Top 25 Best Hidden Gem Colleges with Tuition Under $25K | 2021 Rankings

The cost of college is a hot topic in the news, politics, and households around America—especially right now, during a pandemic and a shifting educational landscape. Many are searching for low tuition colleges.

According to Educationaldata.org, in the 2019-2020 school year, a 4-year out of state college had an average tuition of $26,820. Private colleges, on the other hand, had an average tuition of $36,880.

If you’re interested in quality and low tuition colleges, you’ve found the right rankings list. Here we’ll highlight Hidden Gem colleges that have tuition at or below $25,000.

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 Tuition Under $25K

Like the other US service academies, students who want to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy must be nominated by a congressman. There are only three majors: Marine Science/Merchant Marine Officer, Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering, and Systems Engineering.
Location Kings Point, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,015
Biology, Speech Communication, Mechanical Engineering, Business Administration, and Marketing are the top 5 most popular majors at Grove City College. The campus is located along Wolf Creek. Grove City College is exclusively for bachelor’s degrees, so you’ll only find undergraduates on campus.
Location Grove City, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,338
As its name suggests, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry focuses on having on environmentalism and natural resources. The college’s athletes are known as the Mighty Oaks and their mascot is Oakie the Acorn. The most popular major at the college is Natural Resources Management and Policy.
Location Syracuse, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,220
Also known as TSU or just Truman, this university chose the Bulldog as its mascot. Incoming students to TSU score, on average, 24 -- 31 on the ACT and 1180 -- 1430 on the SAT. 81% of first-year students come from the state of Missouri, though many others come from surrounding states.
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,853
Maroon and gold are the colors of the University of Minnesota Rochester. The highest degree offered at this school is the bachleor’s degree, which is why you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. 77% of the first-year class call Minnesota home, though many other students come from neighboring states.
Location Rochester, MN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 533
Since the California State University Maritime Academy is a mouthful, people often shorten it to Cal Maritime or CSU Maritime Academy. The school is located on the San Pablo Bay for easy access to the water. Marine Science is the most popular major, followed by Business Administration and Mechanical Engineering.
Location Vallejo, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,046
Martin Luther College was established in 1995 when two previous colleges merged together. The college’s motto is “Via Veritas Vita,” which translates to “The Way, the Truth, the Life.” Popular majors at the college include Elementary Education, Pre-Theology/Pre-Ministerial Studies, and Education. The college has a 12 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location New Ulm, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 972
Over 4,500 students apply to Penn State Harrisburg every year. Mechanical Engineering is the most popular major offered, followed by Civil Engineering and Marketing. The university’s mascot is the Nittany Lion, like all Penn State campuses. 85% of the students studying there are undergraduates.
Location Middletown, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,933
Every year, nearly 3,400 students send in an application to Penn State Erie-Behrend. The college has a student-to-faculty ratio of 13 to 1. Freshmen will find that 80% of their classmates are from Pennsylvania and that 84% of all freshmen will return to the college for their sophomore year. Mechanical Engineering is the most popular major.
Location Erie, PA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,312
New Saint Andrews College doesn’t offer majors, but instead one Liberal Arts program to its students. The school has a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a first-year retention rate of 86%. 28% of the incoming class comes from the state of Idaho. New Saint Andrews College has a rather high acceptance rate, 98%.
Location Moscow, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 198
The College of the Ozarks was founded in 1906. Since its opening, students at the College of the Ozarks aren’t charged tuition -- instead, students participate in the college’s student work program, as well as working two full-time weeks during breaks. The College of the Ozarks is a highly selective school, however, and only accepts 10% of all applicants.
Location Point Lookout, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,565
Birmingham-Southern College, a private liberal arts college, was established in 1856. The school’s official colors are black and gold and their athletes are known as the Panthers. Around 97% of all students attending receive grant aid and 96% receive institutional aid. Business is the most popular major at the college, followed by Biology and Psychology.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,268
With over 5,100 students attending, Harding University is the largest private university in the state of Arkansas. The university has a 16 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students from all over the country attend Harding University, though many are from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The university’s official colors are black and gold.
Location Searcy, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,121
Petimus Credimus---We seek, we trust---is the motto of Bob Jones University. 89% of the student body studies at the undergraduate level. BJU accepts a majority of the applications sent in to them---86% to be precise. Only about 28% of the incoming students on campus come from South Carolina, the rest mainly come from the eastern portion of the US.
Location Greenville, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,005
Blue, white, and gold are the trio of colors for the SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Often shortened to SUNY Poly, this school is home to the Wildcats. Over 200 student-athletes compete in sports such as basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and track among others. On average, incoming students score 20 -- 29 on the ACT and 1010 -- 1360 on the SAT.
Location Utica, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,023
Penn State Altoona offers up to the bachelor’s degree level of education, as such there are only undergraduate students on campus. Nearly half of all students at the school receive institutional financial aid to help pay for college. Penn State Altoona has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 6-year graduation rate of 69%.
Location Altoona, PA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,244
Known as the Defenders, student-athletes at Clarks Summit University play sports like basketball, soccer, tennis, and track among others. The school has an acceptance rate of 41%. Of the nearly 280 applications sent in yearly, Clarks Summit University will accept about 110 of them. CSU has a 73% 4-year graduation rate.
Location Clarks Summit, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 768
Royal blue and gold are the school colors of Worcester State University. 87% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level, meaning the remaining 14% are graduate students. WSU’s campus is located next to the Patch Reservoir. Business, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Community Health Service, and Biology are the most popular majors.
Location Worcester, MA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,217
Keene State College’s mascot is named Hootie the Owl. The campus is situated beside the winding Ashuelot River and the Brick Yard Pond. A liberal arts college, the highest level of education offered at Keene State is the post-master’s certificate. That being said, 98% of students on campus are undergraduates pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Location Keene, NH
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,543
Mississippi College is the oldest college in the state and the second-oldest Baptist college in the US. The school motto -- “Veritas et Virtus” -- means “Truth and Virtue.” Mississippi College has a 42% acceptance rate and 99% of students receive financial aid from the school to help pay for their attendance.
Location Cliton, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,103
Nicknamed the Lions, Freed-Hardeman University competes in NAIA Division I sports. Over 200 student-athletes play sports such as basketball, golf, soccer, track, and tennis among others. The school does not require application fees from prospective students at the undergraduate or graduate levels. 99% of the students receive institutional financial aid.
Location Henderson, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,037
Located in the bends of the Scioto River, Mount Carmel College of Nursing has a cozy 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 74% 4-year graduation rate. Given the nature of the school, it makes sense that Mount Carmel’s one and only offered major is Registered Nursing. Of the 870-some undergraduate students, a 90% of them are women.
Location Columbus, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,090
Founded by education advocate Horace Mann in 1838, Westfield State University’s colors are blue, white, and gold. The mascot is Nestor the Owl. Business, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Elementary Education, and Speech Communication are the most popular majors on campus. Speaking of campuses, WSU is located right next to the Westfield River.
Location Westfield, MA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,100
Also known as UMary or simply Mary, the campus is located near the Missouri River. Its athletic teams are known as the Marauders and play sports such as basketball, track, volleyball, wrestling, and soccer among others. UMary has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and first-year retention rate of 82%.
Location Bismark, ND
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,796
One of the youngest colleges in America, having been founded in 2003, Neumont is a career-focused institution of higher learning in Utah’s state capital. Neumont offers 5 total majors -- Computer Programming, Network and System Administration, Information Technology Project Management, Web Page Design, and Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation.
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 430

Interested in any of these low tuition colleges? 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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