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Liberal arts institutions, especially colleges, are popular among high school students ready to take the leap into higher education. However, there is a myth that all of these colleges are private institutions that are both highly selective and restrictive in terms of cost. Here is a short primer on private colleges that specialize in liberal arts and how students can earn a great degree when enrolled.

Colleges Versus Universities

To begin with, there is a difference between colleges and universities. Colleges are undergraduate institutions; as a rule, they do not offer masters or doctoral programs. Universities, however, provide undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. It’s also important to note that even though a school may have a name that ends with the word “college,” it may actually be a research university. The true can be said the other way around; some universities are just that in name and don’t offer graduate degrees.

Ranking:  30 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the West, Ranked by Return on Investment (ROI)

Private Versus Public

These colleges are not always private institutions. It is true that most of them are, but  U.S. News and World Report  has an annual listing that proves that some colleges are public. These schools are known for being top-ranking public schools with a specialty in either natural sciences, social sciences, or the arts. Some of them are also military schools, which while public, are restricted to students entering into one of the branches of the military.


Technically speaking, students will incur higher tuition rates and other fees colleges, regardless if they are public or private. Currently, a student who chooses a private liberal arts college pays $44,820 per year in tuition, fees, and room and board; this is contrasted against a public college that would cost $18,390, as reported by College Board and its Carnegie Classification for the 2017-2018 academic year. However, students at private liberal arts colleges are provided with more financial aid options, making it possible for them to pay less overall than their public liberal arts college counterparts.


Private liberal arts undergraduate institutions are highly selective. This comes from most of these campuses delivering academic programs for less than 3,000 students. It also comes with the high price tag associated with these private institutions, which can easily cost a student over $150,000 to complete a four-year degree. These schools are also known for nationally and internationally recognized programs which are comprehensive and challenging in nature; it would make sense that the schools would require high standards from all of their applicants. Public liberal arts colleges fare better in this regard, but they are still more selective than public universities.


As mentioned above, most liberal arts institutions are private. However, this should not stop any student from applying to these institutions. This is because while these colleges may be more selective and cost more in tuition and fees, they do offer a variety of benefits. Financial aid, for example, pays for most undergraduate students attending a private school; it is actually more common to spend less at these institutions than a public or state university. These schools also offer smaller class sizes, more engagement through programs and on campus, and provides better career counseling for students entering the workforce after graduation.

Choosing the right college can be a source of stress for students and their families. It can be made easier by learning more about different types of institutions, what their purpose is, and if it is a good fit for a student.  Liberal arts colleges  are not always private, but should a student be interested in one that is, they should research that school to see how they can make their dream of attending campus a reality.

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