Best public liberal arts colleges

Though most liberal arts schools are private, there are a handful quality public liberal arts schools as well. Find below how they compare based on a student's return on educational investment and median earnings.

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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 Public Schools | #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.

#2 in Public Schools | #23 in Liberal Arts

University of New Hampshire at Manchester

Manchester, New Hampshire

Economic score: 1.87

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: $13,649

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: $61,997

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

EarningsPlus: + $2,460

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

Admission rate: 86%
Graduation rate: 62%

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 Public Schools | #29 in Liberal Arts

New College of Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Economic score: 2.08

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: $8,516

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: $43,994

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

EarningsPlus: - $727

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

Admission rate: 70%
Graduation rate: 60%

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 Public Schools | #36 in Liberal Arts

Shepherd University

Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Economic score: 2.19

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: $11,021

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: $45,723

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

EarningsPlus: - $1,351

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

Admission rate: 98%
Graduation rate: 50%

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 Public Schools | #46 in Liberal Arts

Charter Oak State College

New Britain, Connecticut

Economic score: 2.44

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: $10,724

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: $54,604

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

EarningsPlus: - $14,956

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

Admission rate: N/A
Graduation rate: 58%

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 Public Schools | #59 in Liberal Arts

University of North Carolina at Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina

Economic score: 2.63

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).

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Net cost: $12,061

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

Payback: 2.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $42,027

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

EarningsPlus: - $44

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

Admission rate: 80%
Graduation rate: 62%

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 Public Schools | #63 in Liberal Arts

St. Mary's College of Maryland

St. Mary's City, Maryland

Economic score: 2.72

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: $19,369

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: $55,342

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

EarningsPlus: + $990

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

Admission rate: 80%
Graduation rate: 79%

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 Public Schools | #68 in Liberal Arts

University of Minnesota-Morris

Morris, Minnesota

Economic score: 2.82

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: $11,412

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

Payback: 2.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $47,373

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

EarningsPlus: - $7,903

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

Admission rate: 65%
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.

#9 in Public Schools | #81 in Liberal Arts

The University of Virginia's College at Wise

Wise, Virginia

Economic score: 3.06

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: $10,061

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

Payback: 2.9 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $41,055

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

EarningsPlus: - $1,929

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

Admission rate: 83%
Graduation rate: 53%

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 Public Schools | #129 in Liberal Arts

SUNY at Purchase College

Purchase, New York

Economic score: 4.48

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: $18,326

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

Payback: 3.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $45,289

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

EarningsPlus: - $10,401

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

Admission rate: 74%
Graduation rate: 66%

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 Public Schools | #150 in Liberal Arts

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

North Adams, Massachusetts

Economic score: 5.24

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: $16,861

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

Payback: 3.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $47,107

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

EarningsPlus: - $20,651

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

Admission rate: 88%
Graduation rate: 60%

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 Public Schools | #159 in Liberal Arts

Mansfield University of Pennsylvania

Mansfield, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 5.77

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: $19,065

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

Payback: 4.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $42,931

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

EarningsPlus: - $10,647

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

Admission rate: 97%
Graduation rate: 54%

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 Public Schools | #176 in Liberal Arts

Fort Lewis College

Durango, Colorado

Economic score: 7.83

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: $16,274

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

Payback: 6.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $38,083

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

EarningsPlus: - $7,838

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

Admission rate: 92%
Graduation rate: 47%

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.

University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg

Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 2.22

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: $17,823

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

Payback: 2.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $57,961

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

EarningsPlus: + $4,383

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

Admission rate: 91%
Graduation rate: 40%

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.

University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

Chickasha, Oklahoma

Economic score: 4.01

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: $8,607

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

Payback: 3.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $37,083

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

EarningsPlus: - $10,410

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: 41%

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.

University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Economic score: 4.04

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: $11,327

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

Payback: 3.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $43,186

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

EarningsPlus: - $8,889

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

Admission rate: 67%
Graduation rate: 43%

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.

University of South Carolina Beaufort

Bluffton, South Carolina

Economic score: 4.15

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).

View school
Net cost: $16,719

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

Payback: 3.9 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $41,518

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

EarningsPlus: - $2,767

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

Admission rate: 67%
Graduation rate: 38%

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.

University of Wisconsin-Superior

Superior, Wisconsin

Economic score: 4.40

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: $13,774

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

Payback: 3.7 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $43,290

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

EarningsPlus: - $8,785

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

Admission rate: 87%
Graduation rate: 43%

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.

Louisiana State University-Alexandria

Alexandria, Louisiana

Economic score: 4.72

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: $8,413

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

Payback: 3.7 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $36,241

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

EarningsPlus: - $9,701

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: 31%

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.

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Cheyney, Pennsylvania

Economic score: 5.70

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: $7,656

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

Payback: 3.7 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $34,747

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

EarningsPlus: - $18,831

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

Admission rate: N/A
Graduation rate: 24%

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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