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Most liberal colleges in America

  • Most liberal colleges in America
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    Most liberal colleges in America

    While there is no indisputable proof that there are more liberals than conservatives in academia—and while it's likely arguments against political bias have more to do with ideological challenges rather than oppression—the perception that higher education is overwhelmingly liberal persists. A recurring theme in some conservative circles is that U.S. colleges are too liberal in general: Reporting from The Conversation holds that certain activists "have claimed that universities brainwash students and indoctrinate them into believing a liberal ideology.” 

    It is true, though, that some schools are more liberal than others. Just as there are purposely conservative schools, there also are schools that have a history of liberalism or progressive ideology, schools that exist in liberal regions, and schools that are progressive by design. These schools tend to be among the most prestigious, largest, and best-endowed schools in the United States.

    Stacker consulted the college explorer Niche in order to determine the 50 most liberal universities and colleges in America. For this gallery, we ranked schools' liberalism based on students' reviews of the schools' campus communities. These reviews weighed the political leaning of the reviewer, if the reviewer attends or has attended the school, and the reviewer's opinion of it.

    Niche's methodology considered students' self-reported poltiical leanings while at the college they currently or recently attend(ed); and the results of student surveys (data accurate as of 2019) on campus political preferences, specifically liberal students' opinions about the political leanings of students at the college tehy currently or recently attend(ed).

    Keep reading to find out what schools are the country's most liberal.

    You may also like: Best Colleges for the arts in America

  • #50. University of Vermont
    2/ Pixabay

    #50. University of Vermont

    - Location: Burlington, VT
    - Students: 10,395 (student to faculty ratio: 16:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 67% (ACT: 25-30; SAT: 1180-1350)
    - Tuition: $15,936 (in-state); $39,120 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 75%; six-year median earnings: $45,200

    Vermont is very hippie- and hipster-friendly. One of the “Public Ivy” schools, the University of Vermont has been progressive in recent years, with the inclusion of gender-neutral, single-occupancy bathrooms throughout campus, extensive environmental sustainability initiatives, and its FeelGood chapter, which raised more than $100,000 toward ending extreme hunger.

  • #49. Ithaca College
    3/ Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

    #49. Ithaca College

    - Location: Ithaca, NY
    - Students: 5,936 (student to faculty ratio: 10:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 71% (ACT: 23-28; SAT: data not available)
    - Tuition: $43,978
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 76%; six-year median earnings: $50,300

    Ithaca College is awash in progressive history. Within a two-hour drive are Seneca Falls—the site of the first women's rights convention—and the home of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman. While not as large or well-known as neighboring Cornell and Syracuse universities, Ithaca College's strong liberal arts core has made it a top school for film, journalism, and media studies. Add to that its setting and Ithaca College becomes a strong candidate for the liberal-minded student-to-be.

  • #48. California State University - Dominguez Hills
    4/ Mbadillo1 // Wikimedia Commons

    #48. California State University - Dominguez Hills

    - Location: Carson, CA
    - Students: 10,084 (student to faculty ratio: 25:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 54% (ACT: 15-19; SAT: 760-940)
    - Tuition: $6,837 (in-state); $18,717 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 43%; six-year median earnings: $43,600

    California State University-Dominguez Hills is not the best-known public university in California. It was, however, created from a desire to extend opportunities to African-Americans. The school served as a site for Vietnam War protests and is currently known for its high rates of ethnic and gender diversity.

