National-Liberal-Arts-Colleges
Our 2015 Rankings of National Liberal Arts Colleges are based exclusively on factors actual college freshmen said were most important to their college decision. According to the most recent nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, these factors include academic reputation, financial aid offerings, overall cost, and success of graduates in the post-college job market. Each of these factors were weighted equally in our ranking and data was derived from a variety of publicly available sources, including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.com.
 
Update: We have just released our 2016 ranking of the best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Click here for the latest ranking.

50
St. Olaf College
St. Olaf College

Image Source
St. Olaf College offers a distinctive education grounded in academic rigor, residential learning, global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition. Known as “The Hill,” St. Olaf College’s picturesque 300-acre campus sits adjacent to 325 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands, and native tallgrass prairie owned and maintained by St. Olaf, and a utility-grade wind turbine that supplies one-third of the college’s daily electrical needs. From the curriculum to advanced research, from energy conservation and local purchasing of food products, the college has been actively engaged in seeking out solutions and advancing the well-being of the planet. In tribute to the Norwegian immigrants who founded the college, St. Olaf still offers a robust program in Scandinavian culture, including Norwegian language classes, Nordic film studies, and Viking history courses. In addition to a liberal arts education students are required to take, at a minimum, the Bible in Culture and Community course and a class on Christian theology. Of St. Olaf’s 3,115 full-time undergraduates 68 percent receive some kind of need-based financial aid.

Academic reputation score: 68
Average financial aid: $21,527
Average net price: $27,323
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
49
Hampden-​Sydney College
Hampden Sydney College

Image Source
Founded in 1775 Hampden-Sydney College is the tenth oldest college in the United States and one of the nations’s only three remaining traditional all-male colleges. Hampden-Sydney’s honor code demands that H-SC men will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. This code permeates the campus atmosphere and enriches the college culture with mutual respect. H-SC has a well-respected rhetoric program and graduates site how being trained to think clearly, communicate concisely, and to write well was one of the most important academic experiences. At Hampden-Sydney College, 60.7 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid. Though H-SC’s Academic reputation score is the lowest on our list their post graduate starting salary of $49,800 and the average low net price to attend or $19,974 make it a competitive choice.

Academic reputation score: 55
Average financial aid: $18,570
Average net price: $19,974
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
48
Rhodes College
Rhodes College

Image Source
Rhodes College found across from Overton Park and the Memphis Zoo in the artsy neighborhood of Midtown, Memphis is a great location to balance academic life and extracurricular fun. Students can enjoy life on the beautiful campus or venture into downtown Memphis to experience the city’s famed music scene, dining, professional sporting events, and museums. There are more than 50 majors and minors and 100 student organizations at Rhodes. Around 75 percent of students complete internships at top-rated institutions such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and multiple Fortune 500 companies. Approximately 80 percent of students participate in community service projects, and about one third of Rhodes students go on to graduate or professional schools. The acceptance rates of Rhodes alumni to law and business schools are around 95 percent, and the acceptance rate to medical schools is nearly twice the national average. More than 93 percent of Rhodes students receive some form of financial assistance through fellowships, scholarships, grants, loans, or student employment at Rhodes.

Academic reputation score: 67
Average financial aid: $21,516
Average net price: $27,273
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
47
College of Wooster
College of Wooster

Image Source
College of Wooster is one of only two schools that every year since 2002 has made U.S. News & World Report’s list of schools with outstanding undergraduate research opportunities and senior capstone programs. Each Wooster student’s senior year is filled by working one-on-one with a faculty mentor to conceive, plan, and complete a significant piece of original research, scholarship, or creative expression, in a capstone program called I.S. Wooster’s Fighting Scots compete in the NCAA Division III and have 23 intercollegiate teams. Wooster’s homecoming weekend is a bit out of the ordinary, almost 1,000 people attend a annual cricket match. The 2014–2015 comprehensive fee to attend Wooster is $53,600. Over 75 percent of Wooster students receive financial assistance and over $46 million of this aid takes the form of merit scholarships and need-based grants without repayment obligation. Six months after graduation, more than 90 percent of Wooster graduates are employed or in graduate school.

Academic reputation score: 62
Average financial aid: $24,911
Average net price: $24,589
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
46
Oberlin College
Oberlin College

Image Source
Founded in 1883, Oberlin has longstanding commitments to access, diversity, and inclusion, noted in that it was the first college in America to adopt a policy to admit African American students (1835) and the first to grant bachelor’s degrees to women (1841) in a coeducational program. Oberlin’s College of Arts and Science offers 47 majors and 42 minors and concentrations. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the country. The college and conservatory sponsor more than 500 concerts and recitals, about 40 theater and dance productions, and two operas each year. For the low rent of $5 a month students can obtain up to two works of art for a semester by artists such as Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec through the Art Rental program. Oberlin would be much higher on our rankings due to their strong Academic reputation score of 80 but Oberlin has the highest net price to attend on our list at $35,790, though the college does meet 100 percent of students demonstrated financial need.

