If you look at the US News College Rankings you’ll see that there are two major rankings, National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges. In general, people have heard of National Universities but few are familiar with the Liberal Arts Colleges or why they are a separate group. So what exactly is a Liberal Arts College?
Click HERE for PDF list of Liberal Arts Colleges here
Liberal Arts College Definition
US News defines the two groups as follows:
- National University- “These universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees, and many strongly emphasize research”
- Liberal Arts College-”emphasize undergraduate education and award at least 50% of their degrees in the liberal arts.”
According to their methodology, US News used the Carnegie Classification of “Baccalaureate Colleges: Arts & Sciences” for the Liberal Arts Colleges category. The Carnegie definition includes the following:
- Awarded fewer than 50 master’s degrees.
- Baccalaureate or higher degrees represent at least 50 percent of all degrees and the focus is on Arts & Sciences.
- Awarded fewer than 20 doctoral degrees.
So basically a LAC is a small, residential college, with little or no graduate teaching, and most majors are in the arts and sciences (not engineering, health careers, accounting, or communications.)
Why consider a Liberal Arts College?
Why would you attend a Liberal Arts College? Because they are small, they offer consistently smaller classes for students. And since there aren’t any graduate students, undergraduates have more interaction with faculty in terms of teaching and research.
Liberal Arts Colleges are a great way to prepare for graduate school. Proportionally, Liberal Arts Colleges produce more PhDs than other institutions, including Research Universities. Students at LACs know their professors well enough to ask them for letters of recommendation to graduate school.
Many Liberal Arts Colleges offer 3-2 programs that allow students to spend three years at a Liberal Arts College and their last two years at an institution that offers engineering to complete an engineering degree. Similar programs are offers in the health and business areas.
In general, the required courses of study at Liberal Arts Colleges are the foundation of many university’s core requirements or common curriculum. Students can study the liberal arts at large universities with graduate students. A Liberal Arts College offers a more personal experience while studying the liberal arts compared to larger universities.
What do Liberal Arts Colleges Look Like?
Out of over 1,500 4-year colleges with at least 500 full-time undergraduates, 180 are classified as Liberal Arts Colleges under the Carnegie Classification. Of the 180, 164 are private institutions and only 16 are public. Pennsylvania has the most with 18, followed by New York with 13 and Virginia and Massachusetts tying for third with 10 year. A total of 15 states do not have any LACS and another 15 have 3 or fewer.
The LACs span the spectrum of competitiveness with acceptance rates ranging from 7% to 100%. A total of 25 schools admitted 20% or less of applicants while over 126 had rates over 50%. All but eight of the schools are some version of test optional. You’ll also find a range of graduation rates among the Liberal Arts Colleges with 145 having a 4-year graduation rate of 50% or better. Thirteen were less than 30%.
As expected, Liberal Arts Colleges are small with only three exceeding 4,000 students, two of them military academies and one a public LAC. There are 27 with less than 1,000 time students. Not surprisingly, the majority of the schools, 126 compete in the NCAA at the D3 level, with another 25 not in the NCAA at all. However, 14 are in Division 2 and 15 are in Division 1.
Many people picture Liberal Arts Colleges in small towns out in the middle of nowhere. And that’s true to some extent. However, over 40% of LACs are located in Large Cities or their suburbs or in Midsize Cities. And while the rest may not have immediate access to big city amenities, many students find that they have little reason to leave their campus bubbles because of their involvement with school activities. Some schools have periodic trips where students can go to nearby cities for concerts whereas some bring the concerts to the schools.
Just because Liberal Arts Colleges have a focus on the arts and sciences doesn’t other options don’t exist. At 40 of the LACS the number graduates with a major in Business was 20% or more. Computer Science majors made up 10% or more the majors at seven of the schools compared to only one in the case of History majors. The most popular majors tend to be in the Social Sciences than followed by Biology.
Costs and Financial Aid
The total cost of attendance among the schools is a low of $19,200 to a high of $82,245. The in-state total cost for the public LACs ranges from $19,2000 to $33,182. Among private schools it was $23,101 to $82,245. There are 15 fifteen schools over the $80,000 and another 43 over $70,000.
At 122 Liberal Arts College, at least 90% of freshman received some institutional aid including at five of the public schools. The average amount of gift aid among the private schools in group spanned from $5,502 to $46,167. However, at three of the schools where over 90% of freshman receive institutional aid, the average net price was still of $40,000 suggesting that schools are likely not meeting full-need or are providing “modest” merit awards relative to the total cost of attendance. Among the private LACS, there were nine that where the institutional gift aid freshman received was less than 50% and another 19 where is under 60%.
