Best Liberal Arts Colleges & Universities

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 connections between all the academic subjects. This means that the best liberal arts colleges require someone who is, say, 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 created.

If this is what you are looking for, then finding the best liberal arts colleges will be a good first step in your educational future.

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, Census.gov

Rankings

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 2019-2020

1. Carleton College

best_liberal_colleges_Carleton_College

Score: 100

Financial Aid: 78%
Average Net Price: $28,148
Retention Rate: 96%
Graduation Rate: 94%

Location: Northfield, MN

Degree Programs: Africana Studies, American Studies, Art History, Asian Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Media Studies, Classics, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, French Studies, Geology, German, History, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Russian, Sociology and Anthropology, Spanish, Statistics, Art, Women’s Studies

Rank: #5 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Carleton College is perhaps one of the best-known liberal arts schools in the country, repeatedly ranking first in undergraduate teaching and producing a remarkable crop of graduates each year. The school produces more than just traditional liberal arts graduates, though, with its alumni not only going on to work in academia but also in both the public and private sectors. One of the leading colleges for the study of liberal arts in the country, it nonetheless maintains a reputation as a friendly and approachable school.

Students at Carleton can not only graduate with one of thirty-three different majors, but they can also design their own degree programs. Students who attend the school also frequently take semesters abroad, with over seventy-five percent of all Carleton graduates spending at least one trimester abroad before graduation. Carleton’s elite academic status, as well its reputation for allowing students to focus their studies on personal areas of interest, has also given Carleton one of the highest percentages of students successfully seeking graduate studies positions, with over ninety-percent of Carleton grads who apply to law school and seventy-five percent of grads who apply to medical school being accepted. Carleton College is this year’s top liberal arts college.

2. College of the Holy Cross

best_liberal_arts_colleges_holy_cross

Score: 99.6

Financial Aid: 73%
Average Net Price: $27,005
Retention Rate: 95%
Graduation Rate: 92%

Location: Worcester, MA

Degree Programs: Accounting, Anthropology, Art History, Asian Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Chinese, Classics, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, French, German, History, International Studies, Italian, Math, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Russian, Sociology, Spanish, World Literature, Studio Art, Theatre

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

Of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States, College of the Holy Cross is the only Jesuit university. The religious nature of the school certainly makes it stand out from the rest, but its traditions actually give it quite a bit in common with the other leading universities. The commitment towards a traditional, well-rounded type of education produces fantastic thinkers and students who are able to craft their own identities once they leave.

College of the Holy Cross has a strong commitment to undergraduate education. All students are taught by actual professors and all of whom either have a terminal degree or are in the process of obtaining one of these degrees. This gives students a rare chance to know that they’re receiving the best education possible from those who are already masters of their fields.

3. Wesleyan University

best_liberal_arts_colleges_wesleyan_university

Score: 99.4

Financial Aid: 48%
Average Net Price: $24,251
Retention Rate: 95%
Graduation Rate: 90%

Location: Middletown, CT

Degree Programs: Accounting, Anthropology, Art History, Asian Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Chinese, Classics, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, French, German, History, International Studies, Italian, Math, Medieval Studies, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Russian, Sociology, Spanish, World Literature, Studio Art, Theatre

Rank: #18 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Wesleyan University calls back to an older age of liberal arts education. It’s not just about curriculums and programs – it’s about intellectual discourse and letting students find their own paths. While those students who want support can certainly find it here, the faculty of Wesleyan drives their students to create their own courses of study.

That is not, however, to say that the school lacks its prerequisites. Students are still expected to have wide-ranging experiences across the arts and sciences in order to become better overall thinkers. By the time a student is done at this college, he or she is expected to have dabbled in a number of subjects and to be able to participate in the nation’s larger intellectual discourse.

4. Trinity University

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_Trinity_University_Northrup

Score: 99.2

Financial Aid: 99%
Average Net Price: $28,540
Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 80%

Location: San Antonio, TX

Degree Programs: Accounting, Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Anthropology, Applied Chemistry, Art, Art History, Biochemistry, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Chinese, Classical Languages, Communication, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, English, Environmental Science, Finance, French, German, Greek, History, International Business and Business Studies, Mathematics, Statistics, Neuroscience, Physics, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, Theatre

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

Trinity University may not be the most famous college named Trinity, but it provides one of the best overall liberal arts educations in the country. It does this not necessarily by an excellent curriculum (which it does have), but by focusing on providing a high quality of undergraduate education. This school hearkens back to the days before adjunct professors and teacher’s assistants teaching ever course, providing students with a chance to learn from experts.

Of course, Trinity University does provide a top-flight 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.

5. Hope College

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_Hope_College

Score: 98.6

Financial Aid: 95%
Average Net Price: $27,795
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 80%

Location: Holland, MI

Degree Programs: Arts and Humanities, Natural and Applied Sciences, Social Sciences

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

This private liberal arts college is not the oldest on the list, but it is perhaps one of the most traditional. It not only has a strong focus on providing its students with a number of learning opportunities, but the school also expects students to bolster their learning through a number of on-campus opportunities. The school’s focus is very traditional when it comes to learning, but in this case, that tends to mean providing students with as many points of view as possible.

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 important skills that there is – how to think. Using that knowledge helps the majority of the school’s graduates find success later in life.