  • #47. Spelman College
    5/ Broadmoor // Wikimedia Commons

    #47. Spelman College

    - Location: Atlanta, GA
    - Students: 2,086 (student to faculty ratio: 11:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 40% (ACT: 22-26; SAT: 1070-1220)
    - Tuition: $28,181
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 74%; six-year median earnings: $46,800

    The sister school of Morehouse College, the all-female Spelman College—along with Clark Atlanta University and the Morehouse School of Medicine—forms the Atlanta University Center Consortium, the largest contiguous consortium of African-American schools in the United States. A Historical Black College and University (HCBU), Spelman has graduated such notables as Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker, politician Stacey Abrams, Children Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, and Alberta Williams King—the mother of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • #46. San Jose State University
    6/ Ken Wolter // Shutterstock

    #46. San Jose State University

    - Location: San Jose, CA
    - Students: 23,097 (student to faculty ratio: 27:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 67% (ACT: 19-26; SAT: 1000-1210)
    - Tuition: $7,721 (in-state); $19,601 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 57%; six-year median earnings: $53,700

    In April, San Jose State University opened a food pantry for its neediest students, according to NBC Bay Area. Any enrolled student with an annual income of less than $33,000 may use the pantry once a week to ensure they have access to the nutrition they need.

  • #45. California State University - Los Angeles
    7/ Justefrain // Wikimedia Commons

    #45. California State University - Los Angeles

    - Location: Los Angeles, CA
    - Students: 21,004 (student to faculty ratio: 25:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 46% (ACT: 15-20; SAT: 890-1080)
    - Tuition: $6,639 (in-state); $18,519 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 47%; six-year median earnings: $43,900

    Cal State LA has distinguished itself as being a Hispanic-serving institution, a federally recognized higher learning institution that has more than 25 percent of its full-time enrolled students of Hispanic descent. The university is home of one of the best business programs in the nation, the country's first Charter College of Education, a National Science Foundation-funded environmental research center, and other facilities of note.

  • #44. Bowdoin College
    8/ Ron Cogswell // Flickr

    #44. Bowdoin College

    - Location: Brunswick, ME
    - Students: 1,813 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 14% (ACT: 31-33; SAT: 1360-1510)
    - Tuition: $51,848
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 95%; six-year median earnings: $58,700

    The fifth-best liberal arts college (tie) in the nation for 2019, Bowdoin College was a men-exclusive college until 1971, when the first women were admitted. It is one of the few competitive schools to make taking the SAT and ACT optional for enrollment.

  • #43. Boston University
    9/ Jorge Salcido // Shutterstock

    #43. Boston University

    - Location: Boston, MA
    - Students: 16,840 (student to faculty ratio: 10:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 25% (ACT: 29-32; SAT: 1300-1480)
    - Tuition: $52,082
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 87%; six-year median earnings: $62,000

    The largest school in New England, Boston University is emblematic of the city it's in: Many of its buildings being recognizable landmarks. The alma mater of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—where he received his Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1955—also boasts an alumni roster that includes Alexander Graham Bell, Elie Wiesel, Isaac Asimov, Saul Bellow, President William Howard Taft, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and Howard Stern.

  • #42. Hofstra University
    10/ Paul Berendsen // Wikimedia Commons

    #42. Hofstra University

    - Location: Hempstead, NY
    - Students: 6,494 (student to faculty ratio: 13:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 64% (ACT: 24-29; SAT: 1130-1310)
    - Tuition: $41,100
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 63%; six-year median earnings: $52,400

    Besides the notable distinction of being the first university Donald Trump attended, Hofstra University is Long Island's largest private university. The school has hosted several presidential debates, reflecting an interest by the school in increasing its profile in the public policy arena. Besides Trump, James Caan, Francis Ford Coppola, and Christopher Walken went to Hofstra.

  • #41. Northeastern University
    11/ Massachussetts Office of Tavel & Tourism // Flickr

    #41. Northeastern University

    - Location: Boston, MA
    - Students: 13,786 (student to faculty ratio: 14:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 27% (ACT: 32-34; SAT: 1370-1520)
    - Tuition: $49,497
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 87%; six-year median earnings: $64,000

    Boston has more than its share of first-class universities. Northeastern University is Boston's research university, relying on a cooperative educational model—which pairs classroom work with professional experiences, such as internships—to offer a complete educational experience. It is one of the leading schools in the world for co-op education and internships.