Academic reputation score: 80
Average financial aid: $21,478
Average net price: $35,790
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
45
Wofford College
Wofford College

Image Source
Located in historic downtown Spartanburg, SC, Wofford College is a Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college that welcomes students of all faiths and beliefs. The 170 tree-lined acre campus is a designated arboretum, making Wofford an exceptionally beautiful setting for higher learning. Wofford uses a 4-1-4 academic calendar, offers more than 50 majors and minors to its 1,588 students, and 57 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. More than 90 percent of the student body decides to live on campus during their college careers. Wofford has 18 men’s and women’s varsity sports, and the Terriers compete in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference. Tuition and fees at Wofford College total $35,515, and 44 percent of students have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 62
Average financial aid: $24,889
Average net price: $21,066
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
44
St. Lawrence University
St. Lawrence University

Image Source
St. Lawrence University, named for the St. Lawrence River, which lies approximately 20 miles from campus, is New York’s oldest coed university. St. Lawrence’s 2,398 students can choose from 40 academic majors available and 36 minors and 61.5 percent of the schools classes have fewer than 20 students. Students are also able to take courses at nearby Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam and can make use of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), allowing them to study at over 100 universities on six different continents. Located in the village of Canton, New York, St. Lawrence is considered a “walking campus,” as most the majority of the university is off-limits to cars. St. Lawrence has 100 students organizations, including the Outing Club, which is one of the oldest and largest in the country. St. Lawrence University is also home to the Java Barn, an on-campus music venue that hosts live bands every weekend. Tuition and fees at St. Lawrence University total $46,040, and 39 percent of students have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 66
Average financial aid: $26,789
Average net price: $28,601
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
43
Dickinson College
Dickinson College

Image Source
Founded in 1773 as Carlisle Grammar School in Carlisle, PA, Dickinson was the first college to be chartered after the Revolutionary War came to a close, marking the formation of the United States. Today, Dickinson’s total undergraduate enrollment of 2,386, pick from a selection of 42 majors, with an emphasis on international studies. Dickinson has a USDA organic certified farm and the college shows its environmentally conscious through a variety of green initiatives while also being one of only 16 schools in the nation to receive the highest score of 99/100 “Green Rating.” At Dickinson College 56 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the median student loan debt for those in the class of 2013 who borrowed was $21,000. One year after graduation, 92 percent Dickinson graduates are either employed or attending graduate school.

Academic reputation score: 72
Average financial aid: $24,807
Average net price: $31,527
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
42
DePauw University
Depauw College

Image Source
Founded in 1837 by the Methodist Church, DePauw’s enrollment of approximately 2,400 students can choose between a liberal arts college or one of the nation’s first Schools of Music. Fiftey-three percent of DePauw students receive need based financial aid which offsets the comprehensive charges of tuition, room, board and fees equalling $54,026. Depauw offers Forty-two majors, three music degree programs, five honors and fellows programs, plus experiential learning opportunities off campus and abroad. DePauw students can apply for entry to five Programs of Distinction. They are the Honor Scholars and Information Technology Associates programs and three fellowships in Management, Media, and Science Research. Located in Greencastle, Indiana, a 45-minute drive west of Indianapolis, Depauw’s campus is also home to a 520-acre nature park where students can hike 9 miles of trails, catch a show in the outdoor amphitheater, or perform ecological research. The Prindle Institute for Ethics located in the Nature Park is where students, faculty, and visiting scholars come together to debate moral decisions in a picturesque setting.

Academic reputation score: 67
Average financial aid: $22,970
Average net price: $25,830
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
41
Denison University
Denison College

Image Source
Denison is the state of Ohio’s second oldest liberal arts college. With a spacious 900-acre campus located in the small town of Granville, Denison offers its students plenty of room to spread out, including its 550-acre biological reserve just east of campus, where professors of sciences like geology and biology often hold class. Students can walk to the restaurants and shops on Granville’s main street. Bikers can enjoy a 36-mile trail connecting Granville to several nearby Ohio cities. The state capital, Columbus, is about twenty miles away, and students can get there by way of free shuttles. All Denison students must live on campus, unless they are married, have children, are over the age of twenty-five, or commute from home. Denison offers its 2,336 students BA, BS, and BFA degrees, a student to teacher ratio of 9:1, and 74 percent of classes with 20 or fewer students. According to college lore, students who step on the seal in front of the school’s Swasey chapel will not graduate, so watch your step! Tuition and fees total $43,910 and 27 percent of students have their financial needs fully met.

Academic reputation score: 70
Average financial aid: $23,244
Average net price: $28,776
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
40
Union College
Union College

Image Source
Located in Schenectady, New York, Union College was the first college chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. Union’s 2,241 students can choose to major in one of 21 academic departments within the college’s liberal arts curriculum. Eighty-nine percent of students live in college housing, and all students belong to one of Union’s seven Minerva Houses, which provide a center for members’ academic and social activities. These Houses also provide residence halls offering distinctive housing for over 240 upper-class students. There are more than 100 student clubs and organizations, including more than 15 fraternities and sororities to choose from at Union. More than 60 percent of students travel abroad before graduation and 67.6 percent of Union’s classes have fewer than 20 students. Tuition and fees total $46,785 and 97 percent have financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 73
Average financial aid: $23,417
Average net price: $32,633
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
39
Gettysburg College
Gettysburg College

Image Source
Gettysburg College was named as one of The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges for 2014. The honor was presented to only 150 colleges out of 2,000 surveyed nationwide in 2012–2013 concerning their academics, cost, and financial aid awards. Gettysburg College awarded $45.2 million in merit scholarships and need-based grants for the 2012–2013 academic year, benefiting 67 percent of the student body. Gettysburg offers a four-year career prep program and its international alumni network lead to internships, externships, and careers. Ninty-five percent of graduates, one year out, are on a career track or in graduate school. Gettysburg offers over 1,000 leadership opportunities every year. The school is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The Eisenhower Institute, formally recognized as a distinctive program of the college is a nationally recognized center for leadership and public policy based in Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.

