25 Best Online Liberal Arts Colleges

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We live in an increasingly complex, intersectional world. And yet, a classical education (that is, a liberal arts education) can best meet the new demands coming from employers across industry sectors.

A solid multidisciplinary education develops the skills and knowledge students will need in their careers: oral and written communication skills, the ability to think critically, problem solving prowess, plus a theoretical foundation in both the sciences and humanities.

Not necessarily sold on the liberal arts? That’s fine. Have a look at our ranking of the overall best online colleges and universities.

Top 10 Best Online Liberal Arts Colleges

Rank School Location
1 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
2 Pennsylvania State University World Campus University Park, PA
3 Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ
4 Colorado State University Greenwood Village, CO
5 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
6 University of Wisconsin Madison, WI
7 Fort Hays State University Hays, KS
8 University of Illinois–Springfield Springfield, IL
9 University of Nebraska - Omaha Omaha, NE
10 Westfield State University Westfield, MA

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It is estimated that those without a college degree make, on average, around 28k annually. However, college graduates make over 51k annually. That disparity is already impressive, but if you extrapolate that over a lifetime then a college degree earns you nearly 1 million more dollars than just a high school diploma.

So, that to say, going to college or finishing your degree serves you throughout your lifetime. And with a liberal arts education you can secure a career in one of literally hundreds of professions, from business and finance to fine arts and philosophy.Online programs in education are an affordable, accessible, and flexible way to earn an advanced degree, especially if you find yourself in a situation that makes going back to school either logistically or financially problematic.

Despite the stigma online programs once held, they have mostly shed those stereotypes and have increasingly solid reputations, in large part because online programs are developed and taught by the same faculty who teach the traditional, on-campus courses. And in most cases, the diploma looks exactly the same as those garnered by “traditional students,” yet it was obtained at half the price.

What are the Best Online Liberal Arts Colleges?

Best Online Liberal Arts Colleges Badge

While some schools on this ranking are large, elite, research universities and others are smaller colleges with interdisciplinary curricula, they all share one thing in common despite the difference of size and emphasis: they are the best at giving students a foundation in core liberal arts principles and concepts.

Here at College Choice we’ve collated and compared the academic reputation, student satisfaction, affordability, and average annual salary of graduates from online liberal arts schools across the country to create a definitive ranking of the nation’s twenty-five best.

We first chose programs with the most renowned academic reputation and from those pared the list down to those with high retention rates (a reflection of student satisfaction) added those with the most economical accessibility, and finally we included the averages of early career salaries (care of PayScale) to arrive at a list marked by thorough research and extensive data aggregation. Our figures come from the university and colleges’ websites as well as nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Oregon State University
    Location

    Corvallis, OR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Oregon State University is historically an agricultural school that has bloomed into a well-recognized research university that steeps its students in a liberal arts education. Its online offerings are no different; students around the globe enroll in OSU’s online and distance learning model, as OSU offers over one thousands classes in nearly one hundred subjects. Students learn from the same on-campus faculty and earn the same diploma as on-campus students, and they also are supported through digital tutoring, career services, and library resources.

    Online OSU students can create an academic experience that incorporates all their interests and career goals, no matter how discrete the subjects are. They can also enroll in the online BA/BS in Liberal Studies program, which allows them to take any courses and specialize in any areas offered through the College of Liberal Arts. Disciplines and departments covered include the sciences, technology and society, humanities, social sciences, fine arts, contemporary global issues, non-Western culture, cultural diversity, literature, and Western culture. Whether you are ready to enroll in college for the first time or transfer credits to complete your degree, Oregon State is a phenomenal choice that will ensure you succeed academically and vocationally.

    Based in Corvallis, Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  2. Pennsylvania State University World Campus
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    It’s hard to compete with the name recognition and renowned status of Pennsylvania State University. Similarly, their World Campus boasts national accolades for its broad approach to education that blends the arts with social sciences. Because of its liberal arts focus, students graduate ready to either enter graduate school (including medical or law school) or enter the workforce across all sectors.

