Best colleges Liberal Arts

2022 best liberal arts colleges

Liberal arts colleges are almost always limited to undergraduate programs. Students should expect to graduate with a well-rounded education, introduced to the history of modern thought and how ideas have developed over time.  This doesn't mean that students leave school unprepared for the real world however - our top ranked liberal arts schools provide excellent value and earning potential. 

Liberal arts colleges offer limited or no graduate-level programs and are classified as having a strong focus on the arts and sciences by the Carnegie Classification system.

 

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Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.

Earnings: The median earnings of all bachelor-level students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.

Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.

Earningsplus: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state.

Rankings: The ranking order is based on the economic score. The economic score is calculated using a school’s payback and earningsplus performance.

Net cost
Payback
Earnings
EarningsPlus
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#1 in Liberal Arts

Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 0.87

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $22,161

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $86,571

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $35,892

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 14%
Graduation rate: 94%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#2 in Liberal Arts

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 0.92

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $32,727

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $108,988

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $58,309

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 18%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#3 in Liberal Arts

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, Virginia

Economic score: 0.94

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $22,615

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.9 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $86,020

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $43,036

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 25%
Graduation rate: 96%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#4 in Liberal Arts

Davidson College

Davidson, North Carolina

Economic score: 1.15

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $19,115

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,671

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $29,600

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 20%
Graduation rate: 91%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#5 in Liberal Arts

Virginia Military Institute

Lexington, Virginia

Economic score: 1.16

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $17,804

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.9 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,910

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $28,926

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 60%
Graduation rate: 78%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#6 in Liberal Arts

Pomona College

Claremont, California

Economic score: 1.18

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

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Net cost: $17,458

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $69,149

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $18,470

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 9%
Graduation rate: 94%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#7 in Liberal Arts

Colby College

Waterville, Maine

Economic score: 1.25

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $17,777

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.9 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,127

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $23,861

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 11%
Graduation rate: 91%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#8 in Liberal Arts

Lafayette College

Easton, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 1.40

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $32,551

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $84,939

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $31,361

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 36%
Graduation rate: 87%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#9 in Liberal Arts

Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Economic score: 1.45

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $19,015

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $63,425

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $17,780

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 64%
Graduation rate: 72%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#10 in Liberal Arts

Wofford College

Spartanburg, South Carolina

Economic score: 1.50

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $25,674

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $67,530

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $23,245

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 53%
Graduation rate: 82%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#11 in Liberal Arts

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 1.53

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $19,184

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $72,637

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,059

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 10%
Graduation rate: 95%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#12 in Liberal Arts

Hamilton College

Clinton, New York

Economic score: 1.54

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $25,440

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $74,340

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $18,650

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 19%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#13 in Liberal Arts

Rhodes College

Memphis, Tennessee

Economic score: 1.63

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $27,540

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $66,619

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $22,864

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 52%
Graduation rate: 85%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#14 in Liberal Arts

Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts

Economic score: 1.64

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $18,524

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.7 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,567

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $3,809

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 12%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#15 in Liberal Arts

Bucknell University

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 1.68

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $42,502

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.8 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $88,154

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $34,576

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 38%
Graduation rate: 89%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#16 in Liberal Arts

Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 1.68

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $22,991

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $69,192

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $15,614

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 19%
Graduation rate: 92%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#17 in Liberal Arts

Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Economic score: 1.71

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $19,480

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.8 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,608

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $3,850

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 16%
Graduation rate: 96%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#18 in Liberal Arts

Albion College

Albion, Michigan

Economic score: 1.73

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $16,653

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $54,792

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $10,746

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 75%
Graduation rate: 65%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#19 in Liberal Arts

Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine

Economic score: 1.80

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $21,910

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $66,864

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,598

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 10%
Graduation rate: 95%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#20 in Liberal Arts

Colgate University

Hamilton, New York

Economic score: 1.83

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $25,834

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 2.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $76,267

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $20,577

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 28%
Graduation rate: 90%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

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