2021 Liberal Arts Colleges Ranking

Since 2005, the Washington Monthly has ranked colleges based on what they do for the country. It’s our answer to U.S News & World Report, which relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige. We rank liberal arts colleges—four-year institutions that award almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees and that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs—based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research, and promoting public service.

Click here for detailed methodology, here for the rest of our rankings, and here to download the full data set.

RankName8-year graduation rateNumber of Pell graduatesPercent of grads above 150% of poverty lineNet price of attendance for families below $75,000 incomePercent of loan principal remaining 5 years laterPredicted principal remainingSocial mobility rankResearch rankService rank
1Harvey Mudd College (CA)94%2790%1689721%41%11174
2Wesleyan University (CT)92%12779%883856%61%5459
3Pomona College (CA)95%6673%738241%54%61134
4Williams College (MA)95%9580%544956%53%4885
5Grinnell College (IA)87%9477%1380254%58%20749
6Amherst College (MA)95%8880%831159%55%101238
7Middlebury College (VT)95%7277%942845%56%11308
8Bowdoin College (ME)95%6182%965653%55%22215
9Carleton College (MN)94%6181%1305542%52%163134
10Smith College (MA)89%11276%1143163%64%331312
11Vassar College (NY)91%13773%1001856%55%181535
12Macalester College (MN)89%7775%1528046%58%35199
13Berea College (KY)66%23772%285089%99%211232
14Swarthmore College (PA)95%5373%908160%51%58257
15Wellesley College (MA)92%9682%864266%55%366111
16Washington and Lee University (VA)91%4590%418749%53%39069
17Haverford College (PA)91%4775%1068851%51%481030
18College of Saint Benedict (MN)83%10490%1893555%70%1211811
19Claremont McKenna College (CA)92%3693%1107245%52%722123
20Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)81%12690%1430262%64%89444
21Lafayette College (PA)89%6290%1307548%59%144743
22Hamilton College (NY)92%6986%1122655%54%174361
23St. Olaf College (MN)88%9285%1305650%60%932126
24Bates College (ME)89%5085%976059%56%384218
25Connecticut College (CT)84%6983%1896356%60%285833
26Allegheny College (PA)75%11484%1824267%71%506310
27Beloit College (WI)81%6073%931962%72%216480
28Dickinson College (PA)84%6282%1433057%62%328829
29Gettysburg College (PA)85%7488%1512752%61%237076
30St. Mary's College of Maryland (MD)*76%5484%1227860%69%447417
31Bryn Mawr College (PA)85%4775%1465062%60%100572
32University of Richmond (VA)84%10486%1128065%62%1949119
33Colby College (ME)92%4882%476965%53%422870
34Barnard College (NY)93%10882%1073258%57%2620162
35Franklin and Marshall College (PA)86%8484%1366559%65%2925132
36Juniata College (PA)77%7880%2012964%69%535923
37Saint Mary's College (IN)79%7691%1473365%74%2412864
38Trinity College (CT)84%5487%1035969%62%2769107
39Knox College (IL)77%8674%1777067%75%617915
40Colgate University (NY)91%7484%1132161%57%3734109
41Occidental College (CA)85%9579%1705655%53%495547
42Virginia Military Institute (VA)*77%4493%837356%59%4015726
43College of the Holy Cross (MA)91%11189%1624459%59%1589149
44Hobart and William Smith Colleges (NY)80%7986%2081567%64%871133
45Wheaton College (IL)89%10278%1827948%57%3429161
46University of Minnesota at Morris (MN)*60%7788%520175%75%519836
47Mount Holyoke College (MA)85%7172%1611668%65%901655
48Denison University (OH)83%9682%1657962%65%638628
49Saint John's University (MN)77%6993%1700155%61%4751102
50Bucknell University (PA)90%8092%2368248%57%5527135
51Kalamazoo College (MI)84%6976%1676963%64%704065
52Davidson College (NC)92%5378%881965%58%5731118
53Whitman College (WA)88%3475%2374339%57%852658
54New College of Florida (FL)*67%3862%738574%68%1232316
55Hope College (MI)79%13787%1786961%67%604890
56Kenyon College (OH)90%3572%1256652%56%6624117
57Centre College (KY)85%5081%1673364%59%698442
58St. Norbert College (WI)73%11088%2082565%67%7112720
59Rust College (MS)30%7971%10435121%135%25168140
60Union College (NY)87%7687%1564754%59%31159121
61Simpson College (IA)67%7491%1780272%75%7516613
62Skidmore College (NY)88%8178%1175966%63%5456131
63Reed College (OR)81%4969%1710563%55%147963
64Wartburg College (IA)67%7292%1820267%71%1101417
65Colorado College (CO)88%4568%1088354%55%793393
66Bennett College (NC)47%7283%20280128%134%4516474
67College of Wooster (OH)77%9085%1706965%66%734688