Academic reputation score: 70
Average financial aid: $47,200
Average net price: $28,987
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
38
Kenyon College
Kenyon college

Image Source
Located in central Ohio, Kenyon College’s 1,600 students study with nearly 200 professors on an exceptionally beautiful hilltop campus that makes Leisure and Travel’s list of “America’s Most Beautiful College Campuses.” The hilly campus runs into the town’s quaint shops, and the main walkway of campus, Middle Path is 10 foot wide and lined with the most beautifully glowing orange trees in fall. Kenyon has over 50 majors, minors, and concentrations in 18 departments and is enriched by 13 interdisciplinary programs. Kenyon is highly selective: 47 percent of the Class of 2017 were in the top 5 percent of their high school graduating class. Nearly one-third of the student body participates in intercollegiate athletics (NCAA Division III). Kenyon’s strong men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have won a combined 56 national championships/titles. For 2014–2015, total charges to attend Kenyon are $58,890. About 50 percent of students receive need-based financial aid with an
Average financial aid package being $24,005.

Academic reputation score: 77
Average financial aid: $24,005
Average net price: $31,675
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
37
Occidental College
Occidental College

Image Source
Occidental College is located 8 miles from downtown Los Angeles in the neighborhood of Eagle Rock. Students are required to live on campus for their first three years of school, but there are more than 100 clubs and organizations to get involved in on campus. Occidental also has a handful of sororities and fraternities, and a coed organization. Occidental College is notable for its diverse undergraduate student body with only about 60 percent of students being Caucasian. Around 75 percent of Oxy’s 2,176 students participate in a study abroad program during their education, and for classes on campus, 64 percent have fewer than 20 students. Occidental has produced 10 Rhodes Scholars and is one of the nation’s leading Fulbright feeder schools, with 72 students winning the grant since 2003. Downtown L.A. is brimming with opportunities for college students: internships, dining, nightlife. The college’s proximity to Hollywood makes it one of the most filmed campuses in the U.S. Tuition and fees at Occidental total $46,270 and 99.8 percent have their financial needs met.

Academic reputation score: 73
Average financial aid: $27,806
Average net price: $30,537
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
36
Virginia Military Institute
2013 Presidential Inauguration

Image Source
Founded in 1839, Virginia Military Institute is the first state-supported military college in the U.S. The institute offers 14 majors and 20 minors categorized under engineering, liberal arts, humanities, and the sciences. 90 percent of VMI’s 1,664 students are men, and 83 percent are caucasian. Students of VMI are required to participate in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), but unlike other federal service academies, Virginia Military Institute’s students are not required to serve in the military once they graduate. VMI offers students over 80 academic, professional, and social clubs to participate in and they compete in NCAA Division I in athletics. Freshmen are required to participate in the Rat Line, a system designed to create equality and prepare cadets for the mental and physical challenges of their career in the Corps. 84 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year. In-state tuition and fees are $14,404, whereas out-of-state tuition and fees total $35,392. 51 percent of students have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 62
Average financial aid: $12,676
Average net price: $13,133
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
35
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College

Image Source
Bryn Mawr was the first women’s college to offer graduate education through the level of PhD, a signal of its founders’ refusal to accept the limitations imposed on women’s intellectual achievement at other institutions. Located in the suburban outskirts of Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sister colleges, and is part of the Tri-College Consortium founded by Quakers that includes the coeducational institutions of Swarthmore College and Haverford College. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,322 students. Bryn Mawr graduates have the highest average starting salary of the other women’s colleges and enjoy the strong student/faculty ratio of 8:1. On the first Sunday after the end of finals, the campus gathers for May Day, an annual tradition in which students dress in all-white to eat strawberries and cream and perform traditional Scottish and Maypole dances.

Academic reputation score: 79
Average financial aid: $ 24,774
Average net price: $ 30,940
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
34
Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College

Image Source
Mount Holyoke College, according to The Princeton Review’s 2011 edition of The Best 373 Colleges, ranked first in the category of “best classroom experience,” and was highly rated in other categories, including “most politically active students” (#3) and “most beautiful campus” (#7). Located in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College is a highly selective, residential, research college for women. It was the first member of the Seven Sisters colleges, and served as a model for some of the others. Mount Holyoke is renowned for educating women leaders, from medical pioneers to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights. Mount Holyoke is a member of the Five College Consortium, which includes Amherst, Hampshire and Smith colleges, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. At Mount Holyoke College, 69.7 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid to offset the 2013–2014 total undergraduate fees of $53,596.

Academic reputation score: 74
Average financial aid: $ 29,837
Average net price: $ 25,659
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
33
Skidmore College
Skidmore College

Image Source
Saratoga Springs is a picturesque small city that’s been called one of the most interesting and vibrant small cities in the U.S. and is only three hours drive from New York, Boston, and Montreal. That’s great for students who don’t want to study in an urban setting, yet want access to big cities. Skidmore offers a broad curriculum, with traditional majors in the liberal arts and sciences, but also in subjects like management and business. The school is dedicated to the environment and has two “green” apartment complexes that rely on geothermal heating and cooling systems. Skidmore is listed in 2014 The Princeton Review’s 150 Best Value Colleges under “best bang for your buck,” as the average post-college student debt (just under $23,000) is well below the national average. In addition, annually 150 students land credit-bearing internships or practicums, more than half of which are funded by Skidmore. With some of that money students save they can go enjoy themselves at the nation’s oldest thoroughbred racetrack in Saratoga Springs.