6. Albion College

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_albion_college

Score: 98.2

Financial Aid: 100%
Average Net Price: $19,913
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 57%

Location: Albion, MI

Degree Programs: Culture and Gender Studies, Animal Behavior, Art History, Ancient Studies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Business, Communication and Journalism, Computer and Information Sciences, Dance, English, Film and New Media, Health Professions, Languages, Literature, History, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Psychology, Religion, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

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 means not only having a remarkably effective hands-on curriculum for its students, but also giving the students a chance to put what they’ve learned into action through a variety of research activities.

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 is able to help ensure the success of all through pass through its halls.

7. Mount Holyoke College

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_Mount_Holyoke_College

Score: 98

Financial Aid: 77%
Average Net Price: $29,784
Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 86%

Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts

Degree Programs: Culture and Gender Studies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Communication and Journalism, Computer and Information Sciences, English, Health Professions, Languages, Literature, History, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Psychology, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

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 outstanding education to women in a time when most were denied entry to higher education. Today’s Mount Holyoke certainly has the same spirit, providing education 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. It is also known for providing work for over two-thirds of its students on campus, as well as helping with the arrangement of internships for those who work elsewhere. A truly unique American university, Mount Holyoke stands as one of the most important liberal arts schools in the country.

8. Wheaton College Massachusetts

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_Wheaton_College_

Score: 97.8

Financial Aid: 99%
Average Net Price: $31,814
Retention Rate: 88%
Graduation Rate: 78%

Location: Norton, MA

Degree Programs: Culture and Gender Studies, Animal Behavior, Art History, Ancient Studies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Business, Communication and Journalism, Computer and Information Sciences, Dance, Education, English, Film and New Media, Health Professions, Languages, Literature, History, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Psychology, Religion, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

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

Students at Wheaton have come to know and love the Wheaton curriculum, a school curriculum that not only allows students to pursue their own passions but also to explore the breadth of offerings that the school has to offer. This not only teaches students alternative ways to approach their own chosen fields, but it allows students a chance to experience more than just their own departments.

Wheaton also puts a huge 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 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.

9. Stonehill College

best_liberal_arts_colleges_universities_Stonehill-College

Score: 97.8

Financial Aid: 99%
Average Net Price: $33,583
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 80%

Location: Easton, MA

Degree Programs: Accounting American Studies, Anthropology Arts & Visual Culture Arts, Administration, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Biology, Catholic Studies, Chemistry, Communication, Computer Science, Criminology,Dance, Data Science, Dual Languages Early Childhood Education Earth & Planetary Science Economics Elementary Education, English, Environmental Sciences, Environmental Studies, Finance, French, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Graphic Design, Health Science, Healthcare Administration, History, Interdisciplinary Studies, International Business Management, Marketing, Mathematics ,Music, Neuroscience, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science & International Studies, Psychology, Religious Studies, Secondary Education, Sociology Spanish, Studio Arts, Theater Arts, Visual Studies

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 own fields but those who can apply their liberal arts educations in a way that makes them well-rounded and able to think outside of the traditional confines of any profession. The school makes use of techniques both classical and modern to ensure that their students are not only well-prepared for the world as it is, but to make the changes that drive the students to excel academically.

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 are given a great deal more attention than their peers elsewhere. This means more meaningful classes, better networking connections, and often a stronger sense of purpose among Stonehill’s graduating classes.

10. University of Puget Sound

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_University_Puget_Sound

Score: 97.4

Financial Aid: 100%
Average Net Price: $40,065
Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 78%

Location: Tacoma, WA

Degree Programs: African American Studies, Art & Art History, Asian Languages & Cultures, Asian Studies, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Bioethics, Biology, Business & Leadership, Chemistry, Classics, Communication Studies, Computer Science
Economics, Education Studies, Engineering, English, Environmental Policy & Decision Making, Exercise Science, French Studies, Gender & Queer Studies, Geology, German Studies, Global Development Studies, Hispanic Studies, History, International Political Economy, Latin American Studies, Latina/o Studies, Mathematics and Computer Science, Music, Natural Science, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Physical Education, Physics
Politics & Government, Psychology, Religious Studies, Science, Technology & Society
Sociology & Anthropology, Theatre Arts

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

Founded in 1888, this Washington-based liberal arts school is one of the west coast’s best-known institutions for studying the humanities, literature, and the social sciences. The mission of the school is not to simply educate, though, but also to change the lives of students and faculty alike. As such, there is a significant emphasis on exploring educational opportunities both on campus and abroad, giving students more of an ability to put their educations into real-world scenarios.

Of course, there’s more to the school than just practical work. The school offers a truly wide range of majors, including both traditional liberal arts subjects and cutting-edge STEM options. The school’s education focus does mean 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 true passion for teaching.

11. The College of Wooster

Best Liberal Arts Colleges_College_ of_wooster

Score: 97

Financial Aid: 99%
Average Net Price: $28,928
Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 77%

Location: Wooster, OH

Degree Programs: Culture and Gender Studies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Communication and Journalism, Computer and Information Sciences, Education, English, Health Professions, Languages, Literature, History, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Psychology, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

Rank: #67 Liberal Arts School by US News and World Report

Regarded as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, this school stands out as a hidden gem in the middle of Ohio. With a huge variety of potential liberal arts majors as well as a number of majors in the STEM field, it provides a traditional liberal arts education for those students who appreciate both having a fair bit of guidance as well as having the freedom to blaze their own trails.

Despite the emphasis on the liberal arts, The College of Wooster still has a strong focus on research and writing. This not only helps students to better direct their own lines of study in practical ways, but it provides a framework that allows for meaningful feedback and guidance. An excellent choice for those students who want a traditional but still creative outlet for their academic needs, it is considered by observers and students alike as one of America’s premier institutions of learning.

Leave a Response