  • #40. Swarthmore College
    12/ Kungming2 // Wikimedia Commons

    #40. Swarthmore College

    - Location: Swarthmore, PA
    - Students: 1,573 (student to faculty ratio: 8:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 11% (ACT: 31-34; SAT: 1380-1540)
    - Tuition: $52,190
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 94%; six-year median earnings: $52,500

    The third-best liberal arts school, Swarthmore College sits just outside of Philadelphia. Offering an undergraduate engineering program and the ability to take courses at nearby Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, Swarthmore offers one of the best educational values for its size. It has produced five Nobel Prize winners, 11 MacArthur Foundation fellows, and 30 Rhodes Scholars.

  • #39. Emerson College
    13/ John Phelan // Wikimedia Commons

    #39. Emerson College

    - Location: Boston, MA
    - Students: 3,748 (student to faculty ratio: 15:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 46% (ACT: 26-30; SAT: 1200-1360)
    - Tuition: $44,832
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 81%; six-year median earnings: $43,700

    Another Boston school, Emerson College has graduated such famous performers as Jay Leno, Denis Leary, Norman Lear, and Henry Winkler. The Boston Commons college has become a leading performing arts, film, and media school.

  • #38. University of California - Riverside
    14/ Amerique // Wikimedia Commons

    #38. University of California - Riverside

    - Location: Riverside, CA
    - Students: 19,719 (student to faculty ratio: 22:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 57% (ACT: 23-29; SAT: 1090-1300)
    - Tuition: $13,917 (in-state); $41,931 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 75%; six year median earnings: $47,300

    A recent news release from the University of California-Riverside announced that the school has received a grant from NASA's Translational Research Institute for Space Health. The grant, valued at $800,000, will be used to study how to make vegetable crops suitable for growth on the International Space Station.

  • #37. New College of Florida
    15/ Upstateherd // Wikimedia Commons

    #37. New College of Florida

    - Location: Sarasota, FL
    - Students: 835 (student to faculty ratio: 10:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 69% (ACT: 25-30; SAT: 1190-1380)
    - Tuition: $6,916 (in-state); $29,944 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 65%; six-year median earnings: data not available

    Formerly a part of the University of South Florida, the New College of Florida became independent in 2011. Calling itself the Honors College, the school features a teacher-focused facility and an independent curriculum that challenges students to work harder. It does not give letter grades.

  • #36. Occidental College
    16/ EQRoy // Shutterstock

    #36. Occidental College

    - Location: Los Angeles, CA
    - Students: 1,952 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 42% (ACT: 27-32; SAT: 1280-1440)
    - Tuition: $52,838
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 84%; six-year median earnings: $49,700

    Occidental College is the oldest liberal arts college on the West Coast. The school graduated Terry Gilliam, Jack Kemp, George Edward Alcorn, Jr. Former President Barack Obama, and actors Ben Affleck and Luke Wilson, also took courses there.

  • #35. SUNY Buffalo State College
    17/ Pete716 // Wikimedia commons

    #35. SUNY Buffalo State College

    - Location: Buffalo, NY
    - Students: 7,665 (student to faculty ratio: 15:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 58% (ACT: 17-22; SAT: 880-1070)
    - Tuition: $7,976 (in-state); $17,626 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 47%; six-year median earnings: $38,600

    The State University College at Buffalo State, or simply Buff State, started out as a teacher's college. The university would grow to become a major center for academic achievement in western New York State. This school differs from the neighboring State University of New York at Buffalo (University at Buffalo, or UB), which is a multi-campus research university. Despite being the smaller of Buffalo's two state universities, Buff State distinguishes itself with its centers of research, including the Great Lakes Center, which has driven international research into promoting the ecology of lakes Erie and Ontario.

  • #34. Morgan State University
    18/ Baltimore Heritage // Wikimedia Commons

    #34. Morgan State University

    - Location: Baltimore, MD
    - Students: 5,825 (student to faculty ratio: 13:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 64% (ACT: 16-20; SAT: 900-1060)
    - Tuition: $7,766 (in-state); $17,832 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 38%; six-year median earnings: $39,200

    Morgan State University, part of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) system, is Maryland's designated public research university. It is also the largest of the HCBUs and a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the only public university in Maryland not part of the University of Maryland system.

