MoJo Mini College Guide [2009 Edition]

Ten cool schools that will blow your mind, not your budget.

Illustration: Gordon Studer

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

[For the rest of MoJo‘s Mini College Guide, read 6 Cutting Edge Jobs, 8 Unusual Scholarships, and Give ‘Em Hellraisers.]

$39,000 a year. That’s the going rate for tuition at hot liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst, which came in first and second respectively in U.S. News & World Report‘s best liberal arts colleges rankings. The 10 schools on our list may not bother to juke their stats to make U.S. News‘ short lists, but they still have plenty to offer—and for a lot less dough. Know of a college that’s both cool and cost-efficient? Nominate it here for the 2010 MoJo Mini College Guide.

Berea College (Kentucky)
Best value for: Low-impact men (and women) on campus
Tuition: $0
All 1,549 students get free tuition for four years. Some live in the Ecovillage, environmentally friendly housing that features a “permaculture food forest” and a contraption that makes sewage so clean you can swim in it.

New College of Florida (Sarasota)
Best value for: Brainy beach bums
Tuition: $26,300/$4,700 in state
The Sarah Lawrence of the South favors tutorials and evaluations over giant lectures and letter grades. In the past 14 years, it’s cranked out more Fulbright Scholars per student than Harvard, Stanford, or Yale.


Maximum Pell Grant as a percentage of average college tuition and costs

Pell Freezes Over

Sources: The College Board; Department of Education

Hope College (Holland, Michigan)
Best value for: Artists with a spiritual side
Tuition: $25,500
This creative Christian college is known for its dance, theater, art, music, and visiting writers programs. Indie rocker Sufjan Stevens is an alum.

Fisk University (Nashville, Tennessee)
Best value for: Band-camp alums
Tuition: $15,900
Harmony is big at this historically black college, which gives class credit to singers and musicians. It also offers financial and academic support to 200 first-generation college students.

The University of Minnesota-Morris
Best value for: Alt-energy enthusiasts
Tuition: $8,830
This public liberal arts college has academic chops and green-energy cred: By 2010, it expects to go carbon neutral with help from an onsite wind turbine, which already produces 60 percent of the power on campus.

Kettering University (Flint, Michigan)
Best value for: Post-GM auto geeks
Tuition: $27,584 (first year)
This top engineering school offers a four-year professional co-op where students alternate semesters in class and on the job—earning as much as $26 an hour. Plus, you can minor in Fuel Cells and Hybrid Technology.

The College of New Jersey (Ewing)
Best value for: Community-service junkies
Tuition: $16,825/$8,718 in state
Students at this small public college can make a four-year commitment to participate in service projects in return for a scholarship that covers up to full tuition. And they swear that the annual LollaNoBooza bash isn’t totally lame.

California State University-Monterey Bay (Seaside)
Best value for: Surf addicts
Tuition: $3,845 + $339 per unit
The nearby Monterey Bay serves as the classroom for the school’s popular Environmental Science, Technology & Policy major.

Warren Wilson College (Asheville, North Carolina)
Best value for: Mountain mamas and nature boys
Tuition: $22,666
Environmental Studies is a popular major, and the Blue Ridge Mountain campus allows easy access to outdoor adventures. All students work on campus, keeping room and board bills low.

University of Kansas (Lawrence)
Best value for: Heartland hellraisers
Tuition: $19,328/$7,359 in state
A small but mighty activist community called Delta Force fights tuition hikes and sponsors student government candidates. Plus, KU hands out more than $25 million in student aid every year.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend