This list of the Hidden Gems of the Southeast will introduce students to some of the finest colleges, university, and institutes for higher education in the Southern United States. Most of this list is made up of small colleges that have low student enrollment, which often causes them to be overlooked. But each of these schools will give students the most supportive and comforting environments, as well as rigorously challenging academics that will expand their minds. Find a beautiful, supportive campus of which to be a part as a passionate and motivated student with OnlineSchoolsCenter.com!
This list was composed according to the following criteria:
- Small annual enrollment and class sizes;
- Student satisfaction according to retention rates (not below 50%) and student reviews from reputable resources that index college and university statistics, such as Niche.com;
- Satifactory accreditation;
- And, prestige despite being less well-known.
Individuals with further question, please look to the following disclaimers, or contact Linda Weems via the address listed below.:
- All information is cited from the unbiased, independent NCES.gov’s College Navigator
- Our sponsored schools are paid advertisements that are not affiliated with our site’s individual school rankings. They are clearly defined with the word “SPONSORED” as to not confuse our readers with what has been methodologically researched and ranked by our site editors and researchers as compared to the independently sponsored schools that pay for their placement on our site. For more information regarding our rankings or our sponsored schools, please email us at LINDA.WEEMS210@GMAIL.COM
ROANOKE COLLEGE – Salem, VA
This college has been ranked an up-and-comer, as well as one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States. Roanoke College, a small liberal arts school, is a one-of-a-kind experience for any student. The community provides an incredibly rich and welcoming collection of students, faculty, and Salem community members. The curricula include a large focus around service-learning, which bolsters students’ understanding of leadership positions and real-world application of their degree programs. Students have only the most glorious reviews of the college and their experiences, all of whom feel at home at Roanoke in a way that strengthens and educates them in more ways than just their academic education, but also as a community member and an engaged professional. Students can choose from over 100 areas of study, as well as over 100 clubs, organizations, and teams of which to be a part!
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HOLLINS UNIVERSITY – Roanoke, VA
Hollins University is a small women’s college in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The campus gives students an active downtown scene, as well as outdoor recreation throughout the city of Roanoke. The school environment provides a fun, quirky, yet studious vibe where students feel free to grow as learners, professionals, and individuals. 97% of faculty members in all of the degree programs at the school have the highest degree in their field, making the coursework provide the most superb techniques and knowledge available. The professors have been recognized many times over by outside entities as some of the best and most compassionate of any college in the country. Students applying to Hollins University should be ready to immerse themselves completely in their field of study so that, upon graduation, they are ready to take on the world. These women experience a sisterhood at Hollins that gives shape to their entire lives.
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WHEELING JESUIT UNIVERSITY – Wheeling, WV
Wheeling Jesuit University truly believes in caring for each individual student. No matter their degree program or pursuits, Wheeling Jesuit University faculty members and advisors will go above and beyond in supplying for their students learning needs. The small campus gives students a strong and supportive Jesuit Catholic community of scholars, as well as all of the traditional college experiences. A diverse and inclusive campus, Wheeling Jesuit University is welcoming of all individuals, and the small class sizes allow them to have a voice and independence as a learner. There is a unique bond between students and faculty members, who may find themselves enjoying times together quite often, such as dinner classes at the professors home! This gives a huge advantage to current students and graduates alike who can always fall back on their alma mater as a reliable resource throughout their entire lives.
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WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE – Buckhannon, WV
This small, rural West Virginia College has educated over 14 Fulbright Scholars over its century-and-a-quarter long history. The student population is consistently around 1,300 per year, giving students a strong and supportive academic environment that provides a studious atmosphere, as well as a fun social scene. Students develop unique skill sets, values, relationships, and perspectives that enrich their entire lives as they devote themselves to their passions. The tuition is offered at an affordable price so that a diverse collection of individuals can feel welcome applying and comfortable attending. The Wesleyan Learning Center has been ranked second in the nation, and there are over 70 clubs and organizations that students can be a part of alongside their degree programs. West Virginia Wesleyan College has been well-ranked for many consecutive years by journalistic resources, academic accreditation associations, and state agencies.