  • #33. Barnard College
    19/ Popova Valeriya

    #33. Barnard College

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Students: 2,514 (student to faculty ratio: 10:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 15% (ACT: 30-33; SAT: 1310-1500)
    - Tuition: $52,662
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 93%; six-year median earnings: $56,400

    Barnard College came to be in response to Columbia University—at the time—being all men. An independent affiliate of Columbia and today among the most prestigious private women's liberal arts schools, both schools share certain classes, clubs, and buildings. As one of the “Seven Sisters,” the school produced such well-known graduates as Martha Stewart, Joan Rivers, Ntozake Shange, Cynthia Nixon, and Zora Neale Hurston.

  • #32. University of San Francisco
    20/ Wayne Hsieh78 // Shutterstock

    #32. University of San Francisco

    - Location: San Francisco, CA
    - Students: 6,586 (student to faculty ratio: 13:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 66% (ACT: 22-28; SAT: 1100-1290)
    - Tuition: $46,250
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 77%; six-year median earnings: $59,900

    The University of San Francisco recently announced its achievement of carbon neutrality more than 30 years ahead of its 2050 target. This means the school offsets the carbon it uses, effectively casting a virtually invisible carbon footprint. The school did this by embracing green cleaning products, installing microturbines for heat and energy, and buying energy offsets, among other things.

  • #31. University of Oregon
    21/ Visitor7 // Wikimedia Commons

    #31. University of Oregon

    - Location: Eugene, OR
    - Students: 17,801 (student to faculty ratio: 17:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 83% (ACT: 22-28; SAT: 1080-1270)
    - Tuition: $11,571 (in-state); $34,611 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 72%; six-year median earnings: $43,200

    Another hipster-friendly environment, Oregon plays host to the University of Oregon—which, despite the name, is an independent university separate from the state government of Oregon. The university is capped by the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact, which was funded in part by the single-largest gift ever given to a public university.

  • #30. Denison University
    22/ Chamberednautilus // Wikimedia Commons

    #30. Denison University

    - Location: Granville, OH
    - Students: 2,319 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 37% (ACT: 28-31; SAT: 1200-1380)
    - Tuition: $49,310
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 86%; six-year median earnings: $48,400

    The recent passing of former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar was hard on the Denison University community, as Luger was an alumnus (class of 1954) and a trustee of the school. “Dick Lugar was a great Denisonian and human being. He lived the mission of the college, and in doing so, he made the world a better place,” Denison President Adam Weinberg said in a statement released by the university.

  • #29. Roosevelt University
    23/ Cloud atlas // Wikimedia Commons

    #29. Roosevelt University

    - Location: Chicago, IL
    - Students: 2,117 (student to faculty ratio: 11:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 70% (ACT: 20-25; SAT: 860-1020)
    - Tuition: $28,963
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 40%; six-year median earnings: $42,700

    Roosevelt University in Chicago opened in 1945 in honor of the then-recently deceased President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor. The school—which started in an attempt to protect the diversity of its student body—counted such notables as Marian Anderson, Ralph Bunche, Albert Einstein, and Pearl Buck among its early advisory board members. Roosevelt University features the second-tallest educational building in the United States.

  • #28. Columbia University
    24/ carlo devito // Shutterstock

    #28. Columbia University

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Students: 7,592 (student to faculty ratio: 6:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 7% (ACT: 31-34; SAT: 1410-1570)
    - Tuition: $57,208
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 95%; six year median earnings: $78,200

    Manhattan's Columbia University is the only Ivy League school in New York City and one of two in New York State—the other being Cornell University. The fifth-oldest university in the United States, Columbia existed before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and bore witness to the first nuclear pile, the first nuclear reactor on this continent, the first evidence of plate tectonics, the Manhattan Project, and Thomas Hunt Morgan's drosophila experiment, which is thought to be the first demonstration of modern genetics.

