Little Ivies is an informal term, and not an official body, that has been used in the U.S. to compare small liberal arts colleges to the schools of the northeastern Ivy League in some way, usually in academic quality or in social prestige. While a definitive list of such schools does not exist, they are generally a loosely-defined group of small, selective American liberal arts colleges.
Institutions identified as Little Ivies are usually old, socially and academically elite, small, exclusive, and academically competitive liberal arts colleges located in the northeastern United States. The colloquialism is meant to imply that Little Ivies share similarities of distinction with the universities of the Ivy League.
- It is sometimes synonymous with the "Little Three," Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams. (The term "Little Three" is well-defined as a former athletic league and has often been used to identify these schools as a socially and academically elite trio; the term has also been used to compare the three institutions with the so-called Big Three of the Ivy League: Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.) Encarta defines "Little Ivies" to refer to these three schools, which it characterizes as "small" and "exclusive" and as having "high academic standards and long traditions."
- It can refer to the schools of the modern-day New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes the "Little Three" together with Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, and Tufts.
- Greene and Greene's guide, Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence refers specifically—in its introduction—to "the group historically known as the 'Little Ivies' (including Amherst, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, and Williams)" which it says have "scaled the heights of prestige and selectivity and also turn away thousands of our best and brightest young men and women."
The schools that are known as "Little Ivies" include:
|Institution||Location||Little Three||Greenes' Guides "Little Ivies"||NESCAC||Class of 2017 Acceptance Rate||Notes|
|Amherst College||Amherst, Massachusetts||13.7%||Founding NESCAC member.|
|Bates College||Lewiston, Maine||23.7%|
|Bowdoin College||Brunswick, Maine||14.5%||Founding NESCAC member.|
|Colby College||Waterville, Maine||26.0%|
|Colgate University||Hamilton, New York||26.0%||Competes athletically in the Patriot League. |
|Connecticut College||New London, Connecticut||35.2%|
|Hamilton College||Clinton, New York||27.1%|
|Haverford College||Haverford, Pennsylvania||23.3%||Competes athletically in the Centennial Conference.|
|Middlebury College||Middlebury, Vermont||19.0%|
|Swarthmore College||Swarthmore, Pennsylvania||14.1%||Competes athletically in the Centennial Conference.|
|Trinity College||Hartford, Connecticut||31.1%|
|Tufts University||Medford, Massachusetts||18.7%||No longer a small liberal arts college; a "research university" with approximately 10,000 students (about 5,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduates).|
|Vassar College||Poughkeepsie, New York||23.1%||Competes athletically in the Liberty League. |
|Wesleyan University||Middletown, Connecticut||19.4%||Founding NESCAC member.|
|Wellesley College||Wellesley, Massachusetts||28.0%||New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference|
|Williams College||Williamstown, Massachusetts||16.9%||Founding NESCAC member.|
Founding of the institutions
|Institution||Founded||Founding religious affiliation|
|Bates College||1855 (as Maine State Seminary)||Free Will Baptist|
|Colby College||1813 (as Maine Literary and Theological Institution)||Northern Baptist|
|Colgate University||1819 (as Baptist Education Society of the State of New York)||Northern Baptist|
|Haverford College||1833||Quaker (Orthodox)|
|Middlebury College||1800||Informally Congregationalist|
|Swarthmore College||1864||Quaker (Hicksite)|
|Tufts University||1852||Universalist Church|
- Note Founding dates and religious affiliations are those stated by the institution itself. Many of them had complex histories in their early years and the stories of their origins are subject to interpretation. See footnotes for details where appropriate. "Religious affiliation" refers to financial sponsorship, formal association with, and promotion by, a religious denomination. All of the "Little Ivies" are private and not currently associated with any religion.
The schools of the Seven Sisters, historically women's colleges, could be considered a counterpart of the Little Ivies. Schools in this group are occasionally described as "little Ivies" themselves; for example, the Business Times of Singapore mentions "Amherst, Williams, Smith, Wesleyan and Swarthmore" as examples, and Greenes' Guides, illustrated in the chart above, ranks Vassar among the "little Ivies".
Examples of use
- The New York Times, February 10, 1955, p. 33 quotes the President of Swarthmore, describing and decrying social snobbery: "We not only have the Ivy League, and the pretty clearly understood though seldom mentioned gradations within the Ivy League, but we have the Little Ivy League, and the jockeying for position within that."