68Lake Forest College (IL)73%11982%1913974%73%43103147
69Tougaloo College (MS)45%6472%12652131%133%4160199
70DePauw University (IN)83%9987%1665161%67%4665168
71Univ. of NH at Manchester (NH)*60%591%1104065%78%13206207
72St. Lawrence University (NY)85%8983%1551062%66%5912499
73Muhlenberg College (PA)83%4383%1818962%65%7812354
74Hampshire College (MA)68%4063%2216468%70%185361
75Whittier College (CA)69%10679%2083884%79%8014051
76Furman University (SC)82%6882%2023466%62%1335219
77Lycoming College (PA)67%8189%1487778%81%30132209
78Saint Anselm College (NH)75%6595%2219460%63%6816966
79Lewis & Clark College (OR)77%9276%2243063%61%1344127
80Univ. of North Carolina at Asheville (NC)*63%9674%971588%81%887784
81Susquehanna University (PA)72%10387%2031866%71%64134116
82Hendrix College (AR)78%5181%1584466%63%1133781
83Hartwick College (NY)58%9188%2088569%80%9113648
84Augustana College (IL)76%11490%1928768%69%62117136
85Sewanee at University of the South (TN)79%7081%1762065%63%10810840
86Gordon College (MA)70%8481%2297163%70%9311956
87Blackburn College (IL)46%3386%1333089%89%7217071
88Coe College (IA)68%7085%1688264%71%77104105
89Westminster College (PA)70%9289%1776372%76%6719875
90Cornell College (IA)69%7679%2207076%67%1357221
91Concordia College at Moorhead (MN)72%11391%1963261%68%899687
92Illinois Wesleyan University (IL)81%8287%2046459%63%6599154
93Warren Wilson College (NC)53%4364%2143073%75%1581262
94Illinois College (IL)67%6387%1313571%78%52152167
95Bard College (NY)77%7365%1863962%70%1435725
96Goucher College (MD)66%6677%2020671%79%11913122
97Central College (IA)67%6190%1844068%69%12815014
98Wabash College (IN)74%5387%1482177%64%9867113
99Scripps College (CA)88%2478%1593051%51%8253169
100Thomas Aquinas College (CA)81%2771%1801947%62%39109213
101Oberlin College (OH)86%5868%1646255%58%14117120
102Presbyterian College (SC)67%5286%1610375%79%9515178
103Willamette University (OR)77%8578%2394866%64%11245122
104Agnes Scott College (GA)69%7870%1815797%85%173686
105Elizabethtown College (PA)75%7290%2206065%68%11116245
106Albion College (MI)65%5684%1232580%81%8382163
107Drew University (NJ)64%8481%1898179%75%12211553
108Bethune-Cookman University (FL)38%26079%16262131%130%56165198
109Wofford College (SC)80%7284%1860569%62%86153106
110Wittenberg University (OH)71%8787%2039775%73%1188586
111Mansfield University of PA (PA)*53%9987%1739690%88%9417583
112Linfield College (OR)71%8388%2257568%71%103122103
113Luther College (IA)78%8588%1896761%66%9991138
114Southwestern University (TX)73%6785%2092563%69%1207594
115Stonehill College (MA)82%7792%2564060%64%101130108
116Ripon College (WI)68%5283%1516579%74%96110139
117Houghton College (NY)72%6580%2113566%76%81102187
118Westmont College (CA)76%5386%2506560%62%74106200
119Washington & Jefferson College (PA)74%5788%2186070%69%116114104
120Saint Michael's College (VT)79%7087%2291458%64%10597145
121Pitzer College (CA)87%2767%1284567%56%14610546
122Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)69%8385%2165873%72%13078101
123Univ. of Virginia's College at Wise (VA)*45%7781%958898%100%84191129
124Salem College (NC)56%4972%1555399%97%12914468
125Westminster College (MO)63%4288%1852482%73%15414190
126Covenant College (GA)65%5479%1951159%67%92147173
127Monmouth College (IL)58%8888%1403378%79%104143142
128Hanover College (IN)66%7385%1723077%71%10987176
129Transylvania University (KY)73%5677%2056173%64%1628337
130Bethany Lutheran College (MN)52%2884%1300069%81%76174193
131St. John's College (MD)71%1864%1558261%61%15518171
132University of Wisconsin at Parkside (WI)*35%9784%8975100%92%13618452
133Austin College (TX)71%6876%1715171%65%13176130
134Saint Vincent College (PA)70%7687%1645272%72%97139180
135Fort Lewis College (CO)*47%9375%1436984%91%114142127
136Ursinus College (PA)78%6885%2353766%64%12562182
137University of Pikeville (KY)58%5981%17102103%95%14820424
138Dillard University (LA)42%10176%16467127%127%1565491
139Univ. of Wisconsin at Superior (WI)*45%4785%1098497%89%15210767
140Wheaton College (MA)79%7281%2225769%64%107183146
141Moravian Coll./Moravian Theo. Sem. (PA)69%7386%2426176%77%14216079
142SUNY at Purchase College (NY)*66%15571%1575085%82%106179166
143Lawrence University (WI)78%5978%1740868%63%13780164
144Washington College (MD)75%3885%1986169%66%115167159
145University of Puget Sound (WA)79%7379%2969960%59%1727160
146Emory and Henry College (VA)55%4985%1543183%80%15314977
