Best Value Liberal Arts Colleges

Typically private and best known for concentrating on undergraduate studies, liberal arts colleges offer a wide range of degree programs and opportunities for students from all walks of life.  Read More

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1Harvey Mudd College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$985,300
Total 4 Year Cost$237,700
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$21,920
2Lafayette College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$656,100
Total 4 Year Cost$226,900
Grad Rate88%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$29,440
3Wabash College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$597,100
Total 4 Year Cost$175,900
Grad Rate69%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$33,360
4Washington and Lee University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$589,900
Total 4 Year Cost$223,100
Grad Rate90%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$31,400
5Bucknell University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$580,500
Total 4 Year Cost$232,500
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$26,440
6College of the Holy Cross(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$511,600
Total 4 Year Cost$221,400
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$30,080
7University of Richmond(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$482,400
Total 4 Year Cost$220,600
Grad Rate85%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$25,440
8Hamilton College - Clinton, NY(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$447,200
Total 4 Year Cost$225,800
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$16,440
9Colgate University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$405,600
Total 4 Year Cost$227,400
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$9,680
10Eastern Nazarene College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$404,700
Total 4 Year Cost$148,300
Grad Rate50%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,080
11Saint John's University (SJU) - Collegeville, MN(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$401,900
Total 4 Year Cost$181,100
Grad Rate79%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$38,440
12Amherst College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$395,500
Total 4 Year Cost$231,800
Grad Rate96%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$24,280
13Union College - Schenectady, NY(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$385,900
Total 4 Year Cost$228,300
Grad Rate88%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$22,320
14Grove City College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$379,400
Total 4 Year Cost$93,600
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$43,600
15Stonehill College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$314,100
Total 4 Year Cost$198,900
Grad Rate85%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$30,440

*NOTE: Unranked schools on this list don’t have on-campus living options, so on-campus costs are not available.

But before you enroll in a quaint liberal arts college, you should use the College ROI Report to find out which liberal arts colleges give alumni a high return on investment and prepare them for successful careers. By using PayScale's information to pinpoint the best value liberal arts colleges in the country before applying, you can ensure that you get the personalized attention and authentic college experience that these colleges are known for and be able to pay back the student loans required to attend them.

Named the 15th best liberal arts college by U.S. News and World Report, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, also happens to be the number-one school in terms of 20 Year Net ROI. Located on a 38-acre campus about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, the school is a part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, and students can attend classes at other schools in the system as well. The school, which offers four-year degrees in physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, engineering and computer science, boasts a 20 Year Net ROI of $985,300. When financial aid is factored in, that number soars to $1,104,500. Harvey Mudd College traditionally has the highest rate of science and engineering PhD production in the U.S., and numerous astronauts, business leaders and other prominent members of society have graduated from the private school through the years.

With its 32nd-place ranking on our 20 Year Net ROI list, Lafayette College offers some of the best values in liberal arts colleges. Indeed, the school was listed as the 31st best value in liberal arts schools by Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, and the private, Easton, Pennsylvania-based school has enjoyed an impeccable academic reputation since its founding in 1826. Because it's located roughly between NYC and Philadelphia, Lafayette is a convenient option for East Coast students who want to be close to cultural, historical and entertainment options. Degrees are granted from a number of programs, including biology, psychology, English and the social sciences, and two Nobel Award winners are associated with the school. The 20 Year Net ROI is $656,100 without financial aid and $782,900 with it, so it's a great value for liberal arts students.

In addition to being the largest private liberal arts university in the U.S., Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, is ranked 59th nationally in terms of 20 Year Net ROI. Indeed, Bucknell alumni report a median return of investment of $520,500 in the 20 years after they graduate. That figure jumps to $691,000 with financial aid. Located on a 445-acre rural campus, the school confers degrees from its three schools and colleges across a variety of disciplines, including social sciences, education, engineering and management.

When it comes to liberal arts colleges return on investment, you can't go wrong with Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Founded in 1749, the school gets its name from two sources: George Washington endowed it with stock shortly after its founding, and Robert E. Lee served as president from 1865 through 1870. In addition to boasting a 20 Year Net ROI of $589,900 without financial aid and $739,800 with it, the school is consistently ranked in the first tier for liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report. 42 undergraduate majors and 22 minors are offered by its three academic units, and notable alumni include three U.S. Supreme Court justices, 27 U.S. Senators, 31 state governors and several Pulitzer Prize winners.