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TRANSYLVANIA UNIVERSITY – Lexington, KY
The student enrollment at Transylvania University is 983, and the institutions were founded over 230 years ago. The urban setting gives students access to all of the amenities that the city of Lexington has to offer, while also giving them a small college feeling. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered at a very affordable tuition rate, and the academics provide a well-founded community of faculty members and students who greatly cherish their experiences at Transylvania University. The school fosters a hard working atmosphere that educates some of the most brilliant students in the country. TU prides itself on being a relationship-rich university where students can build strong experiences with the people around campus. The community-driven experiences connect students with businesses and organizations throughout Lexington so that they have an excellent foothold upon graduation and entry into the life of a professional.
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BEREA COLLEGE – Berea, KY
Berea College is an incredibly distinctive school and was, in fact, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. The college spends about $100,000 on a four-year degree for each undergraduate student, and yet there is no tuition! Berea only admits academically unique and motivated students who can undertake the rigorous academic challenges of their program. Students work on campus at least 10 hours per week in over 130 departments in the school, which, when selected carefully, can be a learning experience in and of itself. The campus is culturally and ethnically diverse, and because of this, Berea is a lively place where students and faculty hold each other in the highest respect. This school is demanding of its students and immerses them in their programs of study, as well as their on-campus employment and clubs, sports, and organizations of which they are a part. The campus is very quiet and calm, giving individuals all the space to concentrate and study.
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OUACHITA BAPTIST UNIVERSITY – Arkadelphia, AR
Home to a thriving spiritual, Christian community and a close-knit collection of students and faculty members, Ouachita Baptist University is an excellent school with a great reputation around the country. Alumni at this school have a 97% acceptance rate into graduate programs upon completing a bachelor’s degree, and a 93% job placement rate, both of which are some of the highest among colleges. Ouachita holds partnerships with many other schools around the world, giving students invaluable opportunities to study abroad in over 20 countries. Students rave about the quality of the professors and the care that each of them exhibits for their students, no matter the discipline. Academics are separated into eight colleges, each of which is as esteemed and respected as the last. The campus is lush green and wooded with ancient trees surrounding lovely red and white stone academic buildings. Campus life includes musical events, pep rallies, games, concerts, plays, intramural sports, and much more!
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HENDERSON STATE UNIVERSITY – Arkadelphia, AR
Founded in 1890, Henderson State University has a long tradition of excellence in higher education and service to students and the community of Arkadelphia. In collaboration with the city, state, country, and the world, the school provides endless opportunities for students to learn and grow in ways that extend far from the classroom. The wonderful campus gives a town-like feel with bridges and archways and parks surrounding the academic buildings and residence halls. The buildings on campus have recently been renovated, so students can look forward to all of the most state-of-the-art appliances all over the campus. There is a huge sense of school spirit and a giant percentage of the students make it out to Reddies games throughout the year. Some impressive individuals have graduated from Henderson State, including an Arkansas governor, a Pulitzer Prize winner, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter and actor, former generals and chiefs of staff in the U.S. Air Force, and much more.
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SEWANEE: THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH – Sewanee, TN
Nestled at the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains in the small town of Sewanee, Tennessee, The University of the South is the second largest campus in the United States at a sprawling 13,000 acres, most of which is a vastly wooded wonderland. The pristine, church-like buildings remind one of a more ancient time, and have a deep history of academic excellence, and has in fact been named the most beautiful college campus in America in some reviews. Greek life is very active within the school and the community which gives students a great sense of school spirit and friendship. The church was founded on the principles of the Anglican church and has a massive and absolutely gorgeous chapel in the center of town, across which the entire campus is spread. The tremendous campus gives students the opportunity to engage in a range of outdoor activities from hiking to climbing to intramural sports like rowing, as well as scientific studies and labs. The school has a particularly strong literary and theological reputation and is home to the well-known Sewanee Writer’s Conference, the School of Letters, and the School of Theology.
