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Liberal arts college

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In the United States, a liberal arts college is an institution of higher education offering programs in the liberal arts at the post-secondary level.

Chambers Building, Davidson College, NC
Chambers Building, Davidson College, NC

Generally, liberal arts colleges are small and thus have smaller class sizes and enrollment than universities. They usually offer a liberal arts curriculum. Liberal arts colleges focus primarily on tertiary education, and tend to emphasize interactive instruction rather than research. Full-time professors teach almost all courses, rather than graduate student teaching assistants.

Generally, a full-time, four-year course of study at a liberal arts college leads students to a bachelor's degree. Several colleges offer postgraduate programs; however, their postgraduate enrollments remain small compared to their undergraduate enrollments and to postgraduate enrollments at research universities.

Liberal arts colleges are often private institutions, although a number of state-supported institutions also operate on liberal arts college models. The private dominance is particularly pronounced among the leading liberal arts collges: According to the controversial America's Best Colleges issue of the U.S. News and World Report, none of the top 50 liberal arts colleges is public, while 17 of the top 50 national research universities are.

United States Rankings

Main article: College and university rankings
Colgate at the end of Summer.
Colgate at the end of Summer.

U.S. News and World Report

The controversial America's Best Colleges issue of the U.S. News and World Report ranks the top 30 "National Liberal Arts Colleges" as follows in the 2007 edition [1]:

  • (1) Williams College
  • (2) Amherst College
  • (3) Swarthmore College
  • (4) Wellesley College
  • (5) Middlebury College
  • (6) Carleton College
  • (7-tie) Bowdoin College and Pomona College
  • (9) Haverford College
  • (10-tie) Wesleyan University and Davidson College
  • (12-tie) Claremont McKenna College and Vassar College
  • (14-tie) Grinnell College and Harvey Mudd College
  • (16) Colgate University
  • (17-tie) Hamilton College and Washington & Lee University
  • (19) Smith College
  • (20-tie) Bryn Mawr College and Colby College
  • (22) Oberlin College
  • (23) Bates College
  • (24-tie) Macalester College and Mount Holyoke College
  • (26-multiple) Barnard College, Scripps College, and Colorado College
  • (29) Bucknell University
  • (30-tie) Trinity College (Connecticut), Lafayette College

The top public liberal arts colleges are [2]:

  • (1-tie) New College of Florida and Virginia Military Institute
  • (3) St. Mary's College of Maryland

The Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly's "College Rankings" (an alternative college guide to the U.S. News and World Report) ranks the top 30 "National Liberal Arts Colleges" as follows in the September 2006 issue [3]

  • (1) Bryn Mawr College
  • (2) Wellesley College
  • (3) Wesleyan University
  • (4) Haverford College
  • (5) Amherst College
  • (6) Mount Holyoke College
  • (7) Claremont McKenna College
  • (8) Williams College
  • (9) Whitman College
  • (10) Swarthmore College
  • (11) Wheaton College
  • (12) Carleton College
  • (13) Oberlin College
  • (14) Grinnell College
  • (15) Pomona College
  • (16) Smith College
  • (17) Harvey Mudd College
  • (18) Tougaloo College
  • (19) Bowdoin College
  • (20) Middlebury College
  • (21) Presbyterian College
  • (22) Spelman College
  • (23) Knox College
  • (24) Reed College
  • (25) Colorado College
  • (26) Bates College
  • (27) Fisk University
  • (28) Macalester College
  • (29) Wofford College
  • (30) Wells College

SAT optional movement in the United States

According to an 06 October 2006 article by Inside Higher Ed "the movement away from the SAT has been growing this year, particularly among liberal arts colleges." [4]. This was echoed by an 04 April 2006 article in USA Today which stated that there is "a growth spurt in the [SAT] test-optional movement" [5]. Indeed, according to an 31 August 2006 article in the New York Times, "since Bowdoin and Bates dropped their testing requirements decades ago, more than a fourth of U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 liberal arts colleges have made admissions exams optional, and new ones are joining the list at a quickening pace." [6]

College lists & USA Today

An 07 October 2006 article by, reported that the following "27 Top Colleges Don't Require the SAT or ACT" [7]:

  • Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
  • Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
  • Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
  • Bates College, Lewiston, ME
  • Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
  • College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
  • Bard College, Annandale on Hudson, NY
  • Connecticut College, New London, CT
  • Union College, Schenectady, NY
  • Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
  • Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA
  • Pitzer College, Claremont, CA
  • Lawrence University, Appleton, WI
  • Wheaton College (Illinois), Wheaton, IL
  • Wheaton College (Massachusetts), Norton, MA
  • Hobart and William Smith College, Geneva, NY
  • Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA
  • Drew University, Madison, NJ.
  • Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
  • Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN
  • Knox College, Galesburg, IL
  • Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR
  • Bennington College, Bennington, VT
  • Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
  • Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA
  • Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, PA
  • Providence College, Providence, RI

An 04 April 2006 article in USA Today [8] offers a list of "12 that rank among the top 50 as rated by U.S. News & World Report " which includes many of the above schools as well as:

  • Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY

The full list of colleges for which the SAT is optional can be found at fairtest. [9]

See also

  • Associated Colleges of the Midwest
  • Claremont College Consortium
  • Colleges That Change Lives
  • Five Colleges Consortium
  • Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence
  • List of liberal arts colleges
  • Little Ivies
  • Little Three
  • Project Pericles
  • Seven Sisters Colleges
  • Tri-College Consortium
  • Women's colleges in the United States


  • Distinctively American: The Residential Liberal Arts Colleges

External links

  • The Annapolis Group (
  • Colleges That Change Lives
  • Associated Colleges of the Midwest
  • Associated Colleges of the South
  • Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Consortium for a Strong Minority Presence at Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association
  • Christian College Consortium: Christian Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Selective Liberal Arts Consortium
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities Member Liberal Arts Institutions
  • Consortium of Independent Colleges in Virginia: Consortium of Independent Colleges in Virginia
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