Academic reputation score: 72
Average financial aid: $32696
Average net price: $23,804
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
32
Reed College
Reed College

Image Source
The phrase “Keep Portland Weird” definitely applies to Reed College. You won’t find Greek organizations, varsity sports, or course grades at this college in Portland, OR. While the college deemphasizes grades, Reed is known for its highly intellectual—and countercultural—students and relaxed administration. Reed’s students face a rigorous curriculum with requirements such as a yearlong humanities course and a senior thesis with written and oral exam components. Reed College ranked high in two important categories by The Princeton Review 2014, number 1 in “Best Classroom Experience,” and number 2 in “Professors Get High Marks.” These rankings were based on students’ answers to several survey questions including how they rate their professors, their classroom and lab facilities, the amount of in-class time devoted to discussion, and the percentage of classes they attend. Total cost of attendance (2013–2014) is $57,780, and 50 percent of Reed students receive financial aid, and of those, 100 percent had of their demonstrated need met.

Academic reputation score: 61
Average financial aid: $36,397
Average net price: $19,238
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
31
Connecticut College
Connecticut College

Image Source
Connecticut College’s comprehensive fee for 2014–2015 is $60,895. This covers tuition, room and board, lab fees, studio fees, special programs, such as funded internships, some course-related travel, study away, and even music lessons. Fifty-two percent of Conn College’s students receive financial aid, all of which have their needs met in full. Among liberal arts colleges, Connecticut College is a top producer of Fulbright scholars. The school was one of the first to offer a human ecology major, which is now known as environmental studies. About 75 percent of their students are involved in competitive sport, either through intramural, club, or varsity athletics. Students can venture in to New London, a town where the arts and music scene are brimming, shops and galleries stay open late on Friday nights. Students also often frequent Ocean Beach and Harkness Memorial State Park.

Academic reputation score: 72
Average financial aid: $32,025
Average net price: $24,845
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
30
Colorado College
Colorado College

Image Source
Adopted in 1970, Colorado College’s “Block Plan” is a uniquely intensive academic schedule that allows students to plunge into a different subject every three and a half weeks, rather than balancing several classes throughout a semester. Students take one course at a time with each block covering the same amount of material as a typical semester system. Each month, students get a four-and-a-half day “Block Break” to recharge before starting a new course. When students aren’t in class or are on a “Block Break” there is plenty to do. CC is located in Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak, where students can hike, bike and climb. In addition, Colorado College is less than three hours from 10 different ski resorts and less than a day’s drive from seven national parks. While the majority of college aid is need-based with an average package $28,888, Colorado College does offer merit-based scholarships, as well as athletic scholarships through their two NCAA Division I athletic programs—women’s soccer and men’s ice hockey.

Academic reputation score: 78
Average financial aid: $28,888
Average net price: $23,262
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
29
Macalester College
Macalester College

Image Source
Nestled between the Twin Cities of Minnesota—with their great theaters, museums, and outdoor actives—lies Macalester College, an intimate liberal arts college with a wealth of internship opportunities in business, finance, medicine, government, law, the arts. Macalester College is committed to an international focus, regularly enrolling students from more than 90 countries (one of the highest percentages of foreign students in the United States), and about 60 percent of the student body studies abroad. Macalester meets the full financial need of admitted students—1 of only 70 colleges nationally that does so—and two-thirds of its 1,978 undergraduates receive financial aid, which helps to offset a total annual cost of $57,478. In addition to Macalester’s 37 majors and 63 areas of study, an arrangement between Macalester and both the University of Minnesota and Washington University in St. Louis makes it possible for a student to earn a BA degree from Macalester and a BS degree in engineering or applied science from either university in five years.

Academic reputation score: 81
Average financial aid: $29,760
Average net price: $23,555
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
28
Bucknell University
Bucknell College

Image Source
Bucknell University’s 3,500 undergraduate students can can choose from 50 majors and 65 minors in engineering, management, education, and music, as well as programs and pre-professional advising that prepare students for study in law and medicine. Despite being one of the largest liberal arts colleges, Bucknell’s classes are all taught by professors and the school touts a 9:1 student/faculty ratio. Bucknell’s average starting salary for graduates is also one of the highest on our list at $53,400. $60,140 is the comprehensive fee that it could cost to attend but Bucknell evaluates each student’s financial circumstances to determine financial aid. Bucknell is located alongside the West Branch Susquehanna River in the small town of Lewisburg, PA. The Susquehanna River Valley is surrounded by state parks, scenic country roads, abundant fishing streams and year-round recreational opportunities.

Academic reputation score: 77
Average financial aid: $27,936
Average net price: $29,204
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
27
Franklin and Marshall College
Franklin & Marshall

Image Source
Located in historic Lancaster, PA, a dynamic city with a thriving arts scene, Franklin and Marshall’s need-based aid investment for 50 percent of their students underscores its commitment to enroll highly qualified students who could not otherwise afford it. Otherwise, Franklin and Marshall’s 2,324 students will pay $60,999 in total tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 academic year. Established in 1787, with a gift of 200 British pounds from Benjamin Franklin, the school later merged with Marshall College, named for former Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall to get it’s current name. F&M’s first trustees included five signers of the Declaration of Independence, two members of the Constitutional Convention and seven officers of the Revolutionary War. Many F&M students choose to study within the college’s strong government program. Its vast pool of notable alumni help students score high-level internships in government locally and abroad.