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LIPSCOMB UNIVERSITY – Nashville, TN
Located in the bustling city of Nashville, Tennessee, Lipscomb University is a Christian school that is “joyfully and energetically committed to creating students whose academic excellence, faith and practice, and community service reflect the ideals of global citizenship.” The best value school, according to the Kiplinger Personal Finance list, Lipscomb provides impeccable coursework at an affordable price. The excellent degree programs have graduated 7 Fulbright Scholars in the last 12 years. Small class sizes give students more access to personalized education and the freedom to explore the many areas of their majors. Nashville provides an endless amount of chances to get involved with businesses and organizations that correlate with academic and personal interests, and downtown is five minutes from campus. There are 70 undergraduate degree programs to choose from, each of which offers superb opportunities to expand one’s knowledge through many different avenues.
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MILLIGAN COLLEGE – Milligan College, TN
In the Northeastern corner of Tennessee surrounded by lush greenery sits Milligan College on 235 acres of forest. The enrollment is around 900 each year and is intentionally kept below 1,000 to keep a low student-to-faculty ratio, which is 9:1. Most classes have fewer than 20 students, keeping the academics discussion based and invigorating. Some of the most popular degree programs at Milligan include: Business Administration and Management, Early Childhood Education and Teaching, and Nursing. Yet, there are over 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees, and concentrations to choose from. Milligan is also an “athletic powerhouse” with 24 collegiate sports, 50 conference titles, and 60 NAIA tournament appearances. This school is a home away from home for every student and shrouds them in an atmosphere of academia, friendship, dedication, and professionalism.
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UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA ASHEVILLE – Asheville, NC
UNC Asheville is one of the nation’s top public liberal arts university but maintains a small student body of about 3,800 and an average class size of 20. A prestigious and well-accredited school, Asheville has over 45 Fulbright Award winners who have graduated from their programs. 86% of the faculty members have terminal degrees in their field, and bring only the most up-to-date and well-founded knowledge to the classroom and laboratories. Some of the most popular majors by enrollment include: Environmental Studies, Psychology, Biology, Health and Wellness Promotion, Management, English, and Engineering. Students have incredible things to say about UNCA’s facilities, professors, food, and campus life. The diverse student body allows students to make connections with peers and classmates from all across the country and the world. Asheville is a cool and exciting place to live, and many graduates never want to leave!
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CATAWBA COLLEGE – Salisbury, NC
Catawba College is a lovely little school in North Carolina. The rural setting gives way to a nice, relaxing, yet studious learning environment where people cherish their friendships and support each other through their various degree programs, of which there are more than 70. A member of The Council of Independent Colleges, Catawba is well-accredited and diverse, with students from all over the world. Faculty members are top researchers and practitioners in their fields, and classrooms are well-equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. The study halls, academic buildings, residence halls, and library are all incredibly comfortable and accommodating of the hardworking student, giving them all of the amenities they could ask for to keep them happy and content. Graduates typically go on to complete graduate degrees in law, nursing, and business, or to work at competitive businesses like The Walt Disney Company.
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COKER COLLEGE – Hartsville, SC
The Coker College campus has a supreme distinctiveness to it due to the beautiful Georgian-style buildings, several of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Coker students are a part of an academic family—the close-knit community has a typical class size of about 12, with supportive faculty and classmates. Coker College is well-known in the South, particularly among high school counselors, and has won awards for the Most Innovative and the Best Undergraduate Teaching from U.S. News and World Report. There is a lot of diversity on campus, and students end up forming relationships with many of the 1,300 classmates they see daily. The residence halls offer villages, apartments, and suites, and there is a strong sense of unity and school spirit. A peaceful environment, students come to Coker for the challenging academics and serene atmosphere.
