Liberal arts colleges in the United States

Liberal arts colleges in the United States

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Encyclopedia
Liberal arts colleges in the United States are certain undergraduate institutions of higher education in the United States. The Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

 Concise
offers a definition of the liberal arts
Liberal arts
The term liberal arts refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy...

 as a "college or university curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a profession
Profession
A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain....

al, vocational
Vocational education
Vocational education or vocational education and training is an education that prepares trainees for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, and totally related to a specific trade, occupation, or vocation...

, or technical
Engineering education
Engineering education is the activity of teaching knowledge and principles related to the professional practice of engineering. It includes the initial education for becoming an engineer and any advanced education and specialization that follow...

 curriculum." Generally, a full-time, four-year course of study at a liberal arts college leads students to a Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 or Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years .-Australia:In Australia, the BSc is a 3 year degree, offered from 1st year on...

 degree.

Overview


These schools are American institutions of higher education which have traditionally emphasized interactive instruction (although research is still a component of these institutions) at the undergraduate level. While there is no nationwide legal standard in the United States, the term "university" is primarily used to designate graduate education and research institutions, and is reserved for doctorate-granting institutions, and some US states, such as Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, will only grant a school "university status" if it grants at least two doctoral degrees.

These colleges also encourage a high level of student-teacher interaction at the center of which are classes taught by full-time faculty rather than graduate student TAs (who teach some of the classes at Research I
Research I university
Research I university was a category previously used by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to indicate those universities that engaged in extensive research activity....

 and other universities). They are known for being residential
Residential college
A residential college is an organisational pattern for a division of a university that places academic activity in a community setting of students and faculty, usually at a residence and with shared meals, the college having a degree of autonomy and a federated relationship with the overall...

 and for having smaller enrollment, class size, and teacher-student ratios than universities. In addition, some colleges offer experimental curricula
Alternative education
Alternative education, also known as non-traditional education or educational alternative, includes a number of approaches to teaching and learning other than mainstream or traditional education. Educational alternatives are often rooted in various philosophies that are fundamentally different...

.

Consortia and groups


Liberal arts colleges are also often associated with larger groups or consortia. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, many liberal arts colleges belong to the Annapolis Group
Annapolis Group
The Annapolis Group is an American organization that describes itself as "a nonprofit alliance of the nation’s leading independent liberal arts colleges." It represents approximately 130 liberal arts colleges in the United States...

, Oberlin Group
Oberlin Group
The Oberlin Group is an "informal consortium of the libraries of approximately 80 selective liberal arts colleges in the United States. The group developed as a result of conferences held in 1984-85 at Oberlin College when the presidents of 50 colleges met to discuss the role of science...

, Women's College Coalition
Women's College Coalition
The Women's College Coalition was founded in 1972 and describes itself as an "association of women's colleges and universities – public and private, independent and church-related, two- and four-year – in the United States and Canada whose primary mission is the education and advancement of...

, and the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges
Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges
The Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges is a nonprofit organization of 62 American liberal arts colleges which formed in 1984. CLAC "uses of computing and related technologies in the service of the liberal arts mission...

. The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges
Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges
The Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges or COPLAC is a consortium of 26 public colleges and universities in 24 states and one Canadian province...

 is a consortium of public liberal arts colleges
Public university
A public university is a university that is predominantly funded by public means through a national or subnational government, as opposed to private universities. A national university may or may not be considered a public university, depending on regions...

. A number of liberal arts colleges are involved in Project Pericles
Project Pericles
Project Pericles Inc. is a non-profit organization composed of liberal arts colleges and universities geared towards the ideas that social responsibility and participatory citizenship are essential parts of an undergraduate curriculum, in the classroom, on campus, and in the community.- Background...

 or the Eco League
Eco League
The Eco League is a five-college consortium consisting of Alaska Pacific University, Green Mountain College, Northland College, Prescott College and College of the Atlantic. The consortium is unique, in that each college is in a different geographic area. Alaska Pacific University is in Anchorage,...

.

Other well-known consortia in the Eastern United States
Eastern United States
The Eastern United States, the American East, or simply the East is traditionally defined as the states east of the Mississippi River. The first two tiers of states west of the Mississippi have traditionally been considered part of the West, but can be included in the East today; usually in...

 include the Little Three
Little Three
The "Little Three" is an unofficial athletic conference of three elite liberal arts colleges in New England, United States. The "Little Three" are:* Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts* Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut...

, the Seven Sisters Colleges
Seven Sisters (colleges)
The Seven Sisters are seven liberal arts colleges in the Northeastern United States that are historically women's colleges. They are Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Radcliffe College, Smith College, Vassar College, and Wellesley College. All were founded between 1837 and...