147Franklin College (IN)62%6289%1743585%77%13918797
148Shepherd University (WV)*48%9685%845995%89%14019096
149Albright College (PA)59%11688%1855086%89%102180202
150Univ. of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (PA)*37%5288%1562571%76%117178179
151Virginia Wesleyan University (VA)53%8381%2271093%90%16917339
152Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts (MA)*57%6783%1491592%88%127186165
153Georgetown College (KY)57%4982%1617788%77%17912931
154Millsaps College (MS)67%2790%1961184%73%14950205
155Sweet Briar College (VA)60%2577%2037975%79%16681125
156Virginia Union University (VA)33%8483%21080124%132%124176196
157Rhodes College (TN)81%6477%1764972%58%1769289
158Bloomfield College (NJ)33%9882%18448114%117%132199175
159Aquinas College (MI)59%7682%1445486%82%144154170
160Roanoke College (VA)67%7887%2179874%72%145125188
161Bridgewater College (VA)61%8189%1672175%78%121181203
162Doane University (NE)62%5389%2217483%71%16813795
163Randolph College (VA)63%2879%2109689%80%1836698
164Emmanuel College (MA)66%8490%2673382%73%16420592
165Earlham College (IN)69%4565%1579766%71%18438141
166Penn State at Brandywine (PA)*48%5490%1637177%79%126196206
167University of Maine at Machias (ME)*35%1870%779299%104%151182150
168Stillman College (AL)30%4974%15219129%135%138172194
169Wells College (NY)49%4676%1835988%85%159100191
170College of the Atlantic (ME)67%1567%1463869%77%18710173
171Bennington College (VT)70%2757%2361465%71%18213382
172College of Idaho (ID)65%6778%2033280%72%174121124
173Soka University of America (CA)90%2961%1025686%65%165146157
174LA State Univ. at Alexandria (LA)*28%1381%7754111%110%167203115
175Lane College (TN)28%8966%13004129%134%160195153
176Hollins University (VA)56%3477%1809089%80%17895152
177Cheyney University of PA (PA)* ^^23%5073%12367130%127%170161151
178Randolph-Macon College (VA)62%6588%2141075%71%163148197
179Spelman College (GA)76%17476%39155126%117%19635114
180Meredith College (NC)58%7481%2110282%80%186158100
181Bryn Athyn College (PA)54%1264%1505173%85%171171181
182Chowan University (NC)27%9979%16333113%122%161197204
183Sarah Lawrence College (NY)81%4763%2726064%63%19161184
184Univ. of Science & Arts of Okla. (OK)*42%1682%6475101%90%181189143
185Williams Baptist University (AR)43%2985%1661397%87%175185178
186Providence Christian College (CA)68%360%1998583%98%150206213
187Sterling College (VT)57%462%2496376%84%2082064
188Guilford College (NC)50%6478%21215100%88%193138112
189Pacific Rim Christian Univ. (HI)52%164%1456092%92%157206213
190Johnson C. Smith University (NC)42%7975%18814129%130%195120128
191Allen University (SC)24%3568%14841131%133%180206185
192Morehouse College (GA)54%13179%33546124%110%19839158
193Wesleyan College (GA)51%2272%12043115%108%20313541
194Young Harris College (GA)43%4183%1628888%91%194202110
195Univ. of South Carolina at Beaufort (SC)*32%4682%15147102%96%190188156
196Hampden-Sydney College (VA)65%3984%2653469%61%188155195
197Randall University (OK)36%465%14765104%97%177194212
198Marymount California University (CA)35%3972%2615591%89%192206183
199Lyon College (AR)44%3470%1621590%74%197145144
200Eckerd College (FL)64%5773%2795383%69%21211662
201Virginia University of Lynchburg (VA)17%355%18814129%138%189206210
202Bethany College (WV)44%3476%1741993%87%20920150
203Spring Hill College (AL)51%5585%1832691%77%202163133
204St. John's College (NM)45%1462%2737372%73%20473186
205Talladega College (AL)30%7160%15514126%131%199206148
206Fisk University (TN)42%4277%26717129%119%21344137
207Birmingham-Southern College (AL)65%3483%2136384%67%207110155
208Ave Maria University (FL)56%3772%1477886%73%200177192
209Centenary College of Louisiana (LA)49%2872%2104775%76%21093172
210Oglethorpe University (GA)45%4677%19860101%82%201156201
211Brewton-Parker College (GA)26%1368%18013111%110%205192177
212East-West University (IL)30%1169%21347123%116%206206208
213King's College (NY)51%2580%3018268%68%211200211
214Marymount Manhattan College (NY)46%5173%3293286%81%215193160
215Southern Virginia University (VA)36%1460%1628995%84%214206189
Definitions:
Pell/non-Pell graduation gap: graduation rate for Pell students minus the graduation rate for non-Pell students; a positive number indicates that students who receive Pell grants graduate at a higher rate than those who don’t, and vice versa.
* = public
° = for-profit
^^ Under heightened financial monitoring by the U.S. Department of Education