Little Ivies

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New England Small College Athletic Conference
New England Small College Athletic Conference logo
Established 1971
Association NCAA
Division Division III
Members 11
Sports fielded 26 (men's: 13; women's: 13)
Region New England
Headquarters Hadley, Massachusetts
Commissioner Andrea Savage (since 1999)
New England Small College Athletic Conference locations

Little Ivies (or singular: Little Ivy) is an unofficial term that has been used in the United States to compare small liberal arts colleges (LACs) to the universities of the Ivy League in some way, usually in academic quality and social prestige. The term is most often associated with the member colleges of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), but may also be used to describe other colleges outside of NESCAC that are academically prominent and socially prestigious. The term is generally restricted to colleges located in the northeastern United States, more specifically New England.

Usage of the term[edit]

The most common schools included are:

Associated colleges[edit]

Institution Location CBB (1965) Little Three (1899) NESCAC (1971) Hidden Ivies (2009) Acceptance Rate
US News
LAC Rank (2016)[20]
National Rank
Washington Monthly
LAC Rank (2015)[22]
Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 13.7% 2nd 9th 18th Founding league member (1955) that became NESCAC (1971).
Bates College Lewiston, Maine Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 21.4% 25th 70th 8th NESCAC Charter Member (1971).
Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 14.9% 4th (tie) 21st 35th Founding league member (1955) that became NESCAC (1971).
Bucknell University Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Green check.png 29.5% 32nd 43rd 101st Competes athletically in the Patriot League.
Colby College Waterville, Maine Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 22.5% 19th (tie) 44th 52nd NESCAC Charter Member (1971).
Colgate University Hamilton, New York Green check.png 23.7% 19th (tie) 40th 48th Competes athletically in the Patriot League.
Connecticut College New London, Connecticut Green check.png 36.2% 48th 92nd 100th Joined NESCAC in 1982.
Hamilton College Clinton, New York Green check.png Green check.png 23.9% 14th (tie) 51st 60th Founding league member (1955) that became NESCAC (1971).
Haverford College Haverford, Pennsylvania Green check.png 23.3% 12th (tie) 19th 9th Competes athletically in the Centennial Conference.[23][24][25][26][27]
Lafayette College Easton, Pennsylvania Green check.png 29.8% 37th 53rd 140th Competes in the Patriot League.
Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont Green check.png Green check.png 17.0% 4th (tie) 34th 78th NESCAC Charter Member (1971).
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, Pennsylvania Green check.png 14.1% 3rd 7th 4th Competes athletically in the Centennial Conference.[24][25][27][28]
Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut Green check.png Green check.png 31.1% 43rd 81st 183rd NESCAC Charter Member (1971).
Tufts University Medford, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png 15.8% 27th (national rank) 24th 39th (national rank) Tufts is now a large research university with approximately 10,000 students and is no longer a small liberal arts college (LAC). The rankings here are for national universities. However, Tufts is a NESCAC Charter Member (1971) and current member.
Union College Schenectady, New York Green check.png 37% 38th 66th 149th NESCAC Charter Member (1971), but left NESCAC in 1977. Currently competes in the Liberty League.
Vassar College Poughkeepsie, New York Green check.png 23.7% 12th (tie) 28th 28th Although co-ed since 1969, it remains one of the Seven Sister Colleges. Competes athletically in the Liberty League.
Wesleyan University Middletown, Connecticut Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 21.9% 14th (tie) 17th 14th Founding league member (1955) that became NESCAC (1971).
Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts Green check.png Green check.png Green check.png 16.8% 1st 2nd 13th Founding league member (1955) that became NESCAC (1971).