- Harvard Magazine
- Associate Justice Kennedy
- Episcopal High School of Houston
- Midwest Elite Hockey League
- The Williams Club
- The Atlantic Monthly: "Swarthmore, Amherst, Williams"
- Tamalpais Union High School District: "Amherst, Bowdoin, Hamilton, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams."
- Boston Globe, September 20, 1985, p. 36 refers to "The New England Small College Athletic Conference (alias NESCAC or the 'Little Ivies')".
- "'Little Ivies' big lure for black scholars", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 29, 2006: mentions Amherst, Middlebury, Holy Cross, Bowdoin, Hampshire as "colleges [that] are sometimes known as 'little Ivies,' because they have the image of exclusivity typical of Ivy League schools."
- The Observer of Case Western Reserve University equates the "Little Ivy League" with the NESCAC ("Mentoring program links faculty and student athletes", Matt Cannan September 22, 2006).
- Little Three
- Quaker Consortium
- Black Ivy League -informal list of colleges that attracted top African American students prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s
- Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence
- Jesuit Ivy — Complementary use of "Ivy" to characterize Boston College
- Public Ivies — Group of public U.S. universities thought to "provide an Ivy League collegiate experience at a public school price"
- Seven Sisters — Historically, these were women's colleges each of which had a close tie to an Ivy League (then, men-only) school.
- Southern Ivies — Complimentary use of "Ivy" to characterize excellent universities in the U. S. South
- The Business Times of Singapore mentions Little Ivies as "elite liberal arts colleges" that are "small and selective." April 17, 2001.
- Tyre, Peg & William Lee Adams (2005), "Prep Chic," Newsweek, May 4, 2005 "23 percent of Taft graduates attended one of the Ivies or little Ivies (Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst)."
- Union-News (Springfield, MA), December 5, 1988, p. 13 (quotes a Bryn Mawr official: "If the Seven Sisters were now Siblings, she asked, did that mean that Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst colleges, referred to as the 'Little Ivies,' were cousins?")
- The New York Times (1970): "Students decline Wesleyan offers," June 15, 1970, p. 28: "Amherst College, a member with Williams and Wesleyan in the Little Ivy League..."
- Potts, David B. (1999) Wesleyan University, 1831-1910: Collegiate Enterprise in New England. Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0-8195-6360-9. p. 183: "Wesleyan joined Amherst and Williams in early 1899 to form a new 'Triangular League.' Football, baseball and track competition in this league became something of a trial run for later contests in a wide range of sports under the rubric 'Little Three.'"
- Watterson, John Sayle (2002): College Football. Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-7114-X. p. ix: "Wesleyan played big-time football in the 1880s and 1890s... but a hundred years later they played a small-college schedule and belong to the Little Three, which also included Amherst and Williams."
- Kingston, Paul William and Lionel S. Lewis, "Introduction: Studying Elite Schools in America" (1990). In The High Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification. SUNY Press, ISBN 0-7914-0010-7. p. xviii: "More widely recognized is the distinctive cachet of an Ivy League education—and possibly that at the 'Little Three' (Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams) and a small number of other private colleges and universities."
- United States Congress, Senate, Committee on Finance (1951): Revenue Act of 1951. p. 1768. Material by Stuart Hedden, president of Wesleyan University Press, inserted into the record: "Popularly known, together with Williams and Amherst, as one of the Little Three colleges of New England, [Wesleyan] has for nearly a century and a quarter served the public welfare by maintaining with traditional integrity the highest academic standards." Published by the U.S. Government Printing Office, 1951.
- Duckworth, Henry. One version of the facts: my life in the ivory tower. University of Manitoba Press. p. 94. ISBN 0-88755-670-1.
- Definition at MSN Encarta supports definition as the Little Three and calls Little Ivies schools "that have high academic standards and long traditions but are smaller than those in the Ivy League.". Archived 2009-11-01.
- As of 2005[update], the NESCAC (website) includes: Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams.
- An explanation of "Little Ivy" at athletesadvisor.com
- Greene, Howard and Matthew Greene (2000) Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning: The Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-095362-4, book description at HarperCollins.com
- Caldwell, Tanya. "Colleges Report 2013 Admission Rates". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2013.