Best Colleges in Vermont

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Vermont is home to over 30 colleges and universities, including some of the nation’s most renowned agricultural institutions, as well as ample technical and vocational colleges. If you commit to pursuing an education in the state, you will have no shortage of options.

Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Vermont, including the top four-year and two-year schools. We also take into consideration each college’s debt-to-earning ratio, as we know the ability to pay off your student loans after graduation is essential.

Vermont is home to several of the oldest bachelor-granting institutions in the nation, and two are counted as highly competitive, according to a recent NY Times ranking. The state also boasts a wealth of resources for students hoping to attend a 4-year school, such as the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, or VSAC; the nonprofit organization provides applicants and attendees of Vermont universities with extensive assistance and support. Unfortunately, Vermont does not rank well in terms of state education funding, but a recent legislative effort is seeking to change this — and in turn, funnel more dollars directly to tuition relief for students. Below we’ve listed the top four-year institutions to assist you in your search.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Middlebury College 95.33 3/5 94% Middlebury, VT

Named for the rural town it is in, Middlebury College was founded in 1800, making it the Green Mountain State’s oldest private institution of higher learning. The school is considered one of the best colleges in Vermont and one of the nation's leading small, “classic liberal arts” colleges. It’s also one of the few Vermont colleges to offer graduate and specialized programs. Students pursue degrees in more than 44 academic disciplines.

Middlebury is known for its strong programs in language, international studies, writing, and the environment, and it has several centers of distinction – The Middlebury Language Schools, Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury School of the Environment, and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. It hosts the famous Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference annually. Classes are small, with a 9:1 student to faculty ratio and an average class size of 16 students. In January, students take one intensive course or do an internship. Middlebury is largely residential, and campus life revolves around Division III athletics, a vibrant arts scene, outdoor recreation, and a wealth of student clubs and organizations.

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2 University of Vermont 74.44 3/5 76% Burlington, VT

UVM is the largest of Vermont colleges and serves as the flagship of its public education system. It is also one of the oldest universities and best colleges in Vermont. Often referred to as a “Public Ivy,” it combines a small, liberal arts feel with the resources of a major research university. Located in the quintessential college town of Burlington, UVM has more than 10,000 undergraduates, with another 2,000 graduate and medical students. The school offers more than 100 baccalaureate degree programs through its seven colleges.

UVM is known among colleges in Vermont for its pre-professional academics -- pre-law, pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dental -- and also for its business, agriculture, and environmental programs. The College of the Arts and Sciences is the largest school on campus, offering 45 degree programs. Business administration is the most popular major. UVM’s Division I athletics are popular diversions – especially the Catamount’s basketball and ice hockey teams – and students can find more than 100 clubs and organizations to join. When undergrads are looking for something to do, they can visit the school’s “Bored Calendar,” a website with an insider’s view of everything happening on campus and in Burlington.

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3 Bennington College 68.44 4/5 64% Bennington, VT

Bennington College is the only school among Vermont colleges to require students to complete an internship for every year they are enrolled. Breaking from tradition, the private, liberal arts college suspends classes for two months every winter to allow students to gain experience at an organization of their choosing. But while class is in session, the 700 students enrolled at Bennington enjoy one of the most beautiful campuses in the country and a very close-knit experience. Faculty members are seen as friends and mentors – the student to faculty ratio is just 10:1 – and class sizes are kept small, usually under 15 students per classroom.

Of the colleges in Vermont, Bennington has a national reputation for its innovative, rigorous programs, and there are 50 from which to choose. Bennington is one of the best colleges in Vermont for the creative. Visual arts is the most popular discipline, and writing, music, drama, and dance are in the top ten as well. A student’s schedule is organized around their Plan, which is the blueprint of their education, and it often requires them to take classes outside their chosen field.

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4 Vermont Technical College 61.89 3/5 52% Randolph Center, VT

At Vermont Tech, every program has a practical, hands-on component. This “applied learning” approach has served the Randolph Center-based school well; it’s considered one of the best regional colleges in the northeast, as well as one of the best colleges in Vermont. Vermont Tech is one of the Vermont colleges in the Vermont State Colleges system and almost half of its 1,500 students are the first in their family to pursue a degree. Students can choose from 45 areas of study, including associate, bachelor’s, and a master’s in software engineering, on the main campus and at 10 locations spread across the state.

Academics at Vermont Tech cover a wide range of fields, from studying agriculture science at the school’s Norwich Farm, to learning to fly planes in the Aviation department, to working on a BA in dental hygiene, to planning a business career, and earning a BS in nursing. Vermont Tech's graduates leave with the lowest debt of all colleges in Vermont.

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5 Saint Michael's College 61.00 4/5 82% Colchester, VT

St. Michael’s is a private, Catholic college in Colchester. The school is one of the few colleges in Vermont that is almost 100 percent residential, with 2,000 undergraduates living on campus. Students can choose from 36 majors, an Honor’s program, internships, and independent research during their academic careers.

The most popular majors at St. Michael's are biology, psychology, and business. Students are required to fulfill an Experiential Learning requirement, which is completed through coursework, an internship, or extracurricular activity. Outside of classes, St. Michael's hosts 40 clubs, varsity athletics, intramural sports, student musicals and plays, and rock and DJ shows staged by the Turtle Underground. Unique in Vermont Colleges, students run the school’s fire and rescue squad, and they learn wilderness skills at St. Michael’s Adventure Sports Center. In addition, as a perk for attending one of the best colleges in Vermont, those with good academic standing get season passes at Smugglers’ Notch ski area for a nominal fee.

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6 Champlain College 60.78 5/5 64% Burlington, VT

At Burlington’s Champlain College, students get started on their professional lives during their freshmen year. The small private school is career-oriented and has won national recognition for innovation and one of the best colleges in Vermont. The main campus on Vermont Hill overlooks Lake Champlain, and the college has additional centers in Canada and Ireland. The school's 2,000 undergraduates choose from among 30 degrees, 15 of which can be pursued online, and they chart a course to a vocation almost immediately. The school has an “upside down” curriculum, which has students taking important courses in their major during their first year.

Champlain College is split into four academic divisions: Robert P. Stiller School of Business, Communication and Creative Media, Education and Human Studies, and Information Technology and Sciences. The most popular majors include business, accounting, graphic design, and computer forensics. Every academic field offered has internship opportunities. In addition, more students study abroad at Champlain College than at most Vermont colleges – over half participate in programs that take them to the school’s partners in China, Italy, Morocco, and New Zealand.

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7 Norwich University 60.11 4/5 53% Northfield, VT

Unlike other colleges in Vermont, Norwich University is a military school and the birthplace of the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC). Based in Northfield, the school was founded in 1839 as the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy by the former superintendent of West Point, and it has a Corp of Cadets that is part of the Vermont National Guard. Norwich’s 2,300 students can choose to join the Corp or take classes as civilians.

One of the best colleges in Vermont, Norwich is divided into five schools -- Liberal Arts, Professional Schools, Science and Mathematics, National Services, and Graduate and Continuing Studies -- and between them, they offer 33 different undergraduate degrees and four ROTC programs. Unlike traditional students in Vermont colleges, the Cadet Corp follows a traditional military school regimen with uniforms, rank, physical exercise, and officers. Some of the most popular majors include the criminal justice, intelligence, history, and nursing. “Service before self” is part of the Norwich code, and students offer countless hours of volunteer time through the school’s Center for Civic Engagement.

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8 College of St Joseph 57.44 3/5 54% Rutland, VT

College of St. Joseph is a liberal arts Catholic institution in Rutland with about 350 students, making one of the smaller colleges in Vermont. Established as a teacher’s college by nuns from the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1956, CSJ has been growing since, admitting laypeople in the 1960s, and expanding its pastoral campus on the outskirts of Rutland to 117 acres. The college has branched on to the internet with a full slate of online degree programs as well.