  • #27. Western Washington University
    25/ Nick Kelly // Wikimedia Commons

    #27. Western Washington University

    - Location: Bellingham, WA
    - Students: 13,728 (student to faculty ratio: 18:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 85% (ACT: 22-28; SAT: 1080-1280)
    - Tuition: $8,183 (in-state); $22,695 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 69%; six-year median earnings: $44,400

    Created as a teacher's college, Western Washington University has emerged as one of the nation's leading research institutions. On campus are an air pollution lab, a wind tunnel, a neutron generator lab, and a motor vehicle lab. Automobile magazine once called the school very possibly the best...in the country for total car design."

  • #26. CUNY Hunter College
    26/ Eden, Janine and Jim // Flickr

    #26. CUNY Hunter College

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Students: 12,612 (student to faculty ratio: 12:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 40% (ACT: data not available; SAT: 1120-1290)
    - Tuition: $6,982 (in-state); $14,372 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 52%; six year median earnings: $45,100

    Hunter College in New York City has distinguished itself as a center of excellence with the inclusion of two women Nobel laureates in medicine on its alumni list. The school also can boast such other alums as Vin Diesel, Hugh Downs, Rhea Perlman, Robert Altman, Donna Shalala, and Judy Reyes.

  • #25. University of California - Santa Barbara
    27/ UCSB Library // Wikimedia Commons

    #25. University of California - Santa Barbara

    - Location: Santa Barbara, CA
    - Students: 21,777 (student to faculty ratio: 18:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 33% (ACT: 28-33; SAT: 1190-1400)
    - Tuition: $14,451 (in-state); $42,465 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 81%; six-year median earnings: $52,500

    A Public Ivy, the University of California, Santa Barbara, is regarded as one of the nation's best public universities. Its current faculty includes six Nobel Prize laureates, two Academy Award winners, one Fields Medalist, and 34 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • #24. Fashion Institute of Technology
    28/ Beyond My Ken // Wikimedia Commons

    #24. Fashion Institute of Technology

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Students: 7,210 (student to faculty ratio: 15:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 47% (ACT: data not available; SAT: data not available)
    - Tuition: $5,483 (in-state); $14,863 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 77%; six-year median earnings: $46,800

    One of the only liberal arts programs in the United States dedicated to the fashion industry, the Fashion Institute of Technology has produced many of the nation's best designers. Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Nina Garcia, film director Joel Schumacher, and actress Melissa McCarthy all graduated from the FIT. The school also offers majors in art, design, business, and mass communications—usually, with a focus on the fashion industry.

  • #23. Kenyon College
    29/ Cbc17 // Wikimedia Commons

    #23. Kenyon College

    - Location: Gambier, OH
    - Students: 1,661 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 34% (ACT: 29-33; SAT: 1260-1460)
    - Tuition: $53,560
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 91%; six-year median earnings: $44,300

    Kenyon College is a small prestigious college that includes among its graduates Paul Newman, Alison Janney, former President Rutherford B. Hayes, cartoonist Bill Watterson, and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

  • #22. Northwestern University
    30/ Jaysin Trevino // Flickr

    #22. Northwestern University

    - Location: Evanston, IL
    - Students: 8,205 (student to faculty ratio: 6:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 9% (ACT: 32-34; SAT: 1420-1560)
    - Tuition: $52,678
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 94%; six-year median earnings: $65,900

    Illinois' marquee research university, Northwestern University, draws in more than $700 million in sponsored research each year, according to the school's website. The university is a founding member of the Big Ten Conference and the only private university currently in it. It also has the ninth-largest endowment in the United States, valued at more than $11 billion.