    One of the many online degrees you can earn at Penn State include the Bachelor of Arts in Letters, Arts, and Sciences. This versatile liberal arts degree is a comprehensive, online program that focuses on developing students’ communication skills, critical thinking abilities, and leadership potential. The curriculum stresses the ethical and diversity issues that make up our global world today while giving students the flexibility to specialize in their own passions and interests. Whether you’re interested in business, marketing, fine arts, foreign languages, or the social sciences (among many, many other subjects), this multidisciplinary, theme-oriented major can be fully designed by you and your academic advisor to reflect, and meet, your career goals.

    Penn State, accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, is a nationally and globally ranked university, ranked fiftieth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

  3. Arizona State University
    Location

    Phoenix, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Through the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Arizona State University brings together more than two dozen disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to deliver an online liberal arts education that is at once creative, critically minded, and diverse. One of their many online offerings include the Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree, a program well-suited for those just starting college and those looking to finish their undergraduate degree.

    The core courses in ASU’s online Bachelor of Liberal Studies program help students hone their communication techniques, introduce them to global and diverse perspectives, and foster the kind of intellectual inquiry that will help them flourish in the workforce. This means you will take classes on cultural diversity, global awareness, immigration and ethnicity, communication in an electronic and digital age, historical contexts, and literacy and critical inquiry. Though this is a comprehensive, online degree, it’s also an ideal option for those who want to finish their degree online because of the course load flexibility and range of topics.

    Arizona State University is a renowned research institution with strong rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Washington Monthly. It is accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

  4. Colorado State University
    Location

    Greenwood Village, CO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    If you’re looking for an online, undergraduate experience that specifically seeks to hone your writing, verbal communication, problem solving, and analytical thinking abilities, then Colorado State University is for you. CSU proffers many online degrees, through both completion and comprehensive programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts degree. Regardless of the industry you envision yourself in post graduation—be it education, corporate, non-profit, medical, or government—the well-rounded curriculum at CSU equips students with the technical skills and theoretical grounding to help them succeed academically and professionally.

    In addition to the multidisciplinary, foundational coursework comprising this liberal arts degree, online CSU students can supplement the program with one of seven minors, in business administration, sociology, anthropology, economics, media studies, political science, or gerontology. Because of this option to incorporate a structured minor, the CSU liberal arts experience is ideal for those seeking some order in their customizable academic experience. Graduates have acquired work in a diverse array of areas, from journalism to museum curation, information systems, publishing, and marketing.

    The flagship university in the Colorado State University System, Colorado State University is a public research school located in Fort Collins and accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

  5. Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Though Duquesne University does not offer a large quantity of online education programming, the quality of their online experience is nearly unmatched, especially in regards to their liberal arts core. Their online programs primarily consist of Bachelor of Science degrees offered through an accelerated format with the academic year comprised of five terms, each structured in eight-week blocks. And as an online student you will work closely with advisors through the whole process; you will have access to online tutoring, writing center help, and the library resources; and you can either transfer credits or start anew at Duquesne.

    In addition to the foundational liberal arts core curriculum, you can choose from among three majors: a BS in Behavioral Health, a BS in Computer Systems Technology, and a BS in Organizational Leadership. Clearly, earning an online degree through Duquesne is a perfect fit for those who desire a balance in the liberal arts experience and the structured nature of a typical degree program.

    Duquesne is a private, Catholic university located in Pittsburgh and accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It offers degrees across all academic levels and in nearly 200 different fields of study. Comprised of ten colleges and schools, Duquesne is home to hundreds of international students representing more than eighty countries.

  6. University of Wisconsin
    Location

    Madison, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Wisconsin in Whitewater (UWW) offers many of its degrees online, including those in general business, marketing, political science, and early childhood education. Each is grounded in a liberal arts core curriculum, but for those who desire a pure interdisciplinary experience, UWW offers an online BA/BS in Liberal Studies degree. Through this program you will master such high-demand skills as compelling oral and written communication, ethical decision making, and critical problem solving. You will also foster a holistic understanding of your own culture and worldview while better understanding the workings of our global society.

