Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

100 best liberal arts colleges in America

  • 100 best liberal arts colleges in America

    When it comes to colleges, big state schools get attention for their sports teams, and technology schools get credit for scientific breakthroughs. But America is dotted with top-notch liberal arts colleges that have plenty to offer.

    Many feature core curriculums that require students to sample the arts, humanities, sciences, and languages. Others have open curriculums, challenging students to choose their own path. Some encourage experiential learning like studies abroad, internships, research, and community service—programs that teach students off-campus independence and on-the-job skills. They may promote community involvement, designing ways for students to contribute in needy communities or learn cultural diversity and understanding. Some keep religion close at hand, requiring students attend services or study the Bible.

    At a time when the cost of private colleges is skyrocketing out of reach, a few offer guarantees that students who meet certain academic standards will graduate in four years—or tuition is waived until they finish. More than a few make sure that incoming students get up to speed with first-year seminars in critical thinking, intellectual inquiry, and research skills. Many do not let their students graduate until they learn how to write well.

    Stacker compiled a list of the best liberal arts colleges in America using Niche’s 2021 rankings. Niche ranks colleges on a variety of factors including academics, admissions, financial, and student life. You can read more on Niche’s methodology here. Niche defines a liberal arts college as “their goal is not necessarily to train students for a career (though that may happen), but to challenge their beliefs, make them critical thinkers, and poise them to become global citizens.” Military academies are also liberal arts colleges.

    You may also like: The least educated county in every state

  • #100. Coe College

    - Location: Cedar Rapids, IA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,392
    - Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Acceptance rate: 67%
    - Graduation rate: 66%
    - Six year median earnings: $46,200
    - Two year employment rate: 95%

    Coe College is a small school in Iowa’s second largest city, and it prides itself on offering the benefits of its intimate size with the opportunities of its urban environment. Most of its classes, more than two-thirds, have fewer than 20 students.

  • #99. Knox College

    - Location: Galesburg, IL
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,310
    - Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Acceptance rate: 74%
    - Graduation rate: 75%
    - Six year median earnings: $39,700
    - Two year employment rate: 91%

    Knox College promotes what it calls experiential learning—including study abroad, internships, research, and community service. To that end, it provides Power of Experience Grants, offering every student up to $2,000 to use in their junior or senior year to help pay for items such as travel costs, living expenses during internships, or equipment.

  • #98. Transylvania University

    - Location: Lexington, KY
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 976
    - Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
    - Acceptance rate: 89%
    - Graduation rate: 75%
    - Six year median earnings: $44,100
    - Two year employment rate: 94%

    At Transylvania University, affordability is key. Its tuition is about $10,000 less than what is typical among similar liberal arts schools, and the average financial aid package for incoming students covers about three-quarters of tuition. The school has a “Pioneer Pledge”—guaranteeing that if students enroll for eight consecutive terms, take a full course load, meet academic goals, and declare a major by the end of sophomore year, and do not graduate in four years, the school will cover the cost of tuition while students finish their degree. When the college was founded in 1780, the region was known as Transylvania, which means across the wooded area in Latin.

  • #97. Berea College

    - Location: Berea, KY
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,631
    - Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 38%
    - Graduation rate: 63%
    - Six year median earnings: $33,700
    - Two year employment rate: 92%

    At Kentucky’s Berea College, no student pays tuition. Most of its students come from Kentucky and the Appalachian region, and the mean family income of a first-year student is less than $30,000. Founded by an abolitionist in 1855, Berea was the South’s first interracial and coeducational college.

  • #96. Saint John's University - Minnesota

    - Location: Collegeville, MN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,646
    - Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Acceptance rate: 80%
    - Graduation rate: 76%
    - Six year median earnings: $60,600
    - Two year employment rate: 96%

    Saint John's University is in partnership with the College of Saint Benedict, about six miles away, and students have access to both campuses, courses, and facilities. Women’s housing is located at the College of Saint Benedict, and men’s residences are at Saint John’s, each with restricted visitation. The campuses are linked by a shuttle.

    You may also like: What American education was like 100 years ago

  • #95. The College of Idaho

    - Location: Caldwell, ID
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 920
    - Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 49%
    - Graduation rate: 70%
    - Six year median earnings: $40,000
    - Two year employment rate: 93%

    The College of Idaho, set in a suburb of Boise, offers students a personalized education so they can graduate in four years with a major along with three minors. With its undergraduate curriculum, students focus on four areas of academics—social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and a professional field.

  • #94. Stonehill College

    - Location: Easton, MA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,513
    - Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
    - Acceptance rate: 70%
    - Graduation rate: 79%
    - Six year median earnings: $60,800
    - Two year employment rate: 98%

    Stonehill College is a Catholic school located in a suburb south of Boston. In recent years it opened a new school of arts and sciences and a business school, expanding the number of majors available and developing more cross-disciplinary options. With the school’s encouragement, students spend almost 100,000 hours each year doing community service.

  • #93. Ursinus College

    - Location: Collegeville, PA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,408
    - Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 71%
    - Graduation rate: 79%
    - Six year median earnings: $55,200
    - Two year employment rate: 94%

    At Ursinus College, all first-year students take a two-semester course called the Common Intellectual Experience—small classes designed to build community and tackle issues and questions across disciplines. Required class readings include selections from philosophy, fiction, poetry, economics, race relations, and feminism.

  • #92. Agnes Scott College

    - Location: Decatur, GA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 985
    - Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 70%
    - Graduation rate: 69%
    - Six year median earnings: $39,400
    - Two year employment rate: 88%

    Located not far from Atlanta, Agnes Scott College was founded in 1889 to educate women. In 2015, it introduced a SUMMIT curriculum to be completed by all students. It is designed to provide basics such as critical thinking, public speaking, and digital literacy, build a foundation in humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and fine arts, and encourage international perspectives and global learning through study abroad.

  • #91. Hollins University

    - Location: Roanoke, VA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 666
    - Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 64%
    - Graduation rate: 55%
    - Six year median earnings: $35,400
    - Two year employment rate: 91%

    Hollins was founded in 1842 as a coeducational college but six years later eliminated its men’s programs and became a women’s school. Students are encouraged to learn off-campus—three-quarters complete at least one internship, almost half complete more than one internship, and more than half study abroad.

    You may also like: 15 charities where you can see your direct impact