Today, CSJ is not just for Catholics or teachers anymore and is regularly recognized as being one of the best colleges in Vermont. The college offers 20 career-oriented undergraduate degree programs, including accounting and sports management, to students of all faiths. Education continues to be one of the school’s stronger programs, and the most popular majors are business, accounting, and psychology. Class sizes are also kept small to encourage one-on-one interaction; 96 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, making it one of the more intimate Vermont colleges. The school’s Provider Scholarships help students with financial aid in return for a commitment to academic curiosity, participation on campus, and community service. Wednesdays are Community Days, which means no classes. Instead, students catch up on academics, donate their time in volunteering, and sit down for a family-style lunch with faculty and staff.

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9 Sterling College 56.11 4/5 57% Craftsbury Common, VT

Sterling is the hub of environmental stewardship amongst the Vermont colleges, and it is one of eight work colleges in the country, where students exchange labor for lower tuition. Located in Craftsbury Commons, Sterling is a rural school dedicated to a more pastoral and sustainable lifestyle. Sterling’s educational model is experiential and place-based, and revolves around the human relationship to the natural world. The student body of 125 selects from five degree programs: Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Food Systems, and Outdoor Education.

Sterling was the first of all the colleges in Vermont, and third in the nation, to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. But is not just one of the best colleges in Vermont for alternative energy; it’s also ranked No. 1 in the nation for campuses eating sustainable, humane, and Fair Trade food. Many students work on the school farm, which integrates 5 acres of gardens, 20 acres of pasture, and almost 400 acres of forested land into a working agricultural laboratory. Student life revolves around community activities and the outdoors, such as Nordic skiing, trail running, trap and skeet shooting, and orienteering.

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10 Marlboro College 52.00 5/5 67% Marlboro, VT

Marlboro College’s 195 students lay out their own paths and study what they want under the direction of an academic advisor. Students even make decisions about the governance of the college at monthly “town meetings.” Not seen in other Vermont colleges, students each complete a Plan of Concentration, which includes an “integrated and original work of scholarship” in one of the school’s 30 degree fields. Or, they can essentially design their own major by combining disciplines.

In their first three semesters, every student must fulfill the Clear Writing Requirement, amassing a portfolio of essays and academic writings that demonstrates the ability to communicate effectively. This focus on nurturing writing skills is a reflection of the school's acclaimed writing program, which has produced several famous authors, including David Rhodes and D.Y. Bechard. Marlboro College has also become known amongst even the best colleges in Vermont for its distinguished faculty, which has included David Mamet and Wyn Cooper. Undergraduates interested in earning their master’s degree can take graduate classes and complete an Master of Arts or Master of Science degree just a year after completing their baccalaureate studies.

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11 Johnson State College 48.56 3/5 31% Johnson, VT

Johnson State is one of five colleges in Vermont in the State Colleges system. JSC is small liberal arts school of 1,500 students. These undergraduates pursue degrees in dozens of fields. One of the best colleges in Vermont, JSC's class sizes are kept small, with many averaging at 17 students per class, allowing students to work closely with faculty.

At JSC, students are encouraged to pursue work outside of the classroom; the school takes an experiential, “extended classroom” approach that places a premium on research, time in the field, and time in the community. This has earned JSC a reputation among Vermont colleges for undergraduate research, STEM programs, and the arts. The First Year Experience program helps freshmen adjust to the rigors of college, and Badger BREAKS are year-long immersion programs where students stay in a host community and do service projects. Undergraduates unsure about what to major in can take a one-credit “Explore and Connect” class that examines career paths to help them determine the best paths for them.

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12 Castleton University 46.11 3/5 40% Castleton, VT

Founded in 1787, Castleton is the oldest of the Vermont colleges. It’s also the largest residential university in the Vermont System of Colleges, with 2,100 students. A public, liberal arts institution based in the rural town of Castleton, Castleton offers more than 35 degree programs and is known as one of the best colleges in Vermont. All bachelor’s candidates begin in the General Education Program, which opens with the first-year seminar introducing freshmen to college life. It then moves on to core courses like writing and public speaking, and continues to the Soundings Program, which explores liberal arts connections.

The Natural Sciences department is the largest on campus, and it includes the popular fields of biology and environmental science. Sustainability is a focus at Castleton. Unique amongst colleges in Vermont, Castleton University has two turbines and two electric car charging stations. In addition, the school is home of the Castleton Polling Institute and the Center for Entrepreneurial Programs.

