Best Liberal Arts Colleges & Universities


Finding the right college can be a hefty task. In looking at all the choices out there one thing that can help is to learn about the option of attending a liberal arts college. Liberal arts colleges are rooted in academic and individual excellence in all areas.

The belief is that one must recognize that there are connections between all the academic subjects, meaning that the best liberal arts colleges require someone who is, for example, majoring in Physics to also take humanities courses. Someone who is majoring in Dance must also take mathematics courses.

Connections and critical thinking are the most important ideal in the best liberal arts colleges, so a well-rounded education is the goal. To accomplish this end, the best liberal arts colleges are smaller so that the professors can teach on a more individual level.

Most liberal arts colleges offer degrees up to the Bachelor’s level and are affordable options for those seeking what they have to offer. The advantages of attending the best liberal arts colleges are that the students receive more help from professors, a well-rounded education full of discovery and connections is acquired, and critical thinkers are bred.

If this aligns with your desired outcome, embarking on a quest to discover the finest liberal arts colleges would serve as an auspicious initial stride toward shaping your educational path.

Liberal Arts Colleges and Degrees Fast Facts

  • In 2016, there were 487,141 Liberal Arts & Humanities degrees awarded in the U.S.
  • Median in-state public tuition was $6,385
  • Median out-of-state private tuition was $28,212
  • Miami Dade College awarded the most degrees (8,911) in Liberal Arts & Humanities in the U.S.
  • The average salary for Liberal Arts & Humanities majors was $68,343 in 2016

Sources: IPEDS,

Recommended Liberal Arts Programs for You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.



EDsmart has dug through the data trenches to bring you an easy-to-read, easy to digest ranking of the best Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S.

Schools are ranked based on four data points in three categories:

  • Affordability (financial aid, net price)
  • Student Satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Student Outcome (4-year graduation rate)

Each data point is ranked with equal weight. Schools received a weighted overall ranking score for each individual point mentioned above–100 being the highest score possible.

In the case of a tie in scoring, the average net price was the determining factor for which school received the higher rank–the lower the net price, the higher the ranking.

All data was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics website and is accurate at the time of this writing [July 2019].

Best Liberal Arts Colleges for 2020-2021

1. Mount Holyoke College


Score: 100

Average Net Price: $32,008
Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 84%
ROI: $272,000

Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts

Rank: #30 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Mount Holyoke is one of the traditional Seven Sisters, the American Women's Colleges that provided an outstanding education to women in a time when most women were denied entry to higher education. Today's Mount Holyoke certainly has the same spirit, instructing in a manner that puts the needs of the students first while still providing the structure necessary to succeed.
Mount Holyoke is perhaps most famous for not requiring entrance exams for admissions. MHC is also known for providing work on campus for over two-thirds of its students, as well as helping with the arrangement of internships for those who work elsewhere. As an authentically distinctive American institution of higher learning, Mount Holyoke occupies a prominent position as one of the most impactful liberal arts colleges nationwide.

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2. College of the Holy Cross


Score: 100

Average Net Price: $34,627
Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 91%
ROI: $623,000

Location: Worcester, MA

Rank: #35 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Within the realm of premier liberal arts institutions in the United States, the College of the Holy Cross distinguishes itself as the sole Jesuit university. While the school's religious character undoubtedly sets it apart, its shared customs establish a notable kinship with other esteemed universities. The commitment towards a traditional, well-rounded type of education produces fantastic thinkers and students who can craft their own identities once they leave.

College of the Holy Cross demonstrates a firm dedication to undergraduate education. Every student is instructed by professors who possess either a terminal degree or are actively pursuing one, ensuring a rare opportunity for students to be assured of receiving the utmost quality education from accomplished experts in their respective domains.

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3. Trinity University


Score: 99.3

Average Net Price: $30,505
Retention Rate: 92%
Graduation Rate: 81%
ROI: $475,000

Location: San Antonio, TX

Rank: #3 Best Undergraduate Teaching School by US News and World Report

While Trinity University may not possess the same level of renown as other institutions sharing its name, it undeniably delivers one of the finest comprehensive liberal arts educations available in the nation. It does this by focusing on delivering high quality undergraduate education. This school hearkens back to the days before adjunct professors and teacher's assistants taught every course, providing students with a chance to learn from experts.