, and the Little Ivies
Little Ivies
Little Ivies is a colloquialism referring to a group of small, selective American liberal arts colleges; however, it does not denote any official organization....

. Four Eastern colleges, along with the University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States and the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system...

, are also part of the Five Colleges Consortium
Five Colleges (Massachusetts)
The Five Colleges comprises four liberal arts colleges and one university in the Connecticut River Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, totaling approximately 28,000 students. The schools belong to a consortium called Five Colleges, Incorporated, established in 1965...

 in Western Massachusetts
Western Massachusetts
Western Massachusetts is a loosely defined geographical region of the U.S. state of Massachusetts which contains the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley, and some or all of the Swift River Valley. The region is always considered to include Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties, and the...

 and three Eastern colleges comprise the Tri-College Consortium
Tri-College Consortium
The Tri-College Consortium consists of three private liberal arts colleges in the Philadelphia suburbs: Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College. The consortium allows students to cross register for courses at the other colleges. Haverford enjoys an especially close relationship...

.

Similar consortia include the Claremont College Consortium
Claremont Colleges
The Claremont Colleges are a prestigious American consortium of five undergraduate and two graduate schools of higher education located in Claremont, California, a city east of downtown Los Angeles...

 in Southern California
Southern California
Southern California is a megaregion, or megapolitan area, in the southern area of the U.S. state of California. Large urban areas include Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego. The urban area stretches along the coast from Ventura through the Southland and Inland Empire to San Diego...

 and the Associated Colleges of the Midwest
Associated Colleges of the Midwest
Associated Colleges of the Midwest is a consortium of 14 private liberal arts colleges, primarily in the Midwestern United States. The 14 colleges are located in five states . The ACM was established in 1958 and is headquartered in Chicago...

 in the Midwestern United States
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

. Additional midwestern groups include the Five Colleges of Ohio
Five Colleges of Ohio
The Five Colleges of Ohio is an academic consortium of five selective private liberal arts colleges in the U.S. state of Ohio. It is a nonprofit educational consortium established in 1995 to promote the broad educational and cultural objectives of its member institutions...

, Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities
Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities
The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities is a consortium of private liberal arts institutions dedicated to providing cooperative programs, services, and opportunities for their respective students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The ACTC is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The five members...

, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest
Associated Colleges of the Midwest
Associated Colleges of the Midwest is a consortium of 14 private liberal arts colleges, primarily in the Midwestern United States. The 14 colleges are located in five states . The ACM was established in 1958 and is headquartered in Chicago...

 and the Great Lakes Colleges Association
Great Lakes Colleges Association
The Great Lakes Colleges Association , is a consortium of 13 liberal arts colleges located in the states around the Great Lakes. The 13 schools are located in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana...

. Groups in the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 include the Associated Colleges of the South
Associated Colleges of the South
The Associated Colleges of the South is a consortium of 16 liberal arts colleges in the southern United States. It was formed in 1991.-Members:*Birmingham-Southern College - Birmingham, Alabama...

, and the Seven Sisters of the South.

Purpose and goals


Chapter One ("The Liberal Arts: What is a Liberal Arts Education and Why is it Important Today") of Howard Greene and Matthew Greene's, Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence
Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence
Hidden Ivies: Thirty Colleges of Excellence is a college educational guide published in 2000. It concerns college admissions in the United States...

, defines the goals of a liberal arts education in the following manner:


In a complex, shifting world, it is essential to develop a high degree of intellectual literacy and critical-thinking skills, a sense of moral
Moral character
Moral character or character is an evaluation of a particular individual's durable moral qualities. The concept of character can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits...

 and ethical responsibility
Social justice
Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. The term and modern concept of "social justice" was coined by...

 to one's community, the ability to reason clearly, to think rationally, to analyze information intelligently, to respond to people in a compassionate and fair way, to continue learning new information and concepts over a lifetime, to appreciate and gain pleasure from the beauty of the arts and literature and to use these as an inspiration and a solace when needed, to revert to our historical past for lessons that will help shape the future intelligently and avoid unnecessary mistakes, to create a sense of self-esteem that comes from personal accomplishments and challenges met with success.


In addition, college placement counselor Loren Pope
Loren Pope
Loren Brooks Pope was an American writer and independent college placement counselor.In 1965, Pope, a former newspaperman and education editor of The New York Times, founded the College Placement Bureau, one of the first independent college placement counseling services in the United States...

 writes that at the liberal arts colleges he lists in Colleges That Change Lives
Colleges That Change Lives
Colleges That Change Lives is a college educational guide by Loren Pope. It was originally published in 1996, with a second edition in 2000, and a third edition in 2006...

