20 Best Value Small Colleges For A Mechanical Engineering

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Staff Writers
Updated December 18, 2020

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Small Schools for Mechanical Engineering

By BVS Staff

July 2020

Welcome to our ranking of the 20 best small colleges for mechanical engineering majors on a budget.

Each of these top schools offers at least one targeted program or concentration for students seeking a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering (this also includes aerospace, industrial, manufacturing, and materials engineering). In addition, they each maintain an overall undergraduate graduation rate of at least 45%. 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 $35,000 a year. But which of these is the most affordable small college for a mechanical engineering degree? Scroll down to #1 to find out!

#1 United States Coast Guard Academy New London, CT
#2 New Mexico Tech Socorro, NM
#3 Virginia Military Institute Lexington City, VA
#4 Christian Brothers University Memphis, TN
#5 St. Mary's University San Antonio, TX
#6 Oklahoma Christian University Edmond, OK
#7 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID
#8 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
#9 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
#10 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA

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  1. United States Coast Guard Academy

    New London, CT

    Like the VMI, the United States Coast Guard Academy is a government-funded college that maintains a disciplined and challenging academic environment - and at a steep discount. But outside of the aquatic setting, the biggest difference between these two top colleges for a mechanical engineering degree is that the USCGA is completely free! For the low net price of exactly zero dollars a year, mechanical engineering majors receive an education that approaches the study of mechanics and energy from a decidedly practical, analytical perspective. Upon graduation, all cadets must serve at least five years in the Coast Guard, although many make their maritime service a lifelong career.

  2. New Mexico Tech

    Socorro, NM



    Formerly known as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico Tech has close ties to the energy industry - but that doesn't mean its programs are entirely devoted to mineral extraction and drilling. In fact, NMT features a surprisingly varied set of programs in mechanical and materials engineering, including concentrations in metallurgy and biomaterials. But NMT isn't just one of the most academically diverse tech schools; it's also one of the cheapest and boasts #2 ranking on USA Today's 2014 list of Best Value Colleges. At the end of the day, there are few programs that can provide the same education for even twice the price of this affordable small school for mechanical engineering.

  3. Virginia Military Institute

    Lexington City, VA



    Appropriately nicknamed the "West Point of the South," the Virginia Military Institute is a state-funded military school with a strict code of conduct and a rigorous commitment to high quality education. Practical and technical majors dominate at VMI, where programs focus almost exclusively on science, information technology, and politics. In particular, the mechanical engineering degree is an enticing option for anyone interested in either aeronautics or nuclear energy. Within the program, students can put their skills to the test at the Cooperative Engineering Center, where they work in teams to address real issues facing clients in the community. Ultimately, it's this focus on responsible problem-solving that makes VMI one of the country's top colleges for a mechanical engineering degree.

  4. Christian Brothers University

    Memphis, TN



    A small Christian school in Tennessee, CBU might not be the first choice that comes to mind for potential engineering students. But in fact, CBU boasts individual programs in the full suits of sub-fields, from chemical to civil to electrical engineering - all that's missing is a top aerospace engineering undergraduate program! And students within the Mechanical Engineering major have even more options, thanks to separate concentrations in Energy Systems (i.e., "energy conversion and fluid/thermal systems") and Mechanical Systems (i.e., "dynamics and mechanics"). CBU's Engineering Department is also home to a number of intradepartmental collaborative opportunities like the CBU Rover Challenge Team.

  5. St. Mary's University

    San Antonio, TX



    St. Mary's University enjoys widespread recognition as one of the best values in higher education, and its Industrial Engineering Program is no exception. For less than $18,000, engineering majors at St. Mary's have 24-hour access to world-class engineering labs and facilities, including a robotics design lab. But price is not the only factor that makes this affordable small school for mechanical engineering stand out. Outside of coursework and research, many students pursue internships at local companies like Phillips and Motorola. Some also volunteer as peer tutors. And for the particularly ambitious, St. Mary's offers a five year combined bachelor's/master's that can catapult graduates into coveted job positions within the industry.

  6. Oklahoma Christian University

    Edmond, OK



    With an average net price of less than $19,000 a year, Oklahoma Christian University makes it possible for aspiring engineers to acquire the skills and experience they need to build a career - without breaking the bank. OCU doesn't cut corners to create this cutthroat price tag, either. Low cost of living and good old fashioned Christian generosity allow OCU to deliver resources (like a state-of-the-art thermal-fluids lab) at less than half the price of its competitors. In other words, OCU isn't just one of the most affordable colleges for a mechanical engineering degree, but one of the best values, too!

  7. Northwest Nazarene University

    Nampa, ID



    Northwest Nazarene University offers more than 60 majors, minors, and concentrations, but very few of these programs can complete with the popularity and high regard of the school's Department of Physics and Engineering. With a nearly 100% graduate school acceptance rate and scores of alumni holding executive roles at top companies like Intel and Boeing, NNU's engineering degrees are a proven pathway to success in academia and industry alike. The overwhelming level of graduate achievement is likely an outcome of the strong "real-world" experience mechanical engineering majors receive at NNU. From internships to faculty-led laboratory research, no one leaves this affordable small college for mechanical engineering majors without getting their hands dirty - a lot.

  8. Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA



    Widely regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Swarthmore College might be the last school one would expect to find on our mechanical engineering colleges ranking. In fact, Swarthmore may be one of the only liberal arts colleges in the US to even have an engineering department! Yet what Swarthmore ostensibly lacks in technical resources it makes up for in individualized education, prestigious faculty, and a comprehensive liberal arts core. Where many engineering students at schools like Olin or CalTech could probably graduate without reading a single line of poetry, Swarthmore graduates learn to exercise the left and right sides of their brains equally.

  9. LeTourneau University

    Longview, TX



    Although LeTourneau University may not have the venerable pedigree of a world-class institution like CalTech, its academic programs are anything but unimpressive. This includes a popular mechanical engineering degree, which comes with a full helping of industry-relevant coursework in subjects like fluid dynamics, mechanical vibrations, and machine design. Undergraduates at this affordable small school for mechanical engineering also develop their technical skills through special "Senior Design" projects; recent tasks have included improving a wheelchair design and building an off-road vehicle for an intercollegiate racing competition. As if that's not enough, LETU houses the Kielhorn Welding & Materials Joining Engineering Lab, which is the "largest stand-alone lab of its kind in the country."

  10. California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA



    It probably goes without saying that the California Institute of Technology is one of the foremost scientific research institutions in the US - if not the world. And just like most of its programs, CalTech's robust mechanical engineering department pretty much puts all but the best colleges for a mechanical engineering degree to shame. In terms of both quantity and quality, there's almost no comparison between CalTech and any other school on this list. Undergraduates can choose from degree options in Aeronautics, Aerospace, Materials Science, and Applied Mechanics (among others). But it's not all about depth and breadth; just as importantly, these elite programs are available at a surprisingly affordable net price.

Want to find out exactly how much it will cost for you to attend one of these affordable small schools for mechanical engineering? Check out the U.S. Department of Education's Net Price Calculator Center.


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See also: 50 Best Value Engineering Schools 2016

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