Of course Trinity University does provide a top-notch liberal arts education in other ways. It offers a large number of majors and gives students many chances to put their educations to work. It's no wonder that the school continues to produce so many successful graduates.

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4. Hope College


Score: 98.8

Average Net Price: $29,248
Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 78%
ROI: $185,000

Location: Holland, MI

Rank: #103 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

This private liberal arts college is perhaps one of the most traditional on the list. It not only has a strong focus on providing its students with several learning opportunities, but the school also expects students to bolster their learning through many on-campus opportunities. When it comes to education, the school exhibits a notably conventional emphasis, which, in this instance, translates into an earnest commitment to offering students an extensive range of perspectives.

There are relatively few research opportunities here, but many students still take their talents into very practical fields. The education gained at Hope College teaches students one of the most critical skills that there is - how to think. Using that knowledge helps the majority of the school graduates find success later in life.

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5. Wheaton College Massachusetts


Score: 98.8

Average Net Price: $29,688
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 80%
ROI: $269,000

Location: Norton, MA

Rank: #86 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

The Wheaton curriculum has garnered a deep appreciation from its students, who have grown to embrace its unique blend of enabling them to pursue their passions while immersing themselves in the diverse array of offerings provided by the school. This eclecticism not only teaches students alternative ways to approach their own chosen fields, but it allows students a chance to experience more than just their departments.

Wheaton also puts a considerable emphasis on internships, guaranteeing to fund students who choose to pursue them. This allows for more real-world experience and, in most cases, more drive towards completing realistic career field-related tasks. Wheaton balances the creative and expressive needs of its students with a rigorous course of study, providing an excellent liberal arts education for all.

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6. Stonehill College


Score: 98

Average Net Price: $35,409
Retention Rate: 82%
Graduation Rate: 83%
ROI: $550,000

Location: Easton, MA

Rank: #124 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

This Massachusetts college sets out to create thinkers who not only excel in their fields but those who can apply their educations in ways that make their intellect well-rounded and helps them to be able to think outside of the traditional confines of any profession. By employing a fusion of both classical and contemporary techniques, the school diligently equips its students not only to be adequately prepared for the existing world but also to instill in them the impetus for effecting the transformative changes that drive their academic excellence.

A great deal of the focus at Stonehill is on the individual students. Whether this comes from excellent advisors or a concentrated effort to keep class sizes down, students at the undergraduate level receive a great deal more attention than their peers elsewhere. This leads to more meaningful classes, better networking connections, and often a stronger sense of purpose among Stonehill's graduating classes.

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7. Albion College

Score: 97.8

Average Net Price: $18,532
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 68%
ROI: $259,000

Location: Albion, MI

Rank: #152 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Albion College puts a premium on student creativity, encouraging students not just to think but to do. This emphasis necessitates not only the implementation of an exceedingly impactful experiential curriculum for its students but also affording them the opportunity to actively apply their acquired knowledge through a diverse range of research endeavors.

Albion is also a traditional feeder school for some of the best graduate programs in the country, ranging from the social science and law to medicine and the STEM fields. Through providing students with a diverse set of viewpoints and a well-rounded liberal arts education, Albion can help ensure the success of all who pass through its halls.

8. University of Puget Sound


Score: 96.8

Average Net Price: $359,011
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 79%
ROI: $363,000

Location: Tacoma, WA

Rank: #72 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Having been established in 1888 this prestigious liberal arts college located in Washington State holds an esteemed position as one of the most renowned hubs on the west coast for the pursuit of humanities, literature, and social sciences. Going beyond the realm of education, the institution embraces a grander mission of catalyzing profound transformations in the lives of both students and faculty members. Consequently, there exists a notable focus on fostering educational exploration both within the campus confines and abroad, granting students greater opportunities to apply their learning in real world contexts.

Of course theres more to the school than just practical work. The school offers an extensive range of majors, including both traditional liberal arts subjects and cutting edge STEM options. The schools focus means that even its more science and math oriented professors tend to spend more time with students, giving those who pursue an education here a chance to learn directly from not only leaders in the field but from those who have a real passion for teaching.

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2019-2020 Best Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings:

1. Carleton College
2. College of the Holy Cross
3. Wesleyan University
4. Trinity University
5. Hope College
6. Albion College
7. Mount Holyoke College
8. Wheaton College Massachusetts
9. Stonehill College
10. University of Puget Sound
11. The College of Wooster


Recommended Liberal Arts Programs for You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.


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