Academic reputation score: 72
Average financial aid: $35,072
Average net price: $21,508
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
26
Barnard College
Barnard College

Image Source
Admissions to Barnard is considered most selective. The class of 2017’s admission rate was 20.5 percent, a new record low for the school, which makes it the most selective women’s college in the nation. Total cost to attend Barnard is $59,000 and the average loan indebtedness of class of 2013 was $18,428. The school has a renowned Barnard Center for Research On Women, which sponsors conferences and panels on the subjects of gender, feminism, and women’s rights. Found in the borough of Manhattan, in New York City, women at Barnard College can have a varied educational experience—a small, liberal arts school and a large, coeducational Ivy League institution. Columbia University and Barnard students can take courses at the other, live in the same residence halls, share access to twenty-two libraries, and compete together in the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium.

Academic reputation score: 77
Average financial aid: $34,719
Average net price: $23,024
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
25
Carleton College
Carleton College

Image Source
Known for its academic excellence, Carleton College has the 7th highest academic reputation score of 91, among our list of top 50 liberal arts colleges. Located in the historic river town of Northfield, Minnesota, Carleton’s 2,055 students are offered 37 majors, with 15 concentrations. Carleton’s expansive 1,040 acre campus includes an 880-acre arboretum. 55.7 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average financial aid package at Carleton is $26,419. The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 98 percent, and the college also has a high 4 year graduation rate of 91 percent. Carleton requires students to complete a senior-year integrative exercise that consists of research or creative expression and publicly-presented papers often referred to as “comps.”

Academic reputation score: 91
Average financial aid: $26,419
Average net price: $29,921
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
24
College of the Holy Cross
O'Kane Hall, Holy Cross, on a foggy Worcester morning.

Image Source
College of the Holy Cross is the nation’s only Jesuit institution serving only undergraduates. Perched upon the north slope of Mount Saint James, Holy Cross enjoys a panoramic view of the city of Worcester, MA. Worcester is the second-largest city in Massachusetts, and is a booming college town home to a dozen educational institutions. Holy Cross offers over 100 student clubs and organizations for its 2,926 students. Sixty-five percent of Holy Cross classes have fewer than twenty students, providing an intimate learning environment for students to pursue one of 28 Bachelor of Arts majors. As of 2010, Holy Cross placed in the top 3 percent of four-year colleges in the number of students going on to earn doctorates in their fields, boasting exceptional acceptance rates for graduates applying to medical school (84 percent) and law school (90 percent). Holy Cross is the only Catholic college among the U.S. News and World Report’s Top 50 Liberal Arts schools, ranking #25. Tuition and fees total $44,272, and 95.5 percent of students had their financial need met.

Academic reputation score: 80
Average financial aid: $31,034
Average net price: $23,324
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
23
Davidson College
Davidson College

Image Source
Davidson College is recognized as one of the nation’s more rigorous academic institutions, having produce 23 Rhodes Scholars. With over 20 undergraduate majors and a 10:1 student/faculty ratio, Davison was rated by Newsweek as 2012’s third most rigorous school in the United States. Of the 1,790 enrolled students, more than 95 percent of the student body lives on campus and most participate in some of Davidson’s more than 200 student-run organizations. Davidson has a 26 percent acceptance rate, 72 percent of which are from out from out of the state of North Carolina. Davidson maintains a deep-seated connection with the Presbyterian Church-USA. The Wildcats compete in the NCAA Division I in all 21 varsity sports, and just over 25 percent of the student body is involved in varsity athletics. Davidson College’s tuition and fees are $42,849, and the average need-based scholarship or grant award is $29,064.

Academic reputation score: 89
Average financial aid: $26,445
Average net price: $26,053
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
22
Smith College
Smith College

Image Source
Smith College, found in Northampton, MA—which is two hours from Boston and three hours from New York City—is among the largest women’s colleges in the United States, with students from every U.S. state and 60 countries. Smith students get five colleges for the price of one through the unique interchange between five esteemed educational institutions as a member of the Five Colleges Consortium, including with Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts. Smith is the only women’s college in the United States to grant its own undergraduate degrees in engineering. Smith does not offer dorms—instead 35 self-governing houses accommodate between 10 and 100 students, most of whom include women from all four classes. At Smith College, 62.7 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the
Average financial aid package is $33,050.

Academic reputation score: 83
Average financial aid: $33,050
Average net price: $22,943
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
21
Grinnell College
Grinnell College

Image Source
Of the more than 4,000 U.S. colleges and universities, Grinnell College is one of the approximate 45 who meet the “gold standard” for financial aid, with its need-blind admissions policy and 100 percent fulfillment of demonstrated need. Grinnell, Iowa, with a population of 9,100, is home to Grinnell College’s 1,600 students who can earn a Bachelor of Arts in 26 major fields. Grinnell offers individualized curricular planning and advising and there are no core requirements beyond First-Year Tutorial, which allows for independent majors. This approach adheres to Grinnell’s honor system known as “self-governance.” Grinnell’s students get involved, two-thirds of students participate in community service projects, and one-third of students engage in varsity athletics. Grinnell hosts over 500 free events each year and has over 200 student organizations. Lastly, the school has been consistently ranked in the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the nation since U.S. News & World Report began it’s rankings in 1983.