Founding and endowment[edit]

Institution Year Founded Founding religious affiliation 2014 Endowment (billion USD) 2014 Endowment per student (USD)
Amherst College 1821 Congregationalist $2.15 $1,204,000
Bates College 1855 Baptist $0.264 $147,000
Bowdoin College 1794 Congregationalist $1.27 $661,000
Bucknell University 1846 Baptist $0.751 $205,000
Colby College 1813 Baptist $0.740 $406,000
Colgate University 1819 Baptist $0.892 $295,000
Connecticut College 1911 Non-denominational $0.278 $145,000
Hamilton College 1812 Presbyterian $0.859 $461,000
Haverford College 1833 Quaker $0.495 $417,000
Lafayette College 1826 Presbyterian $0.833 $335,000
Middlebury College 1800 Congregationalist $1.08 $428,000
Swarthmore College 1864 Quaker $1.88 $1,215,000
Trinity College 1823 Episcopal $0.543 $227,000
Tufts University 1852 Universalist $1.59 $149,000
Union College 1795 Dutch Reformed $0.411 $187,000
Vassar College 1861 Non-denominational $0.974 $406,000
Wesleyan University 1831 Methodist $0.839 $250,000
Williams College 1793 Congregationalist $2.25 $1,098,000
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, except Lafayette which remains nominally Presbyterian.

Related institutions[edit]

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,[29] and Greenes' Guides, illustrated in the chart above, ranks Vassar among the "little Ivies".

The Greenes' Guide, Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence (2000) mentioned Amherst, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, and Williams in their first assessment.[30][31] The second edition (2009) included the notation of Bates College, Colby College, Haverford College, Tufts University, and Trinity College. This list excluded Connecticut College and Union College, which are included in Appendix II as "other colleges of excellence."[32]

Examples of use[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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)."
  2. ^ 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?")
  3. ^ 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..."
  4. ^ 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.'"
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^ Bello, Michael T. "Around the Courts: College Squash Weekend Highlights (1/30/2011)". College Squash Association. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "2011 Top 300 Colleges and Universities Ranked by Internet ‘Brand Equity’". The Global Language Monitor. Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Duckworth, Henry. One version of the facts: my life in the ivory tower. University of Manitoba Press. p. 94. ISBN 0-88755-670-1. 
  12. ^ "Bowdoin Football Featured in Sporting News "50 States, 50 Rivalries" - Bowdoin". Retrieved 2015-12-25. 
  13. ^ "NESCAC football historical scores". Retrieved 2015-12-25. Members of the NESCAC, including: Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College 
  14. ^ Calhoun, Charles (1993). A Small College in Maine. Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College: Bowdoin College. p. 163.: Bowdoin College. pp. 12, 19. ...Of the three top schools in Maine, the CBB drew the most notation to what was informally characterized as a smaller Ivy League, one that provided an Ivy League education with a smaller student body 
  15. ^ Eaton, Mabel (1930). General Catalogue of Bates College and Cobb Divinity School. Coram Library, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine: Bates College. pp. 34, 38, 49. 
  16. ^ Larson, Timothy (2005). Faith by Their Works: The Progressive Tradition at Bates College from 1855 to 1877. Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine: Edmund S. Muskie Archives. pp. 3, 51. 
  17. ^ Clark, Charles E (2005). Bates Through the Years: an Illustrated History. Edmund Muskie Archives: Bates College, Lewiston, Maine: Edmund Muskie Archives. p. 12. With a progressive notion of academic integrity, Bates along with Bowdoin became the major figure heads of Ivy League caliber faculty.. 
  18. ^ Caldwell, Tanya. "Colleges Report 2013 Admission Rates". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings". US News and World Report. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  21. ^ "Top 650 Colleges (2015)" (PDF). Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  22. ^ "College Guide 2015". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b [1] Archived May 11, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ a b "Are Ivy Degrees Worth the Sacrifices?". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  26. ^ [2]
  27. ^ a b "Library Building Projects". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "The Selectivity Illusion". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  29. ^ The Business Times of Singapore mentions Little Ivies as "elite liberal arts colleges" that are "small and selective." April 17, 2001.
  30. ^ "Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning: The Hidden Ivies". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ Greene, Howard. The Hidden Ivies, 2nd Edition: 50 Top Colleges-from Amherst to Williams. Retrieved 2011-11-04.