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BOB JONES UNIVERSITY – Greenville, SC
Bob Jones University is a Christian liberal arts university that seeks to “foster spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical development and cultural expansion of the individual.” This school is diverse, warm, and welcoming to students of all backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities, and the student body represents over 40 countries from around the world! Some of the top academic programs at BJU include Accounting, Bible, Business Administration, Criminal Justice, and Nursing. In fact, the Nursing program has a cumulative NCLEX pass rate of over 95%, which has been maintained since 2002. Aside from the academics, Bob Jones University is a fantastic place to grow and evolve as an individual. Students find a home on a safe and charming campus that is wholly dedicated to the mores and tenets of Christianity. The yearly tuition is affordable and the administration is highly supportive of individual students’ differing financial needs.
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BERRY COLLEGE – Mount Berry, GA
Berry College has the largest contiguous campus of any college or university in the world at 27,000 acres which includes an enormous woodland, meadows, streams, watershed, lakes, all of which is used for intensive scientific studies, as well as exploratory outdoor recreation! The facilities at Berry are recently renovated, and some are brand new. The residence halls feature beautiful vistas and luxurious lounge areas and study halls. The Cage Athletic and Recreation Center is a 131,000 square foot, state-of-the-art home for the schools thriving intercollegiate and intramural sports programs, as well as the entire student body for recreation and exercise. The student-to-professor ratio is 11:1 which is even more outstanding than some of the smallest liberal arts colleges, giving students direct access to professors and a voice in the classroom. Students feel like they are at home and a part of a family at berry, working together through rigorous academics and sharing fun and exciting times together all year long.
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OGLETHORPE UNIVERSITY – Atlanta, GA
Oglethorpe University offers students outstanding degree programs. The undergraduate degrees all begin with an intentionally designed sequence of courses that are designed to challenge notions and opinions that graduates say actually changes the way their minds work—it is known simply as “The Core.” This course sequence often helps students align their majors with what actually makes them feel passionate. Situated at the “cultural cornerstone and economic powerhouse of the South,” in Atlanta, Georgia, students have access through the university to some of the most successful and thriving business that is known across the world. The international study opportunities are taken advantage of by a huge number of the students, whether their trip lasts two weeks or an entire semester. OU offers strong online courses as well. Students love the proximity to downtown, as well as all of the exciting clubs, teams, and organizations of which they can be a part.
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ECKERD COLLEGE – St. Petersburg, FL
One of the biggest draws of this Hidden Gem is its campus—Eckerd College is positioned right on the beach in St. Petersburg, giving students access to all of the resources and amenities that that entails—swimming, boating, water sports, oceanic research, biological research, and much more! The spectacular mile-long waterfront and white-sand beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast are unbeatable. The library overlooks Fox Pond, and the fitness center has an outdoor pool. The academic goal of this institution is to mold and train professionals who are ready to make a difference in today’s fast-paced markets. Graduates have a strong command of their communication, writing, and critical thinking skills to apply to their field of study and place of employment. Coursework and academic opportunities at Eckerd are far-reaching and life-changing and the campus is exciting and diverse.
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EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY – Daytona Beach, FL
Embay-Riddle Aeronautical University is well-known for their degrees in aviation, computers and technology, engineering, outer space, and other such technical sciences. In fact, this school has appeared on my lists cataloging the finest Space Physics and Spaceflight Operations Programs in America. Graduates maintain a 96% job placement rate upon exiting their programs and earn comfortable wages in positions that incite passion and excitement. On campus life represents a student body that is incredibly motivated and studious, and is a diverse collection of individuals from across the globe. Many companies and organizations are on the lookout for graduates from Embry-Riddle, as they are some of the most competent individuals exiting college. The atmosphere is reserved and serious so that students have as strong a grasp over their academics as possible.