Academic reputation score: 84
Average financial aid: $29,728
Average net price: $22,116
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
20
University of Richmond
University of Richmond

Image Source
At the University of Richmond you can earn a degree in Art & Sciences, Business, or Leadership Studies. The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement on campus provides coordinated access to community-based volunteer internship and coursework opportunities. Located in Richmond, VA, the campus is comprised of beautiful gothic red brick buildings set around shared open lawns. Richmond’s endowment totals approximately $2.02 billion and is ranks in the top 35 nationally for university endowments, which enables the school to administer a generous financial aid program. More than 60 percent of all students receive some form of financial assistance. As of fall 2014, Virginians with family income under $60,000 receive full scholarships. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Richmond No. 2 on the list of “up-and-comers” for national liberal arts colleges that have made the “most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, or facilities.”

Academic reputation score: 75
Average financial aid: $37,274
Average net price: $20,301
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
19
Trinity College
Trinity College, Hartford, CT - Long Walk

Image Source
Trinity College offers an intimate academic setting in the midst of Connecticut’s bustling state capital. This busy urban setting affords Trinity’s 2,301 students access to hundreds of opportunities for internships at various organizations throughout the city. Trinity College’s 100-acre campus includes the Long Walk buildings, which are some of the oldest examples of Gothic architecture in American colleges. Trinity offers students a 10:1 student faculty ratio and 62.4 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. More than 90 percent of undergraduates live on the 100-acre historic campus, and Trinity has one of the largest college libraries in New England. Thirty-four percent of students compete in one The Bantam’s varsity sports, which are part of the NCAA Division III, New England Small College Athletics Conference. Tuition and fees at Trinity College are $47,510, and 100 percent of students have their financial aid needs met.

Academic reputation score: 75
Average financial aid: $37,274
Average net price: $20,301
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
18
Lafayette College
Macalester College

Image Source
Lafayette College is private, coeducational college geared towards the liberal arts and engineering. It enrolls 2,488 students, who are offered a choice of 47 majors and enjoy a student/faculty ratio of 10:1. Nestled in the College Hill neighborhood of Easton, PA, Lafayette offers students a wide range of extracurricular options, including over 250 clubs and organizations as well as access to the Easton Farmer’s Market during warm months—billed as the nation’s oldest continuous open-air market—and skiing and snowboarding in the nearby Pocono Mountains during the winter months. The Lafayette Leopards participate as a NCAA Division I member of the Patriot League, and enjoy a storied football rivalry with nearby Lehigh University. Tuition and fees at Lafayette total $43,970, and 98 percent of students have their financial needs fully met.

Academic reputation score: 75
Average financial aid: $31,815
Average net price: $23,905
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
17
Haverford College
Haverford College

Image Source
Haverford College boasts a close-knit community where 98 percent of students and 61 percent of faculty live on campus. Although the college no longer has a formal religious affiliation, the Quaker philosophy still influences campus life, with one of the oldest honor codes in the U.S. and one of the few with a social dimension. Reflections of the Honor Code include the absence of RAs in dorms, unproctored test taking, 24-hour lab access, and the lack of an admission enrollment deposit. Downtown Philadelphia is just 8 miles from the Haverford College campus, which is the oldest collegiate arboretum in the United States. Haverford students are free to take classes at Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore Colleges, and the University of Pennsylvania offers a 4 + 1 engineering program that grants a BS from Haverford and a masters from Penn in just 5 years. Fifty-three percent of students receive some form of financial aid, and more than 49 percent receive a college grant which helps to offset the cost of tuition, $46,790 (2014–2015).

Academic reputation score: 89
Average financial aid: $37,089
Average net price: $20,623
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
16
Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University

Image Source
Wesleyan has been noted as one of the most productive baccalaureate colleges in the United States with respect to the number of undergraduates pursuing PhDs in various fields. Located in Middletown, Connecticut, and overlooking the Connecticut River, the total undergraduate enrollment is 2,940 students. Forty-nine percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid. Named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, Wesleyan is among the oldest of the originally Methodist institutions of higher education, though now it is a secular university. At Wesleyan it is easy to get involved, the school has one of the highest students per club ratios with than 200 student organizations covering a range of interests: martial arts, outdoor activities, community tutoring, and an award winning Debate Society. Eighty-seven percent of students graduate in four years and after college the
Average starting salary is $43,900.

Academic reputation score: 84
Average financial aid: $37,511
Average net price: $21,160
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
15
Bates College
Bates College

Image Source
Sitting on 109 acres of wooded landscape in Lewiston, Maine, Bates College was one of the first U.S. colleges to be coeducational from its inception. Bates was also a pioneer in the SAT optional movement. Bates College enrolls 1,753 students and offers them a choice of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 35 areas of study. The cost for tuition and fees at Bates is $45,650; however, 42.4 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, which drastically offsets the cost of attendance. Ninety-five percent of students live on campus in one of the 13 dorms or 25 Victorian Houses, each housing 10 to 30 students. Most students are involved in one or more of the nearly 90 student-run clubs or organizations on campus, and the college’s location offers many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, such as skiing, canoeing, beaches, Lake Auburn, and natural parks are all nearby.

Academic reputation score: 82
Average financial aid: $37,578
Average net price: $19,772
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
14
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College

Image Source
Once home to American luminaries such Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bowdoin College has become established as one of the nation’s most selective liberal arts colleges. With an acceptance rate of only 14.5 percent—making it the the fifth lowest rate among liberal arts colleges in America—Bowdoin offers students a choice of 33 majors and a student/faculty ratio of 9:1. Located in a picturesque, tree-lined campus in the coastal town of Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin enrolls 1,839 students, 46.8 percent of which receive some form of financial assistance. Bowdoin has been co-education since 1971, and in the late 90s moved to abolish its Greek fraternities, which were replaced by a housing system in which entering students are assigned to one of eight “college houses” that correlate with their first-year dormitory. According the the Princeton Review, Bowdoin has the country’s number one dining service, which has been featured in news outlets like The New York Times.

