National Universities Where Most Classes are Small

Delece Smith-Barrow

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.

Experts have long cited the benefits of small classes. More opportunities to be creative and develop oral and written communication skills are just a few, according to an analysis by The IDEA Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving higher education.

For students looking for smaller class sizes, the top 10 schools that had the highest percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students are in the East and Midwest.

Six of the schools, such as the New School, are located in the East, and the rest, such as University of Chicago, are in the Midwest, according to data submitted to U. S. News in 2013 by 265 ranked schools. All of the top 10 schools with a high percentage of small classes are private institutions.

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Cardinal Stritch University topped the list with fewer than 20 students in 92.9 percent of its classes, a significant increase for the Wisconsin school. In fall of 2011, only 80.9 percent of its classes had fewer than 20 students.

Yale University, which came in at No. 10, had 76.3 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students.

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New to the list this year is Spalding University. The Kentucky school had fewer than 20 students in 78.8 percent of its classes.

Most of these schools have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students. The average undergraduate enrollment in fall 2012 for all 10 schools was 4,561.

Below is a list of the 10 National Universities with the highest percentage of classes that enroll fewer than 20 students. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report.

National University (state) Fall 2012 undergraduate enrollment Percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students (fall 2012) U.S. News rank
Cardinal Stritch University (WI) 2,799 92.9 RNP*
New School (NY) 7,010 87.3 135
Immaculata University (PA) 2,883 86.3 190
Harvard University (MA) 6,658 81.2 2
Columbia University (NY) 6,068 79.9 4
Spalding University (KY) 1,429 78.8 RNP
Edgewood College (WI) 2,028 78.6 190
Nova Southeastern University (FL) 5,739 77.4 RNP
University of Chicago 5,590 77.2 5
Yale University (CT) 5,405 76.3 3

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find class size data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2013 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. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The class size data above are correct as of Sept. 24, 2013.