  • #21. SUNY New Paltz
    31/ crz4mets2 // Wikimedia Commons

    #21. SUNY New Paltz

    - Location: New Paltz, NY
    - Students: 6,235 (student to faculty ratio: 16:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 44% (ACT: 23-28; SAT: 1100-1260)
    - Tuition: $7,775 (in-state); $17,625 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 72%; six-year median earnings: $43,700

    The third State University of New York school on this list (after Buffalo State and the Fashion Institute of Technology), the State University of New York at New Paltz is a prestigious public liberal arts school north of New York City. Known for its arts program, the school has been on political conservatives' radar since it sponsored a feminist conference on sex and sexuality featuring adult toys, risque discussions, and a staging of the popular play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

  • #20. University of Washington
    32/ Meganp // Wikimedia Commons

    #20. University of Washington

    - Location: Seattle, WA
    - Students: 28,759 (student to faculty ratio: 19:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 46% (ACT: 27-32; SAT: 1190-1420)
    - Tuition: $11,207 (in-state); $36,587 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 84%; six-year median earnings: $54,800

    A graduate student team from the University of Washington recently won a competition for environmental innovation. The team discovered a way to make batteries degrade more slowly over time, allowing them to stay useful longer. “If you can fix batteries, it has an impact on so many other clean energy technologies,” said Elizabeth Rasmussen, founder of MOtiF Materials, the University of Washington team.

  • #19. Wesleyan University
    33/ Joe Mabel // Wikimedia Commons

    #19. Wesleyan University

    - Location: Middletown, CT
    - Students: 2,896 (student to faculty ratio: 8:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 16% (ACT: 29-33; SAT: 1300-1480)
    - Tuition: $52,804
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 90%; six-year median earnings: $49,200

    A private university named after the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, Wesleyan University is the school of 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, 14 Rhodes Scholars, and 156 Fulbright Scholars. Among its alumni are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael Bay, Bradley Whitford, and D.B. Weiss.

  • #18. Carleton College
    34/ Pixabay

    #18. Carleton College

    - Location: Northfield, MN
    - Students: 2,055 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 21% (ACT: 31-34; SAT: 1360-1530)
    - Tuition: $52,782
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 94%; six year median earnings: $52,600

    Minnesota's Carleton College reflects its eccentricity with intermural sports like quidditch and the tradition of stealing and displaying a plaster bust of poet Friedrich Schiller. The school is one of the largest sources producing the most undergraduates seeking doctorates per capita.

  • #17. SUNY Purchase College
    35/ Rschaming // Wikimedia Commons

    #17. SUNY Purchase College

    - Location: Purchase, NY
    - Students: 3,712 (student to faculty ratio: 15:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 74% (ACT: 20-26; SAT: 1020-1200)
    - Tuition: $8,498 (in-state); $18,148 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 67%; six-year median earnings: $35,800

    Yet another State University of New York school makes the list. One of the best values consistently on national lists, the State University of New York at Purchase has world-class art, dance, and music programs. The school is renowned for the diversity of its student body.

  • #16. Vassar College
    36/ Jonathan Feinstein // Shutterstock

    #16. Vassar College

    - Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
    - Students: 2,334 (student to faculty ratio: 8:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 24% (ACT: 30-33; SAT: 1330-1500)
    - Tuition: $55,210
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 91%; six-year median earnings: $51,400

    One of the “Seven Sisters,” Vassar College is among the most selective schools in the nation. Once an all-women school, Vassar became coeducational in 1969. Meryl Streep, Anthony Bourdain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Jane Fonda, and Anne Hathaway are all alumni.

  • #15. Smith College
    37/ Nic McPhee // Flickr

    #15. Smith College

    - Location: Northampton, MA
    - Students: 2,505 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 32% (ACT: 28-31; SAT: 1240-1470)
    - Tuition: $50,044
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 88%; six-year median earnings: $44,900

    The largest of the “Seven Sisters,” Smith College is an all-women liberal arts school with a coeducation graduate program. Tied for #11 on the list of national liberal arts colleges, Smith is also part of the Five Colleges Consortium and the alma mater of Nancy Reagan, Julia Child, Sylvia Plath, and Gloria Steinem.