Academic reputation score: 92
Average financial aid: $32,285
Average net price: $24,282
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
13
Hamilton College
Hamilton College

Image Source
At Hamilton College, 46.5 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average need-based scholarship or grant award is $31,856. Its tuition and fees are $46,080 (2013–2014). All students receive a Bachelor of Arts degree with 54 optional areas of study. Hamilton is well known for its “open” curriculum, for which there are no distributional requirements; students have nearly total freedom over their course selection. Nearly half of students study abroad during their time at Hamilton through 180 programs around the world or the school’s consortium programs. Hamilton is the third-oldest college in New York and was named after its former board of trustee and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The current Hamilton College campus consists of the combined Hamilton and Kirkland college campuses, which has three large wooded areas that students readily enjoy.

Academic reputation score: 86
Average financial aid: $31,856
Average net price: $23,414
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
12
Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna

Image Source
Claremont McKenna College is located at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, and is part of the seven-college consortium known as The Claremont Colleges. The Princeton Review’s 2015 Edition college rankings lists Claremont McKenna College number 1 in the category “Their Students Love These Colleges.” Students at Claremont McKenna really love their school reporting “this really is a place where professors become like family.” Students spend a “good deal of out-of-classroom time” with their teachers, one venue in which this occurs is through the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. The athenaeum provides a cultural, social, and academic center for the interchange of ideas between CMC students, faculty, and community guests in an intimate and relaxed setting that integrates their academic and social lives. CMC is also highly selective, admitting only 13.6 percent of applicants for the 2012–2013 admissions term, this being one of the lowest acceptance rates of any college in the country.

Additional Information
Academic reputation score: 89
Average financial aid: $34,023
Average net price: $23,842
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
11
Colby College
Colby College

Image Source
Colby has several initiatives that not only make the average net price to attend only 17,842 but also make it possible for students with financial need to graduate debt-free. Some of the financial initiatives include loans not factoring into financial aid packages, offering College funds to enrolled students who couldn’t otherwise afford to take unpaid internships and making stipends available for students to pursue academic research instead of campus jobs. Colby is located in Waterville, Maine, just 60 minutes north of Portland, Maine’s largest city. Students choose from 55 majors and 31 minors, or design their own independent major through flexible independent study programs, and participate in internships and study-abroad programs. More than two thirds of students spend time studying off-campus to extend their Colby experience around the globe.

Academic reputation score: 82
Average financial aid: $37,558
Average net price: $17,842
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
10
Wellesley College
Wellesley College

Image Source
Wellesley is a private women’s college that was founded in 1870. Travel & Leisure has called the campus, “one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States,” located in Wellesley, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Wellesley students have an even greater range of course offerings through a cross-registration program with MIT, in addition, students can spend a semester in another college in the Northeast as part of the Twelve College Exchange Program. The Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College is one of the largest gender-focused research-and-action organizations in the world. It is home to several prominent American feminist scholars, including Jean Kilbourne and Peggy McIntosh, who conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center. Paying an average net price of just $19,465 for a school that is consistently ranked among the top 10 liberal arts colleges isn’t bad either.

Academic reputation score: 91
Average financial aid: $35,835
Average net price: $19,465
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
9
Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University

Image Source
Washington and Lee University is named after George Washington, who gave a generous $20,000 endowment to the school in in 1796, and Robert E. Lee, who was a college president following the Civil War until his death. Located in historic Lexington, VA, 180 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., Washington and Lee University has two undergraduate divisions: the College, and the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics which are in the first tier of the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for national liberal arts colleges. W&L’s Johnson Scholarship provides full-tuition, room-and-board scholarships without loans each year to up to 44 of the most exceptionally qualified students, regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. With an average net price of only $18,788, attending the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the second oldest in Virginia is attainable.

Academic reputation score: 86
Average financial aid: $36,055
Average net price: $18,788
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
8
Vassar College
Vassar College

Image Source
Vassar was one of the first historically women’s colleges in the northeast, but in 1969 the the formal decision to become coeducational came after its trustees declined an offer to merge with Yale University, its sibling institution. Vassar offers a student/faculty ratio is 8:1 and an average class size of 17, with upper-level classes typically much smaller. In every discipline, there are opportunities for student-faculty collaboration on original research, frequently resulting in publication in scholarly journals. Vassar adheres to a need-blind admission policy for all first-year students, which insures all admission decisions for applicants are made without regard to their financial situation. Vassar’s average net price is one of the lowest at $18,934 of our top 50 liberal arts colleges.

Academic reputation score: 87
Average financial aid: $38,451
Average net price: $18,934
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
7
Colgate University
Colgate University

Image Source
Rated the Most Beautiful Campus by The Princeton Review 2015, Colgate is located in Hamilton, NY, a small town where the undergraduate enrollment of 2,871 doubles the population. Colgate’s undergraduates study abroad at a rate of about two-thirds, which is a high proportion compared to other colleges and universities in the United States. Students who think they cannot afford a private, highly selective liberal arts college such as Colgate, should know that the school is committed to meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated need of accepted students. A recent fundraising campaign generated an additional $141 million exclusively for financial aid so that 35.8 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the
Average financial aid package from Colgate is $36,186. The number 13 is considered to be lucky to Colgate, alumni wear Colgate apparel on every Friday the 13th, which is designated as Colgate Day.