Some of the schools do not have a higher percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants. There are seven schools where the percentage 10% or less and another 42 where it’s under 20%. The percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants was 30% or higher at 77 of the LACs and 50% or higher at 20 of the schools.
List of Liberal Arts Colleges
The following table lists 180 Liberal Colleges as defined by the Carnegie Classification. There are plenty of colleges list as Masters Colleges that are essentially Liberal Arts Colleges but are not listed here. This data is part of the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet.
Liberal Arts Colleges
Download PDF List with Graduation Rates, Pell Grant Information, and Applications Fees
|Name||Type||State||Size (all students)||% Admitted||Total price for in-state students 2021-22|
|Ouachita Baptist University||Private||AR||1,764||74||$43,950|
|Claremont McKenna College||Private||CA||1,422||11||$78,717|
|Harvey Mudd College||Private||CA||905||10||$82,236|
|Ave Maria University||Private||FL||1302||64||$41,977|
|New College of Florida||Public||FL||659||74||$21,928|
|Agnes Scott College||Private||GA||1109||70||$60,546|
|Young Harris College||Private||GA||1,407||75||$45,467|
|Lake Forest College||Private||IL||1,690||64||$66,400|
|Saint Mary’s College||Private||IN||1,527||83||$64,430|
|Centenary College of Louisiana||Private||LA||542||63||$57,500|
|St. Mary’s College of Maryland||Public||MD||1,544||77||$31,361|
|United States Naval Academy||Public||MD||4,528||8|
|College of the Holy Cross||Private||MA||3,029||43||$74,520|
|Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts||Public||MA||994||91||$28,185|
|Mount Holyoke College||Private||MA||2342||52||$75,098|
|Wheaton College (Massachusetts)||Private||MA||1,701||82||$74,850|
|Bethany Lutheran College||Private||MN||798||61||$39,430|
|College of Saint Benedict||Private||MN||1557||92||$64,600|
|Concordia College at Moorhead||Private||MN||1,919||72||$41,186|
|Gustavus Adolphus College||Private||MN||2,251||73||$63,270|
|Saint Johns University||Private||MN||1,643||89||$64,334|
|St Olaf College||Private||MN||2,988||47||$66,570|
|University of Minnesota-Morris||Public||MN||1,286||76||$25,562|
|Saint Anselm College||Private||NH||1,977||78||$63,622|
|University of New Hampshire at Manchester||Public||NH||664||83||$31,801|
|CUNY Medgar Evers College||Public||NY||4,134||86|
|Hobart William Smith Colleges||Private||NY||1,684||67||$78,650|
|Marymount Manhattan College||Private||NY||1,770||77||$64,290|
|Sarah Lawrence College||Private||NY||1,766||58||$77,228|
|St Lawrence University||Private||NY||2,279||57||$77,400|
|SUNY at Purchase College||Public||NY||3,522||75||$28,021|
|United States Military Academy||Public||NY||4,594||11|
|Johnson C Smith University||Private||NC||1,166||45||$33,444|
|University of North Carolina at Asheville||Public||NC||3,233||82||$21,231|
|Warren Wilson College||Private||NC||803||77||$54,080|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||Private||OH||1339||74||$65,020|
|The College of Wooster||Private||OH||1968||61||$70,850|
|University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma||Public||OK||849||63||$19,200|
|Lewis & Clark College||Private||OR||3,499||79||$74,452|
|Linfield University-McMinnville Campus||Private||OR||1,297||85||$62,182|
|Bryn Mawr College||Private||PA||1,778||39||$75,690|
|Cheyney University of Pennsylvania||Public||PA||642||$25,102|
|Franklin and Marshall College||Private||PA||2,145||38||$80,618|
|Saint Vincent College||Private||PA||1,592||73||$54,895|
|University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg||Public||PA||1,320||91||$31,262|
|Washington & Jefferson College||Private||PA||1,157||84||$65,164|
|The University of the South||Private||TN||1,820||60||$66,480|
|Saint Michael’s College||Private||VT||1,573||86||$65,239|
|Southern Virginia University||Private||VA||1,170||100||$31,760|
|University of Mary Washington||Public||VA||3,956||82||$30,880|
|University of Richmond||Private||VA||3,890||29||$74,590|
|University of Virginia’s College at Wise||Public||VA||1814||83||$26,765|
|Virginia Military Institute||Public||VA||1,652||64||$33,182|
|Virginia Union University||Private||VA||1,730||94||$29,888|
|Virginia Wesleyan University||Private||VA||1,324||86||$51,774|
|Washington and Lee University||Private||VA||2,238||19||$80,300|
|University of Puget Sound||Private||WA||2,173||88||$73,134|
|Saint Norbert College||Private||WI||2,009||85||$55,619|