  • #14. Bryn Mawr College
    38/ Zac Entder // Shutterstock

    #14. Bryn Mawr College

    - Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
    - Students: 1,325 (student to faculty ratio: 8:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 38% (ACT: 29-33; SAT: 1310-1500)
    - Tuition: $50,500
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 83%; six-year median earnings: $53,100

    Another of the “Seven Sisters” of historically all-women colleges, Bryn Mawr College offers all-women education. The school is also among the most diverse in the country and was the first all-women school to offer a Ph.D.

  • #13. Sarah Lawrence College
    39/ Alison Nieman // Wikimedia Commons

    #13. Sarah Lawrence College

    - Location: Bronxville, NY
    - Students: 1,384 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 53% (ACT: 27-31; SAT: 1240-1410)
    - Tuition: $54,010
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 79%; six-year median earnings: $39,900

    Sarah Lawrence College seeks to meet the Oxford/Cambridge system, in which there is a one-to-one student-to-faculty tutorial system. This makes the school exceptional in scholarship and in independent research.

  • #12. Howard University
    40/ Eric Glenn // Shutterstock

    #12. Howard University

    - Location: Washington, DC
    - Students: 6,090 (student to faculty ratio: 8:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 41% (ACT: 22-28; SAT: 1090-1290)
    - Tuition: $24,122
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 63%; six-year median earnings: $46,800

    The national capital's HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Howard University is a top-tier research university—the only one currently in the HBCU system. It is also one of the most selective schools for minority students and a top 25 law school for placing graduates in successful law firms.

  • #11. New York University
    41/ Jean-Christophe BENOIST // Wikimedia Commons

    #11. New York University

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Students: 25,347 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 28% (ACT: 29-33; SAT: 1290-1490)
    - Tuition: $50,464
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 84%; six-year median earnings: $59,600

    Greenwich Village's New York University is the spiritual competitor to Columbia University. The school's research has redefined our understanding of the world, as reflected in the recent news release from New York University's Center for the Study of Human Origins suggesting that humans evolved from ground-dwelling apes rather than primates that lived in trees.

  • #10. Oberlin College
    42/ Peace Unicorn // Wikimedia Commons

    #10. Oberlin College

    - Location: Oberlin, OH
    - Students: 2,790 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 34% (ACT: 28-33; SAT: 1280-1450)
    - Tuition: $53,460
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 86%; six-year median earnings: $40,200

    Formerly the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, Oberlin College is the second-oldest continuously operating coeducational institution in the world and the oldest in the United States. The school's Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the nation, as well.

  • #9. American University
    43/ Josh // Flickr

    #9. American University

    - Location: Washington, DC
    - Students: 7,764 (student to faculty ratio: 11:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 29% (ACT: 26-30; SAT: 1180-1350)
    - Tuition: $46,615
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 79%; six-year median earnings: $59,200

    United Methodist Church-affiliated American University was created to promote and encourage public service and internationalism. Like many universities, American University is currently in the midst of an inclusion debate, this one triggered by the filming of an American University student using a racist slur.

  • #8. Portland State University
    44/ Visitor7 // Wikimedia Commons

    #8. Portland State University

    - Location: Portland, OR
    - Students: 13,990 (student to faculty ratio: 20:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 92% (ACT: 19-25; SAT: 990-1220)
    - Tuition: $8,783 (in-state); $26,130 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 49%; six-year median earnings: $42,900

    Portland State University was created as a post-secondary educational option for returning World War II veterans. It is the only public university in Oregon near a city center. The university has developed partnerships with Intel and Portland General Electric.

  • #7. Bard College
    45/ Daderot // Wikimedia Commons

    #7. Bard College

    - Location: Annandale-On-Hudson, NY
    - Students: 1,862 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 58% (ACT: data not available; SAT: data not available)
    - Tuition: $52,906
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 74%; six-year median earnings: $35,900

    A small, private liberal arts school, Bard College has a network of 35 affiliated programs, institutes, and centers. Well-known successful alumni include Chevy Chase, Blythe Danner, Christopher Guest, and Ronan Farrow.