Academic reputation score: 83
Average financial aid: $36,186
Average net price: $19,384
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
6
Middlebury College
Middleburry College

Image Source
Located in central Vermont, Middlebury has established itself as a leader in campus environmental initiatives, with an accompanying educational focus on environmental issues around the globe. Founded in 1800, Middlebury continually seeks to create and sustain an environment on campus that is conducive to learning and that fosters engaged discourse. Middlebury follows a 4–1–4 academic calendar, with two four-course semesters and a one-course January term. In 1823 Middlebury became the first American institution of higher education to grant a bachelor’s degree to an African-American, and is also one of the first formerly all-male liberal arts colleges in New England to become a coeducational institution, accepting its first female student in 1883. At Middlebury College, 41 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, with an
Average financial aid package being $33,226.

Academic reputation score: 92
Average financial aid: $33,226
Average net price: $23,824
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
5
Harvey Mudd College
Harvey Mudd

Image Source
Harvey Mudd College aims to educate engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to better understand the impact of their work in society by also focusing on social sciences and humanities. Integration of research and education is an important component of the educational experience at Harvey Mudd College. Every student experiences some kind of research, usually in the form of a senior thesis or a Clinic Program, where students participate in collaborative, professional research with high-profile sponsors. Founded in 1995 in Claremont, California Harvey Mudd is residential college that is one of the six Claremont Colleges, which share adjoining campus grounds and resources such as libraries, dining halls, and health services. A Harvey Mudd education pays off, the average starting salary for graduates is $73,300 and according to PayScale, “graduates of Harvey Mudd College earn the highest salaries among graduates of any college in the United States.”

Academic reputation score: 85
Average financial aid: $27,763
Average net price: $30,205
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
4
Pomona College
Pomona College

Image Source
Pomona College is a premier liberal-arts college with a focus on the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Located in Claremont, California, east of downtown Los Angeles, Pomona is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 1,600 students. The Princton Review has ranked Pomona College No. 1 in the nation for “Great Financial Aid,” and calls Pomona, “the college at which students reported the highest satisfaction with their financial aid awards,” which results in the average net price being $18,112. The same review also ranked Pamona No. 4 in the categories “Their Students Love These Colleges” and “Best Run Colleges,” and No. 5 for “Best Science Lab Facilities.” Pomona offers around 45 majors and has a 8:1 student/faculty ratio. Pomona students can also take classes at the other six colleges in the Claremont Colleges consortium.

Academic reputation score: 92
Average financial aid: $37,207
Average net price: $18,112
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
3
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College

Image Source
The Swarthmore College 425-acre campus is designated as an arboretum and is located just 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Founded in 1864, many of the founders were prominent in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. Today the student/faculty ratio of 8:1 ensures that students have close, meaningful engagement with their professors, which helps to translate skills and understanding gained at Swarthmore into their future. The average starting salaries for Swarthmore graduates is $51,000. Swarthmore College is part of the Tri-College Consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Students have access to the consortium’s shared library system of more than three million volumes, and students can take courses at all three institutions. In addition to a liberal arts education, Swarthmore also offers a BS in engineering. Since U.S. News & World Report began to rank liberal arts colleges, Amherst, Williams, and Swarthmore are the only schools to have been ranked #1, with the three colleges often interchanging positions in the top three.

Academic reputation score: 94
Average financial aid: $35,783
Average net price: $20,112
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
2
Williams College
Williams College

Image Source
Within the Berkshire Mountains, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, you can find the private institution of Williams College. Williams ranks number one in 2014 for National Liberal Arts Colleges, boasting a student to teacher ratio of 7:1 and a 4 year graduation rate of 91 percent. Student participation is key to the schools Oxford-style tutorials. Students major in a core area of study and instead of academic minors, the school offers concentrations, groupings of classes that help to diversify the students learning experience. With three main areas of study, Williams students take at least three courses in arts and humanities, three in social sciences, and three in science and mathematics. At Williams College, 53.2 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid through need-based scholarships or grant awards leaving the average net price to attend Williams at only $17,365 (the lowest amount in our list of top 50 liberal arts schools) an amount that would be easily paid off with the school’s average starting salary for students being $50,400. Additionally, Williams College has an academic reputation score of 100, making it the highest rated liberal arts college in the nation.

Academic reputation score: 100
Average financial aid: $39,776
Average net price: $17,365
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website

1

Amherst College
Amherst College

Image Source
Amherst College has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,817, a student-faculty ratio of 8:1, and a 4 year graduation rate of 86 percent. Amherst College, located in Amherst, MA, is an engaging, residential community where 98 percent of students live on campus every year. Amherst offers an open curriculum with 37 different areas of study. Twenty different First-year Seminars are designed to engage new students in the interdisciplinary environment of a liberal arts college. The academic and co-curricular communities at Amherst College are greatly enhanced by our membership in the Five College Consortium of Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Hampshire College. Students can take classes at any of these schools. With tuition and fees being $46,574 (2013–2014) it nice to know that 55 percent of full-time undergraduates at Amherst College receive 100 percent of their need-based financial aid.

Academic reputation score: 96
Average financial aid: $34,876
Average net price: $22,022
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website

Degree Finder

1
2
3