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13 Landmark College 44.22 5/5 31% Putney, VT

Established in 1985, Landmark is unique among Vermont colleges in that it is dedicated to providing higher educational opportunities to students who learn differently, including those with learning disabilities such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Landmark College has a motto that states students at the school learn how to learn.

Students pursue both associate and bachelor’s degrees in several different academic fields. Baccalaureate programs include liberal studies, studio art, and computer science. Classes are kept small with a close 6:1 student to faculty ratio, making it one of the best colleges in Vermont for hands-on attention. Bridge semesters are available for incoming students who are getting used to college-level learning. In 2016, the school introduced Landmark College Works, a campus-based internship program that helps ready students for life in the work force. It’s one of many options during January Term, which is a winter break that allows undergraduates to pursue internships, exchanges, and study abroad opportunities.

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14 Green Mountain College 42.33 4/5 42% Poultney, VT

Similar to other like-minded Vermont colleges, Green Mountain College takes an environmental approach to education, placing a premium on sustainability. Of the colleges in Vermont, it is the only one to be a member of the six-school consortium of enviro-institutions known as the “Eco-League.” Many of the school’s 22 undergraduate majors are ecology-related, from adventure education, to environmental studies, to natural resources management, to wilderness and outdoor therapy. Even majors not directly correlated with environmental sustainability explore environmental themes in their curricula, cementing its position as one of the best colleges in Vermont for the environmentally conscious.

Green Mountain College has three programs that, in different ways, allow the school’s 710 students to chart their own courses: the Interdisciplinary Studies major, the Progressive Program, and the Self-Design Major. In addition, students grow their own food at Cerridwen Farm, taking sustainability to the next level. High-achieving students are recognized at the school’s traditional Honors Tea.

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15 Lyndon State College 37.44 3/5 30% Lyndonville, VT

Lyndon State is a small liberal arts institution in the Vermont System of Colleges. Located in the Northeast Kingdom community of Lyndonville (the school’s motto is “Key to the Kingdom”), it offers 26 bachelor’s degree programs, a host of associate degrees, and a master’s program in education.

Students at Lyndon State study many disciplines uncommon among Vermont colleges. The most popular majors include music business industry, mountain recreation management, exercise science, and the visual arts. The school’s electronic journalism, atmospheric sciences, and education programs have won regional and national acclaim, making it stand out amongst colleges in Vermont. LSC encourages hands-on learning, internships, site visits, and experiential education of all kinds. Explorations, a two-year program, helps students narrow down their interests while still enabling them to graduate in four years. To better care for its students, the Leahy Center for Rural Students provides resources and support to modest-income, first-in-the-family students. And to accommodate all schedules, Lyndon Flex offers night, weekend, and online courses, making it one of the best colleges in Vermont for working adults.

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Two-year institutions can be a great choice for students seeking a more affordable path to a college degree; this is especially a concern in the New England state, as it is one of six in the nation with a 2:1 ratio (or greater) of family-to-state contribution, meaning students and parents pay more from their own pockets. However, Vermont has a great selection of associate-granting institutions that prioritize accessibility — two of the most prominent in the state, Vermont Community College and Vermont Technical College, (collectively) have campuses within 25 miles of nearly every inhabited area of the state. Review our complete ranked list of two-year schools below.

Rank School Name Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Community College of Vermont 2/5 11% Winooski, VT

The Community College of Vermont is the main system of community colleges in Vermont and the state’s second-largest institution of higher learning, only coming behind the University of Vermont. Twelve locations are spread across the state, including campuses in Bennington and Winooski, and it serves more than 11,000 students. Established by the State of Vermont in 1970, the public nonprofit offers 15 associate degrees and 7 certificate programs, most of which are available fully online. The associate in liberal arts is the most popular major, followed by business and public administration.