  • #6. Mount Holyoke College
    46/ Feng Cheng // Shutterstock

    #6. Mount Holyoke College

    - Location: South Hadley, MA
    - Students: 2,161 (student to faculty ratio: 9:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 51% (ACT: 29-33; SAT: 1270-1460)
    - Tuition: $47,940
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 86%; six-year median earnings: $46,100

    Mount Holyoke College recently placed its police chief on administrative leave following protests when it was discovered that the chief liked Twitter posts that feature Donald Trump calling to “BUILD THAT WALL” and the NRA wishing a “Merry Christmas.” The protests were triggered when a staffer at nearby Smith College called campus police on a black student worker on her lunch break. The chief heads a joint police department serving both campuses.

  • #5. University of California - Berkeley
    47/ Charlie Nguyen // Flickr

    #5. University of California - Berkeley

    - Location: Berkeley, CA
    - Students: 29,351 (student to faculty ratio: 18:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 17% (ACT: 30-34; SAT: 1260-1480)
    - Tuition: $14,170 (in-state); $42,184 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 91%; six-year median earnings: $61,800

    The University of California, Berkeley, has been the symbol of the progressive movement for at least the second half of the 20th century. The campus was instrumental in the Free Speech Movement of 1964, opposition to the Vietnam War, and the People's Park Protest of 1969—where the National Guard was called against the student protesters.

  • #4. Mills College
    48/ Daniel Olsen // Wikimedia Commons

    #4. Mills College

    - Location: Oakland, CA
    - Students: 739 (student to faculty ratio: 10:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 87% (ACT: 23-29; SAT: 925-1233)
    - Tuition: $46,236
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 69%; six-year median earnings: $39,600

    Mills College recently announced that it has joined the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and 43 other colleges and universities in launching the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. The collaboration seeks to bring keyholders together to find solutions to stop sexual harassment in higher education.

  • #3. Columbia College Chicago
    49/ afunkydamsel // Flicker

    #3. Columbia College Chicago

    - Location: Chicago, IL
    - Students: 6,436 (student to faculty ratio: 14:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 92% (ACT: data not available; SAT: data not available)
    - Tuition: $26,474
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 44%; six-year median earnings: $33,400

    Originally the Columbia School of Oratory, Columbia College Chicago has emerged as a leading school for media arts. Among the research centers the school offers are the Center for Black Music Research, the Center for Book and Paper Arts, and the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.

  • #2. San Francisco State University
    50/ Webbi1987 // Wikimedia Commons

    #2. San Francisco State University

    - Location: San Francisco, CA
    - Students: 22,263 (student to faculty ratio: 23:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 70% (ACT: 18-24; SAT: 950-1150)
    - Tuition: $7,254 (in-state); $19,134 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 54%; six-year median earnings: $48,000

    Once a teacher's college, San Francisco State University has one of the most diverse student bodies among U.S. universities. The school's Cinema Department is considered to be one of the best film schools in the nation, with Annette Bening, Alex Borstein, Dana Carvey, Danny Glover, and Jeffrey Tambor among its alumni.

  • #1. University of California - Santa Cruz
    51/ Matthew Corley // Shutterstock

    #1. University of California - Santa Cruz

    - Location: Santa Cruz, CA
    - Students: 17,082 (student to faculty ratio: 19:1)
    - Acceptance rate: 51% (ACT: 26-31; SAT: 1160-1340)
    - Tuition: $14,020 (in-state); $42,034 (out-of-state)
    - Outcomes: graduation rate: 77%; six-year median earnings: $43,700

    The most liberal college in the United States is the University of California, Santa Cruz. Created as a center for progressive, cross-discipline education, the university is designed to give the feel of small, intimate colleges inside a large university. Among the more popular majors are critical race & ethnic studies and the history of consciousness.

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