    Offered through the College of Letters and Sciences, this liberal studies program is a degree completion program, so you will be required to have at least an Associate’s degree already or enough credits to transfer and cover your general education requirements. Once enrolled you will have the option to either take on a 54 credit-hour major that incorporates a multidisciplinary focus area or you can choose a 36 credit-hour major with a specified minor.

    Part of the larger University of Wisconsin system, this campus in Whitewater s accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It offers around fifty undergraduate areas of study, and is particularly focused on encouraging diversity, both on-campus and through the curriculum.

  7. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Home to the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Center for Civic Leadership, Fort Hays State University is a fantastic option for engaging in a liberal arts education from afar. They offer many majors, degrees, certificates, and areas of study online, all based on a liberal arts core. Through the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences they even offer an online Bachelor of General Studies degree for those who want to design their academic experience themselves.

    This is a full, online degree program. You can take all your general education courses through Fort Hays, which introduce you to all the subjects comprising a liberal arts education. Then you will be required to complete at least sixty hours in your area of focus and specialty. Fort Hays provides general studies students with over a dozen areas to choose from, among them, business communication, geography, political science, rural studies, sustainability, human services, justice studies, web development, and much more.

    Online Fort Hays students work closely with a personal academic advisor throughout their academic experience. Together they design a unique curriculum and academic experience that best fits with their needs, interests, and goals. Fort Hays’ Virtual College is home to over 6,000 students who hail from dozens of states and countries. It is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  8. University of Illinois–Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    In order to be accepted into one of the competitive University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) online programs you have to demonstrate to the admissions team why you are unable to attend classes on-campus, you have to have at least sixty hours of undergraduate coursework or an Associate’s degree, and you must have a GPA of at least 3.0. However, the competitive nature of admissions reflects the high standards and the quality of the UIS’ online platform.

    Founded in the principles and topics of a liberal arts education, the online degrees at UIS—most notably the BA/BS in Liberal Studies degree—give students a holistic academic experience. The Liberal Studies program goes a step further in providing students, who feel their academic curiosity is stymied by traditional degree programs, an innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate experience. The curriculum is distinctly divided into seven broad subject categories: identity and the search for meaning, work and the value of vocation, nature and the ecology of the planet, institutions (the social web), language as connection, heritage and history, and art.

    The University of Illinois Springfield is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It is a public, research university well-ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

  9. University of Nebraska - Omaha
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    U.S. News & World Report recently named the online Bachelor of General Studies degree at the University of Nebraska – Omaha as one of the top 20 Best Online Bachelor programs in the nation. Emphasizing multidisciplinary study, critical thinking, and effective decision making, this online liberal arts program is modeled after the traditional relationship between mentor and student. You will receive individualized, personalized attention from faculty, academic counselors, and career advisors. And if you already have academic and professional experience, including military service experience, then you can apply it toward your degree in the form of course credit.

    Once you’ve fulfilled your general education and liberal arts core curriculum requirements, you will then take classes organized into fundamental academic skills. You’ll take math classes and natural, social, and physical science classes as well as courses covering public speaking and communications, cultural diversity, and the humanities. The confluence of subjects works to ensure you receive a well-rounded education at an affordable rate and convenient pace. You will graduate able to apply your uniquely designed liberal arts education in an array of job roles and industries, from education to tech start ups, non-profit policy work, social media marketing, and much more.

    The University of Nebraska is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. Westfield State University
    Location

    Westfield, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Westfield State University offers a handful of degree completion programs that can be taken fully online. Among them, degrees in business, history, psychology, and liberal studies can be partnered with online minors in art, management, or sociology. Though each program gives students a liberal arts education, the explicit BA/BS in Liberal Studies is an interdisciplinary and flexible major that has students working closely with academic advisors to design a degree program that reflects their vocational goals and passions.

    As a Westfield liberal studies student you will take classes during the traditional Fall and Spring semesters, each of which are fifteen weeks long, plus two six-week sessions and one accelerated two-week Winter session. You will also choose a primary area of concentration then supplement that area with a secondary and third area of concentration. Though most choose specializations that lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree, you can also earn a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies by combining areas such as business management, computer science, or criminal justice.

    Westfield State University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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