By Brian Burnsed

These schools boast the highest proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students

Small classes aren't commonplace at national universities -- schools that award degrees on every level and emphasize research. This tends to hold especially true for freshmen and sophomores, who oftentimes take introductory level courses -- typically in mathematics, science, or social science -- sitting next to 400 of their closest friends.

However, data reported by colleges to U.S. News in a 2010 survey of undergraduate programs (data reflect class sizes as of fall 2009) indicate there are exceptions to this rule. Several universities with undergraduate enrollments below 3,000, as well as a few top ranked schools with larger undergraduate populations, reported that a vast majority of their classes have fewer than 20 students. A smaller class size may create an environment more conducive to back-and-forth discussion amongst students and professors.

Among the 256 national universities that provided class size data to U.S. News, 46.2 percent of classes, on average, have fewer than 20 students. That's a markedly lower proportion than at liberal arts colleges -- schools that award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study -- where 63.3 percent of classes have 20 or fewer students, on average. Among the 1,355 institutions of all categories that reported the data to U.S. News, an average of 55.2 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students.

The New School in New York has an undergraduate enrollment of 6,882 and topped the list of national universities with the highest percentage of classes under 20 students, boasting 91.4 percent of classes -- most of which are rooted in the liberal arts -- that fit that mold. Among the top 10 schools on the class size list, four are ranked in the atop U.S. News's rankings of best national universities, including top-ranked Harvard University and third-ranked Yale University .

If you're looking for a university that offers small classes, consult the list of 10 schools below that have the greatest proportion of undergraduate classes with fewer than 20 students:


University Enrollment Percentage
Source: U.S. News & World Report
New School6,88291.4%
Golden Gate University42283.3%
Harvard University6,65580.0%
Immaculata University3,07180.0%
Nova Southeastern University5,86879.4%
Yale University5,27579.0%
Columbia University7,74378.8%
University of Chicago5,06677.6%
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry1,57076.9%
University of La Verne1,54076.5%


U.S. News surveyed more than 1,700 colleges and universities for our 2010 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them.

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10 Universities With the Smallest Classes