These Are The 10 Best Small Colleges In Maine

by Chris Kolmar
Rankings - 3 years ago

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You know there are a ton of great reasons to go to a small college — the opportunity to work with a smaller number of people, a chance to get a great education while remaining close to home, and of course, cost. After all, who wants to rack up huge student loans to get a degree that’s just about as valuable as one from a large institution?

But what small college in Maine is the best of all?

We at Zippia decided to take a look at the data on the 11 institutions of higher learning in the Pine Tree State to determine which programs offer the best all around experience for students. After analyzing the numbers, we sorted the schools by enrollment, limiting our report to institutions with under 2,000 students.

After the dust settled, we’re left with this set of the top small colleges or universities in Maine:

  1. Colby College
  2. Bowdoin College
  3. University of Maine at Fort Kent
  4. Bates College
  5. Maine Maritime Academy
  6. Thomas College
  7. Husson University
  8. Unity College
  9. College of the Atlantic
  10. University of New England

If you go to one of these schools, chances are, you’re not surprised. After all, you know how great you have it.

But for the rest of you — keep reading and we’ll get to just why these schools have some of the best experiences Maine has to offer.

For more ME reading, check out:

How We Determined The Best Small Colleges In Maine

At its core, economics is the study of choices made under constraints. When it came to identifying the best small schools we wanted to approach the ranking like an economics major would — that is, by looking at data on how individual schools performed and comparing them to one another.

What better way to optimize your choice?

So with that mind, we looked at the following data from the NCES (National Center For Education Statistics) and College Scorecard data from to understand what small schools offer the best career opportunities:

  • Career Results
    • Mean Earnings After 6 Years
    • Mean Earnings After 10 Years
    • Ratio of people working to not working after 10 years
  • School Performance
    • Admissions Rate (More selective the better)
    • Graduation Rate
    • Average Cost Of Attendance (Lower is better)
    • Average amount of debt

It’s hard to argue with a selective school that produces strong earning potential for your career.

After we had this data, we looked at the 11 institutions of higher learning in Maine which had populations under 2,000 students. We then ranked each of these schools from 1 to 11 for each of the criteria above with 1 being the best in any given criteria.

Next, we averaged the ranks for each school to create an “Quality Index”. The school with the best score on the “Quality Index”, Colby College, earned the distinction of being the ‘Best Small College’ in Maine.

Any ties went to the larger school.

1. Colby College

Colby College, Maine
Enrollment: 1,814

This small institution in Waterville, ME is the best small college in the state, when you look at the unbiased data.

Colby College graduates earn the 2nd highest salaries in the state for all small colleges — even a decade after graduation. Its 28% admission rate means the college is exclusive (a good sign), and the cost is the 9th lowest, meaning you get a big bang for your buck.

2. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College, Maine
Enrollment: 1,609

Located in Brunswick, Bowdoin College is one of many private colleges to make this list. What makes it so great here?

For starters, is the 10th lowest cost small college in the state. The admission rate is very low, and its graduation rate is the highest in the state of all small colleges we measured.

3. University Of Maine At Fort Kent

University Of Maine At Fort Kent, Maine
Enrollment: 886

Most people in the state know University of Maine at Fort Kent as being a top-notch program. But this small, public college in Fort Kent isn’t just a great place for current students, but former students too.

University of Maine at Fort Kent’s graduation rate of 49% is the 8th highest in Maine, which is certainly something to brag about. So is an admission rate of 74%, also one of the best in the state.

4. Bates College

Bates College, Maine
Enrollment: 1,694

Bates College in Lewiston gets high marks for a low admission rate and a high graduation rate. Additionally, for those lucky enough to get in, this is the 11th lowest cost place to learn in the state.

5. Maine Maritime Academy

Maine Maritime Academy, Maine
Enrollment: 710

If you want up-close personal attention at a public institution, than it’d be hard to beat Maine Maritime Academy, located in Castine.

Besides high marks in several categories, what really stands out is the annual salaries that its graduates command.

6. Thomas College

Thomas College, Maine
Enrollment: 549

This private college in Waterville gets high marks for cost (it’s the 4th lowest least expensive small college in ME), and for post-graduation earnings, where former students command the 8th highest incomes in the state.

7. Husson University

Husson University, Maine
Enrollment: 1,679

Only 71% of the young minds who apply to Husson University are accepted, which is a sign of greatness. After all, when you turn so many students away, that means there’s high demand. In addition, graduates earn the 7th highest salaries.

Husson University also has the 11th highest graduation rate of all small colleges in Maine.

This private school is located in Bangor.

8. Unity College

Unity College, Maine
Enrollment: 507

Not only is Unity College in one of the prettiest parts of Maine, its students get the benefit of several leading categories. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to be accepted here, you’ll have the 8th lowest debt of all small college graduates in the state.

And the whole reason you go to college is to earn the big bucks, right? Unity College grads command the 9th highest salaries in the state.

9. College Of The Atlantic

College Of The Atlantic, Maine
Enrollment: 261

It’s hard to do better than little College of the Atlantic, located in Bar Harbor. Students will appreciate the high graduation rate, lower-than-average costs and high salaries that graduates earn.

10. University Of New England

University Of New England, Maine
Enrollment: 1,222

University of New England is one of the private schools to make this list. Only 85% students are admitted, but this is the 7th lowest expensive small college at which to learn in the state.

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