The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Liberal arts college

A liberal arts college is an institution of higher education found in the United States, offering programs in the liberal arts at the post-secondary level. They encourage — and often require — their students to take a substantial number of classes in topics which may not directly relate to their vocational goals, in an effort to provide a "well-rounded" education. They may be distinguished from colleges offering programs primarily in business, engineering and technology, the trades, the fine arts, theology, or other specialized subjects. Liberal arts colleges have sprung up outside the U.S. as well, such as in The Netherlands and Canada.

Liberal arts colleges usually focus on tertiary education leading to a bachelor's degree in a program designed to be completed in four years' worth of study, though some include post-graduate programs. They tend to be relatively small, private, and predominantly residential. As such, they may offer a more uniform student experience than at a larger university with more diffuse course offerings. While they lack the name recognition of larger schools, the top liberal arts colleges are highly selective and compete with elite universities for students. Although private liberal arts colleges tend to be very expensive, there are also a number of state-supported institutions modeled on traditional liberal arts colleges.

Some institutions referred to as "liberal arts colleges" are distinguished from universities not so much by a difference in kind, but a difference in size, taking the form of small universities, complete with subsidiary schools dedicated to a particular specialized course of study and offering a limited set of graduate degrees. In this sense, large liberal arts colleges and small private universities occupy similar niches.

Furthermore, university units whose faculty and curriculum encompass the traditional liberal arts and pure sciences are frequently labeled "liberal arts colleges." Indeed, some are explicitly named a "College of Liberal Arts," or a variant such as "College of Arts and Letters" or "College of Arts and Sciences" to distinguish them from units focused on the manual arts and applied sciences. Both colloquial and professional references to "liberal arts colleges" generally refer to standalone institutions, excluding such units.


List of liberal arts colleges


In 2005, the top fifteen "national" liberal arts colleges according to the influential but controversial U.S. News and World Report 1 rankings were (1) Williams College, (2) Amherst College and Swarthmore College, (4) Wellesley College, (5) Carleton College and Pomona College, (7) Bowdoin College and Davidson College, (9) Haverford College and Wesleyan University, (11) Middlebury College, (12) Vassar College, and (13) Claremont McKenna College, Smith College and Washington & Lee University.


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Last updated: 06-01-2005 21:59:59
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