:
The focus is on the student, not the faculty; he is heavily involved in his own education. There are no passive ears; students and faculty work so closely together, they even coauthor publications. Teaching is an act of love. There is not only a mentor relationship in class but professors become hiking companions, intramural teammates, dinner companions, and friends. Learning is collaborative rather than competitive; values are central; there is a strong sense of community. They are places of great synergy, where the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. Aspirations are raised, young people are empowered."

Rankings


Two well known college and university rankings
College and university rankings
College and university rankings are lists of institutions in higher education, ordered by combinations of factors. In addition to entire institutions, specific programs, departments, and schools are ranked...

 guides offer annual issues which rank liberal arts colleges separately from research universities. They are the U.S. News and World Report http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/brief/t1libartco_brief.php and The Washington Monthly
The Washington Monthly
The Washington Monthly is a bimonthly nonprofit magazine of United States politics and government that is based in Washington, D.C.The magazine's founder is Charles Peters, who started the magazine in 1969 and continues to write the "Tilting at Windmills" column in each issue. Paul Glastris, former...

's
"College Rankings" issue.http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0609.libarts.html

2007 movement



On 19 June 2007, during the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group
Annapolis Group
The Annapolis Group is an American organization that describes itself as "a nonprofit alliance of the nation’s leading independent liberal arts colleges." It represents approximately 130 liberal arts colleges in the United States...

, members discussed the letter to college presidents asking them not to participate in the "reputation survey" section of the U.S. News and World Report survey (this section comprises 25% of the ranking). As a result, "a majority of the approximately 80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to participate in the U.S. News reputational rankings in the future." However, the decision to fill out the reputational survey or not will be left up to each individual college as: "the Annapolis Group is not a legislative body and any decision about participating in the US News rankings rests with the individual institutions." The statement also said that its members "have agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search process." This database will be web based and developed in conjunction with higher education organizations including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Founded in 1976, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities is an organization of private US colleges and universities...

and the Council of Independent Colleges
Council of Independent Colleges
The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of nearly 600 independent, liberal arts colleges and universities and more than 70 higher education affiliates and organizations that work together to strengthen college and university leadership, sustain high-quality education, and enhance...

.


On 22 June 2007, U.S. News and World Report editor Robert Morse issued a response in which he argued, "in terms of the peer assessment survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the survey has significant value because it allows us to measure the "intangibles" of a college that we can't measure through statistical data. Plus, the reputation of a school can help get that all-important first job and plays a key part in which grad school someone will be able to get into. The peer survey is by nature subjective, but the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their competitors is a commonly accepted practice. The results from the peer survey also can act to level the playing field between private and public colleges."
In reference to the alternative database discussed by the Annapolis Group, Morse also argued, "It's important to point out that the Annapolis Group's stated goal of presenting college data in a common format has been tried before [...] U.S. News has been supplying this exact college information for many years already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it with significantly less comparability and functionality. U.S. News first collects all these data (using an agreed-upon set of definitions from the Common Data Set). Then we post the data on our website in easily accessible, comparable tables. In other words, the Annapolis Group and the others in the NAICU initiative actually are following the lead of U.S. News."

SAT optional movement



A number of U.S. liberal arts colleges have either joined, or have been important influences on, a movement to make the SAT
SAT
The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still...

 optional for admission, in response to criticisms of the SAT.

Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College , founded in 1794, is an elite private liberal arts college located in the coastal Maine town of Brunswick, Maine. As of 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranks Bowdoin 6th among liberal arts colleges in the United States. At times, it was ranked as high as 4th in the country. It is...

 in Brunswick, Maine
Brunswick, Maine
Brunswick is a town in Cumberland County, Maine, United States. The population was 20,278 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metropolitan area. Brunswick is home to Bowdoin College, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, , and the...

 and Bates College
Bates College
Bates College is a highly selective, private liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, in the United States. and was most recently ranked 21st in the nation in the 2011 US News Best Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The college was founded in 1855 by abolitionists...

 in Lewiston, Maine
Lewiston, Maine
Lewiston is a city in Androscoggin County in Maine, and the second-largest city in the state. The population was 41,592 at the 2010 census. It is one of two principal cities of and included within the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine metropolitan New England city and town area and the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine...

 were among the first to institute SAT-optional programs in 1969 and 1984, respectively. In 1990, the Bates faculty voted to make all standardized testing optional in the college's admissions process, and in October 2004 Bates published a study regarding the testing optional policy, which was presented to the National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for College Admission Counseling
The National Association for College Admission Counseling , founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 11,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students transitioning from secondary to postsecondary education, including professional school counselors, college access...

