College Cousins: Bucknell and Colgate

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This month we take a look at Bucknell University (in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania) and Colgate University (in Hamilton, New York). Both have been around for quite a while – Colgate since 1819 and Bucknell, a relative upstart, since 1846. Both institutions have had ample opportunity to work out how to offer the best they have to their students, and it shows. These are two small but very impressive universities.

One of the key advantages of attending a small institution is the opportunity for greater interaction with professors – and having those opportunities from day one. Both Bucknell and Colgate offer this advantage. Each has a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, so small class sizes are the norm, which invites lively discussion that can push the boundaries of academic exploration. No worries here either about receiving an education at the hands of teaching assistants. At Bucknell, 97% of faculty have a Ph.D. (or the highest degree offered in their field), and the corresponding figure at Colgate is 99%.

Most students are well satisfied with the choices available for areas of study. Colgate offers 56 majors and about 50 minors while Bucknell offers 60 majors and that many minors. About 25% of Bucknell’s students choose to double major. Somewhat unusual for schools of this size is that both Colgate and Bucknell offer degree options for aspiring engineers. Colgate’s approach is collaborative and takes the form of a 3-2 plan – three years at Colgate coupled with two years of engineering courses at one of three institutions (Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or Washington University at St. Louis). Bucknell’s on-campus curriculum includes programs in eight of the engineering disciplines and also includes three five-year dual degree programs. 

At their core, however, both of these institutions are devoted to the liberal arts and put a premium on a general liberal arts education. Colgate requires students to earn credits in core courses in addition to two courses each in three areas of inquiry, and each of Bucknell’s three colleges (Liberal Arts, Engineering, and Management) have general education requirements. Of course, these requirements are in addition to requirements for the specific majors that students select. 

These two schools have diversity not only in academics but in their student bodies. At Bucknell, students represent 31 states plus the District of Columbia, as well as 49 countries. In all, about 6% of students hail from abroad, and 7% hold dual citizenship. Colgate is represented by 16% of those two groups combined as a result of receiving applications from all 50 states (plus D.C.) in addition to 133 countries. Both universities report over 20% of U.S. students identifying themselves as students of color. 

Both of these small universities are members of NCAA Division 1 Patriot League (a conference of mostly private institutions in the northeast), and both offer an impressive array of athletic teams. Colgate offers 25 Division I athletic teams and Bucknell’s roster includes more than 40 men’s, women’s, and coeducational sports. More significant in the long run, however, is that both schools have very high student-athlete graduation rates (95% and higher). 

The challenge for these small universities (Bucknell with 3,600 undergrads and Colgate with about 3,000) is to retain the advantages of a small size institution while also offering the opportunities associated with the word “university,” but these two schools seem to cover all the bases and then some. 

Both have frats and sororities.

Both have study abroad programs.

Both have programs for undergrads to work with faculty on important research initiatives.

If a small university would seem to be a good fit for you, then Bucknell and Colgate are two that you will definitely want to consider.