6 Options for Public Liberal Arts Colleges

college campusLiberal Arts Colleges are known for their focus on undergraduate teaching. They’re generally small with few or no graduate students and rank high in student engagement in research, internships, and culminating senior experiences. They can be very good for preparing students for graduate school. And they’re overwhelmingly private institutions.

Only five of the schools in US News College Rankings top 100 National Liberal Arts Colleges are public. Only three are in the top 50 and they are the Service Academies. Of the 226 colleges with 500 or more full-time undergraduates classified as Baccalaureate College – Arts & Sciences, the definition that’s the basis for the US News Rankings, only 32 are public. Among these 32 public Liberal Arts Colleges, only 10 have five-year graduate rates of 50% or more and four of them are military institutions, the Service Academies and the Virginia Military Institute.

Those looking for a public Liberal Arts Colleges should start with the following six schools.

St Mary's College of Maryland

St Mary’s College of Maryland

Over 1,700 students attend this public Honors Liberal Arts College. It accepts 72% of students and has an 80% five-year graduation rate. The college’s signature study abroad program is at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oxford where all courses are pre-approved for credit.


New College of Florida

New College of Florida

The 793 students at New College of Florida receive Narrative Evaluations instead of grades and students complete contracts instead of credit hours for graduation. The college accepts 61% of applicants and has a 67% five-year graduation rate.


University of Minnesota Morris

University of Minnesota-Morris

The 1,815 students are the driving force behind the University’s sustainability initiatives that has resulted in the school averaging 100 days a year off the grid. The school’s five-year graduation rate is 58% and it accepts 58% of applicants.


SUNY at Purchase

SUNY at Purchase College

Should any of the almost 4,000 students tire of the world-class music, dance, and theatre in the campus four-theatre complex, they only have to travel 35 miles to New York City for more options. Purchase admits only 33% of applicants and has a 56% five-year graduation rate.


University of New Hampshire at Manchester

University of New Hampshire at Manchester

The approximately 600 full-time undergraduates can participate in The Politics and Society Florence Summer Program. The university’s five-year graduation rate is 52% and it accepts 73% of applicants.


University of North Carolina Asheville

University of North Carolina at Asheville

Just over 3,100 full-time undergraduates have the opportunity work on research projects or intern in National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center. The university has a 64% acceptance rate and a 51% five-year graduation rate.

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