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By BVS Staff
July 2020

The study of geography takes a deeper look at the world we live in and how features like lakes and mountains shape that world. Geography not only looks at physical sciences, but takes a social science perspective on the outcomes of geography as well. The degree can effectively lead to many different jobs such as becoming a travel agent, a meteorologist, or an environmental consultant.

To help you find the most cost-efficient college possible, we’ve brought together a list of the 5 best small colleges for geography majors on a budget. All of the colleges listed offer a program specializing in geography or a related subject. Each of these colleges also maintains an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 50%. All of the programs listed have an estimated annual cost of less than $24,000 a year, as reported by College Navigator.

Want to know which is the cheapest of them all? Keep reading until #1.


Each of these top schools has a minimum of one relevant program for students seeking a bachelor’s degree in geography or a related area (including but not limited to geographic information systems and cartography). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 50%. Of course, to be a best value, these top-ranked schools also have to demonstrate a genuine commitment to affordable education – which means meeting our net price requirements. All of the programs on this ranking have estimated annual costs (as reported on College Navigator) of less than $24,000 a year. But which of these is the  most  affordable small college for a geography degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

For more information on the methodology,  click here .

Rank School Location
1 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
2 Vassar College Poughkeepsie, NY
3 Colgate University Hamilton, NY
4 Augustana College Sioux Falls, SD
5 Elmhurst College Elmhurst, IL

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  1. Middlebury College

    Middlebury, VT


    $ $ $ $ $

    At Middlebury College, geography is as much the study of spatial patterns as it is physical locations. While traditional coursework in cartography and geographic information systems are still part of the curriculum, Middlebury places primary emphasis on "human geography." Questions about how power influences people's experience in a specific location, how geographic factors play a role in war and genocide, and how the distribution of natural resources affect economic development all feature heavily in this interdisciplinary program. As an added bonus, this affordable small school for geography majors also encourages undergrads to complete independent study projects and work with departmental faculty as research assistants.

  2. Vassar College

    Poughkeepsie, NY


    $ $ $ $ $

    Students at Vassar College who are interested in geography will find their home in the Department of Earth Science and Geography, where undergrads can explore the world from all angles. Most notably, this top small college for a geography degree makes use of an integrated approach that combines aspects from the natural and social sciences. Both the earth science and geography degrees require students to consider physical factors (like sedimentology and soils, geohazards, and the evolution of landscapes), as well as human influences on the environment. Students more interested in the latter category might even consider Vassar's interdisciplinary "Earth Science and Society" major or the combined geography-anthropology program.

  3. Colgate University

    Hamilton, NY


    $ $ $ $ $

    It's unlikely that any geography majors at Colgate are worried about their job prospects after graduation. The university's comprehensive curriculum - which includes the standard major as well as a program in environmental geography - provides unparalleled preparation for a variety of careers. Take, for example, the GIS and Cartography Lab. This high-tech facility offers all the software and equipment one could need to conduct research or develop their own geolocation systems. But Colgate really owes its status as one of the best colleges for geography majors to its highly involved faculty, and undergrads can easily partner with their professors on research projects. A few lucky students even spent this past summer conducting fieldwork with their teachers across 500 miles of the Alaskan tundra.

  4. Augustana College

    Sioux Falls, SD


    $ $ $ $ $

    For a vocational education, Augustana College offers one of the best geography programs in the region. Although it lacks the societal and anthropological approach of many of the other schools on this top college geography programs ranking, Augusta makes up for it with a decidedly practical curriculum. Classes focus on urban planning, environmental management, hydrology, landscape architecture, and GIS. And in all of their courses, geography students acquire skills that are easily transferable to the job market. In addition, the college's proximity to the Mississippi River - as well as a host of environmental agencies - makes it a hot spot for internships in the field.

  5. Elmhurst College

    Elmhurst, IL


    $ $ $ $ $

    It's hard to become an expert in locations and landforms while standing in one place. Elmhurst College understands this well, and its combined Geography and GIS Department encourages students to expand their horizons - both literally and figuratively. Locally, members of the geoscience program can take advantage of internships at top companies in nearby Chicago. On a larger scale, Elmhurst undergrads participate in study abroad trips to exotic destinations like, Hawaii Russia, or New Zealand. Through these international excursions, aspiring geographers can get a close-up look at unique communities - and the landscapes that shaped them - all over the world.

Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small college geography programs? Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s  Net Price Calculator Center .

See also:  50 Best Value Rankings: Best Small Colleges 2016


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