CCV has an open admission policy and it’s the most affordable college education for Vermonters. For the past decade, the school has been the most popular choice for the state’s high school students. More than 1,000 courses are offered in the fall and spring, and 500 in the summer, and these classes are scheduled for days, evenings, and weekends to make them accessible. Classes typically meet once a week for three hours; over two-thirds of the student body is in a degree program and attends part-time. Almost half of all students move on to a four-year program, and CCV has transfer agreements in place with many of the state’s universities and several outside of Vermont as well.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Vermont, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Green Mountain State.

Vermont’s stunning landscapes and varied climate make it a great place for students to live and study. Across its 9,616 square miles are a wealth of thriving-yet-intimate cities and towns; Montpelier, for example, is the nation’s smallest state capitol. However, Vermont is not small on attractions, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. The state boasts over 40 ski areas and resorts, and many of these are repurposed in the summer months by mountain bikers and hikers. Those interested in American history shouldn’t miss the Hubbardton Battlefield, where daily civil war reenactments and year-round exhibits can be enjoyed, as well as Plymouth Notch, a well-preserved 18th century village and the birthplace of former President Calvin Coolidge.

Although Vermont is modest in size, each region has unique and distinct features; to the north west is Lake Champlain, as well as the state’s most populous city, Burlington. The Northeast, or Northeast Kingdom, is comprised mainly of forest and is the least populous region. Central is home to the Vermont’s capital; to the south is the Green Mountain National Forest.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: NORTHWEST VERMONT

  • Major Cities: Burlington, South Burlington, St. Albans, Williston
  • Attractions: Lake Champlain, Shelburne Museum, Vermont Quilt Festival, Church Street Marketplace
  • Cost of Living: Burlington’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: University of Vermont, Saint Michael’s College, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: NORTHEAST VERMONT

  • Major Cities: Newport, Brighton, Barton, Glover, Burke
  • Attractions: Stratton Mountain Ski Resort, Kingdom Trails, Seymour Lake
  • Cost of Living: Newport’s Areavibes Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Lyndon State College, Sterling College, Springfield College

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: CENTRAL VERMONT

  • Major Cities: Montpelier, Berlin, Middlesex, Williamstown
  • Attractions: Sullivan Military Museum, Wrightsville Beach, Lost Nations Theater
  • Cost of Living: Montpelier’s Numbeo Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Norwich University, Middlesex College, Union Institute and University

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: SOUTHERN VERMONT

  • Major Cities: Rutland, Hartford, Bennington, Brattleboro
  • Attractions: Green Mountain National Forest, Weston Playhouse, Southern Vermont Arts Center
  • Cost of Living: Rutland’s Areavibes Cost of Living
  • Popular Schools: Castleton University, Marlboro College, Bennington College, Green Mountain College

RESIDENCY

Vermont’s combination of historic towns and beautiful landscape make this east coast state a great choice for students. As the cost of living can be high, especially in metropolitan areas such as Burlington, those who have decided to pursue an education there would be well-advised to obtain residency as soon as possible to guarantee in-state tuition rates.

FOR MINORS:

A minor’s residency depends on their parent or guardian. If you are under 18, you must provide proof that one or more parents have residency in Vermont, and you must live with that parent full time.

FOR ADULTS:

For tuition purposes, the criteria below must be met if a student is to be considered a resident of Vermont:

  • You must live in Vermont for at least 12 consecutive months before the first day of the quarter you intend to enroll.
  • Your income (or financial support) must come from within the state.
  • You must prove that you are not in Vermont solely for the purpose of an education and that you intend to make the state your permanent home.

Additional Resources for Vermont College Students:

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Best Colleges in Vermont of 2016
Rank School Location
1 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
2 Saint Michael's College Colchester, VT
3 University of Vermont Burlington, VT
4 Bennington College Bennington, VT
5 Norwich University Northfield, VT
6 Marlboro College Marlboro, VT
7 College of St. Joseph Rutland, VT
8 Champlain College Burlington, VT
9 Castleton State College Castleton, VT
10 Green Mountain College Poultney, VT
11 Lyndon State College Lyndonville, VA
12 Johnson State College Johnson, VT
13 Southern Vermont College Bennington, VT
Best Community Colleges
1 Vermont Technical College Randolph Center, VT
2 Landmark College Putney, VT
3 Community College of Vermont Winooski, VT