academic calendar is a bit unique -- it runs on a 4-1-4-1 system, with a fall and spring semester and a winter and May semester.
Location Greencastle, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,156
Bryn Mawr College, an all-women’s school, is part of both the Seven Sisters and the Tri-College Consortium. Though only women study at the undergraduate level, Bryn Mawr’s graduate programs are coeducational. Students enjoy small class sizes, with a typical class having 9 students to 1 faculty member, and Bryn Mawr College has a 92% first-year retention rate.
Location Bryn Mawr, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,690
Wofford College’s motto -- “Intaminatis Fulget Honoribus” -- means “Shines with unsullied honors.” Biology, Finance, Psychology, English, and Accounting are the top 5 most popular majors at Wofford. The school has an 88% first-year retention rate and a 4-year graduation rate of 82%. 55% of the incoming class comes from South Carolina.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,666
Known as K College or even just K, Kalamazoo’s highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, which is why there are only undergraduates on campus. 98% of students receive institutional aid to help cover the cost of attendance. Kalamazoo has a 4-year graduation rate of 76% and a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1.
Location Kalamazoo, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,467
The Virginia Military Institute is the oldest public Senior Military college and is the only one to enroll exclusively undergraduates. While all students are required to participate in the ROTC, students have the choice to not enroll in the US military after graduating. The most popular majors offered at the institute are International Relations, Civil Engineering, and Economics.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,685
Muhlenberg is a liberal arts college with cardinal red and gray as its colors. Though an eagle features on the school’s official seal, its mascot is the Mule. Muhlenberg has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, an 88% first-year retention rate, and a 4-year graduation rate of 80%. Graduates of the school have become politicians, authors, musicians, and more.
Location Allentown, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,340
Since the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a bit of a mouthful, most people shorten it down to UNCSA. The school is comprised of 5 major programs -- Cinematography & Film, Technical Theatre, Dance, Drama, and Music Performance. Jada Pinkett Smith, Anthony Mackie, and Mary-Louise Parker are just a few of the notable names associated with UNCSA.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,042
“Macte virtute sic itur ad astra” is the Latin motto of the Manhattan School of Music. In English, that means “Those who excel, thus reach the stars.” Located right on the Hudson River, this school offers up to the doctor’s degree. It has a competitive 36% acceptance rate. 75% of the students at MSM receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,008
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its name, the Ursinus College chose the bear as its mascot. Red, old gold, and black are the trio of school colors. Over 560 student-athletes compete for Ursinus, playing such sports as track, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis and more. 89% of first-year students return to continue their education at Ursinus.
Location Collegeville, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,435
Of the nearly 3,550 applications sent into the University of the South every year, the school will accept about 2,380 of them, giving the school an acceptance rate of 67%. Anyone applying to this university will be happy to know that there is no application fee. On average, the incoming class scores between 24 -- 30 on the ACT and 1200 -- 1380 on the SAT.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,785
St. John’s College has two campuses, one of which is in Annapolis, Maryland. Students attending the college can only study in one field: Liberal Arts. Accepted students typically have an ACT score between 25 to 31 and an SAT score between 1,230 to 1,440. Around 91% of all first years will return for their second year at the college.
Location Annapolis, MD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 527

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

Methodology 

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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