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SPRING HILL COLLEGE – Mobile, AL
Spring Hill College has earned a strong reputation as the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast. Operating under a mission to help students become leaders in service to others, the undergraduate and graduate degree programs are designed to invoke an understanding of building and leading a team of peers. The natural landscape of the campus stretches over 500 beautiful acres, and the walkways are lined with azaleas and flowers. The population of students is diverse, and individuals hail from all across the country. A huge portion of the students are involved in sports and clubs, which fosters a strong feeling of camaraderie and support throughout the campus. Classmates challenge each other’s opinions and feelings, yet remain respectful of everyone, which builds upon their intellectual, personal, and spiritual growth. Students are exposed to a wide range of beliefs, structures, and cultures at Spring Hill, and go on to do marvelous things in their fields of study.
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SAMFORD UNIVERSITY – Birmingham, AL
Well-ranked by The Economist and The Wall Street Journal as one of the finest schools in the Southeastern United States, Samford University is a Southern Baptist school that operates under somewhat conservative values. The campus is clean and quite beautiful, and the students are focused on academics who take pride in their work. The focus of the institution is to make graduates as prepared as possible for the real-world work experiences in their discipline. The students are welcoming and compassionate of one another, and the environment fosters a deep sense of fellowship and support. Greek life is big at Samford, and students can find a strong community of friends, as well as an outlet for volunteering and community engagement, in one of the letter houses. The student-to-faculty ratio is about 12:1, and because of this, students feel represented and heard in their classes and also have direct access to their professors.
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WILLIAM CAREY UNIVERSITY – Hattiesburg, MS
Located in the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, William Carey University has an underrate enrollment of around 3,000 per year on a 120-acre campus. The school is founded on the principals of the Baptist denomination and is absolutely beloved by all students. Many stay on to complete both their undergraduate and graduate degree programs due to the fine nature of the academics and the nationally recognized faculty members at William Carey. The tuition is affordable and attracts individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life, and there are multiple and generous financial aid opportunities. The campus regularly hosts guest lecturers, musical events, and other attractions throughout the year, making the environment boisterous and fun. There are numerous museums, galleries, and collections at WCU that often include exhibits from thriving new artists from around the country.
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BELHAVEN UNIVERSITY – Jackson, MS
Belhaven University is among America’s select Christian colleges and universities with national influence and offers a small college setting with a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The student body represents 42 states and 22 different countries from around the world and is a uniquely diverse campus in the lovely town of Jackson, Mississippi. Belhaven emphasizes the importance of individual students and tries to make each person feel like they matter the most. Communication is key at this school, and students strongly profess the astonishing availability of both the professors and the administration. Belhaven University truly puts God first—challenging, high-quality academics and Christian livelihoods are one and the same in the eyes of this institution. Journalistic resources have noted many times over the value of these degrees as the tuition is quite affordable and the finical aid opportunities are robust. Jackson has been named one of America’s best cities for entrepreneurs, which gives all students incredibly opportunities throughout the community.
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DILLARD UNIVERSITY – New Orleans, LA
Since its founding in 1869, Dillard University has been living up to a strong history of African-American heritage as a historically black university. In fact, U.S. News and World Report named Dillard one of the nation’s top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities of 2010. The school was founded on the principles of two individuals, and today is affiliated with both the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. Social life is active and vibrant at Dillard, and students form strong friendships across the entire campus. There are always events and activities happening throughout the week and over the weekend to keep students out of their rooms and out of the classroom. The food is outstanding and the residence halls are cleanly, spacious, and comfortable. The academics at DU are quite challenging, yet result in some of the most rewarding experiences students could ask for, according to their own testimonials.
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NICHOLLS STATE UNIVERSITY – Thibodaux, LA
Nicholls State University is a place of joy and passion. Students are extremely dedicated to their academic success, as well as their social experience. The campus setting is rural and the student body is culturally rich and diverse. Business programs are popular and well-funded at Nicolls State, yet all students have access to impeccable resources and support services. There are over 100 clubs and organizations of which students can be a part, and many decide to start their own out of their particular personal interests. Greek life is unique at Nicholls and is strongly dedicated to community service and volunteering. The undergraduate and graduate degree programs are quite well-accredited by a multitude of different agencies and organizations, and students can count on only the most superb opportunities at Nicholls State University!