. Following two decades without required testing, the college found that the difference in graduation rates between submitters and non-submitters was 0.1%, that Bates' applicant pool had doubled since the policy was instated with approximately 1/3 of applicants not submitting scores, that non-submitting students averaged only 0.05 points lower on their collegiate Grade Point Average, and that applications from minority students rose dramatically.

The Bates
Bates College
Bates College is a highly selective, private liberal arts college located in Lewiston, Maine, in the United States. and was most recently ranked 21st in the nation in the 2011 US News Best Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The college was founded in 1855 by abolitionists...

 study prompted a movement among small liberal arts colleges to make the SAT
SAT
The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still...

 optional for admission to college
College admissions in the United States
College admissions in the United States refers to the annual process of applying to institutions of higher education in the United States for undergraduate study. This usually takes place during the senior year of high school...

 in the early 2000s. Indeed, according to a 31 August 2006 article in the New York Times, "It is still far too early to sound the death knell, but for many small liberal arts colleges, the SAT may have outlived its usefulness."


Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in the United States, and a leader in progressive education since its founding in 1926. Located just 30 minutes north of Midtown Manhattan in southern Westchester County, New York, in the city of Yonkers, this coeducational college offers...

 dropped its SAT
SAT
The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still...

 test score submission requirement for its undergraduate applicants in 2003,
thus joining the SAT optional movement for undergraduate admission
College admissions
University admission or college admissions is the process through which students enter tertiary education at universities and colleges. Systems vary widely from country to country, and sometimes from institution to institution....

. The former president of Sarah Lawrence, Dr. Michele Tolela Myers, described the rationale for this decision in an article for The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

on 11 March 2007, saying: "We are a writing-intensive school, and the information produced by SAT scores added little to our ability to predict how a student would do at our college; it did, however, do much to bias admission in favor of those who could afford expensive coaching sessions." As a result of this policy, in the same Washington Post article, Dr. Myers stated that she was informed by the U.S. News and World Report that if no SAT scores were submitted, U.S. News would "make up a number" to use in its magazines. She further argues that if SLC were to decide to stop sending all data to U.S. News and World Report,
that their ranking would be artificially decreased. U.S. News and World Report issued a response to this article on 12 March 2007 that stated that the evaluation of Sarah Lawrence is under review.

As of 2007, according to U.S. News & World Report, Sarah Lawrence was the only "major" American college that completely disregarded SAT scores in its admission process. Other liberal arts colleges that do not consider the SAT include Shimer College
Shimer College
Shimer College is a very small, private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Founded by Frances Wood Shimer in 1853 in the frontier town of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, it was a women's school for most of its first century. It joined with the University of...

, which has an open admissions
Open admissions
Open admissions is a type of unselective and non-competitive college admissions process in the United States in which the only criterion for entrance is a high school diploma or a General Educational Development certificate.This form of "inclusive" admissions is used by many public junior...

 policy. Gutenberg College
Gutenberg College
Gutenberg College is a private, four-year Great Books college in Eugene, Oregon. The curriculum centers on the most influential primary texts of Western Civilization, which students study with “tutors” in round-table discussions...

 requires SAT scores, but their admissions policy is weighted toward admission essays and interviews with prospective students.

The full list of SAT optional schools is given by FairTest
FairTest
The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, also known as FairTest, is an American educational organization that addresses issues related to accuracy in student test taking and scoring.-SAT optional schools:...

, an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

al organization that "advances quality education and equal opportunity by promoting fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial evaluations of students, teachers and schools. FairTest also works to end the misuses and flaws of testing practices that impede those goals."

List of liberal arts colleges in the United States



Further reading

  • Harriman, Philip. "Antecedents of the Liberal Arts College." The Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 6, No. 2 (1935): 63-71.
  • Koblik, Steven and Stephen Richards Graubard. Distinctively American: The Residential Liberal Arts Colleges, 2000.
  • Pfnister, Allen O. "The Role of the Liberal Arts College." The Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 55, No. 2 (March/April 1984): 145-170.
  • Pope, Loren
    Loren Pope
    Loren Brooks Pope was an American writer and independent college placement counselor.In 1965, Pope, a former newspaperman and education editor of The New York Times, founded the College Placement Bureau, one of the first independent college placement counseling services in the United States...

    . Colleges That Change Lives
    Colleges That Change Lives
    Colleges That Change Lives is a college educational guide by Loren Pope. It was originally published in 1996, with a second edition in 2000, and a third edition in 2006...

    .
    New York: Penguin, 2006.
  • Reeves, Floyd W. "The Liberal-Arts College." The Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 1, No. 7 (1930): 373-380.
  • Seidel, George. "Saving the Small College." The Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 39, No. 6 (1968): 339-342.

External links