30 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the Northeast, Ranked by ROI

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There is a good reason why six of the top 10 best liberal arts colleges in the country (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report) come from the Northeast. Since well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Northeast has remained a bastion of learning, and many of the best known colleges and universities in the world are located here. Many of these schools are liberal arts colleges, which unlike the larger research universities like Yale or Harvard, seek to expose students to a wide range of academic disciplines. A core curriculum at a liberal arts institution often includes classes across the humanities and social sciences.

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Top 10 Ranking Liberal Arts Colleges in the Northeast

Rank School Location
1 Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
2 Hamilton College Clinton, NY
3 Williams College Williamstown, MA
4 Lafayette College Easton, PA
5 Colgate University Hamilton, NY
6 Union College Lincoln, NE
7 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
8 College of the Holy Cross Worcester, MA
9 Amherst College Amherst, MA
10 Haverford College Haverford, PA

Ranking Methodology

To find the 30 best liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, we started by considering only those colleges in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. There are far more than 30 liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, so we narrowed down our list by considering factors such as:

– National rankings (40%)
– Freshmen retention rates (20%)
– Unique curriculum (30%)
– Membership in a college consortium (5%)
– Historical significance (5%)

After deciding on our 30 best liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, we used PayScale to rank each school based on its estimated 20-year net return on investment.

  1. Bucknell University
    Location

    Lewisburg, PA

    20-Year Net ROI: $541,000
    Bucknell University, located along central Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River, is a private liberal arts college consisting of a College of Arts & Sciences, College of Engineering, and School of Management. Students studying at Bucknell's College of Arts & Sciences can choose from 44 majors and a whopping 70 minors, though they also complete a well-rounded core curriculum. Unlike so many other college liberal arts programs, Bucknell University allows students of any major to participate in research programs.

  2. Hamilton College
    Location

    Clinton, NY

    20-Year Net ROI: $509,000
    Hamilton College is a private liberal arts school located in the foothills of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. The college offers bachelor of arts degrees in more than 50 areas of concentrations, plus the choice of completing a dual-degree engineering program with Columbia University or Dartmouth College. According to U.S. News & World Report, Hamilton College is the 12th best liberal arts college in the country, while Forbes ranked it 50th in their ranking of 650 American colleges and universities.

  3. Williams College
    Location

    Williamstown, MA

    20-Year Net ROI: $504,000
    Williams College has spent 14 consecutive years in the top spot of U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the best liberal arts colleges, making it an easy addition to our own list. Students at Williams take a variety of classes across the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, and can choose from 33 majors over 24 departments. The unique curriculum is inspired by the tutorial systems as seen at Oxford and Cambridge, while the academic calendar follows the 4-1-4 schedule, with the middle "Winter Term" consisting of one intensive course, tutorial, or internship.

  4. Lafayette College
    Location

    Easton, PA

    20-Year Net ROI: $502,000
    Located about 70 miles west of New York City in the beautiful Lehigh Valley is Lafayette College, one of the best liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. Indeed, Lafayette has a strong reputation for excellence, and publications such as Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, PayScale, Kiplinger, and Business Insider have all included it among their rankings of the best colleges. Students at Lafayette College can choose from more than 50 fields in which to major, and the most popular majors include the fields of social sciences, biology, English, and psychology.

  5. Colgate University
    Location

    Hamilton, NY

    20-Year Net ROI: $498,000
    Colgate University, a private liberal arts college located in Hamilton, New York, offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in any of 55 different undergraduate concentrations. Colgate is consistently ranked among the best schools in the nation by such publications as U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, Payscale, CollegeNet, and The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, among many others. Colgate was also named as one of Newsweek's 30 Hidden Ivies.

  6. Union College
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    20-Year Net ROI: $453,000
    Union College, located in Schenectady, New York, has a long history of excellence. Founded in 1795, it remained an all-male school for 175 years before becoming co-ed, and was one of the very first colleges to establish fraternity organizations. Students at Union College take a wide variety of courses in the arts, sciences, literature, and foreign language, and can choose majors across 21 academic departments. Despite its solid emphasis on the liberal arts, Union also encourages its undergraduate students to pursue courses in various engineering disciplines.

  7. Swarthmore College
    Location

    Swarthmore, PA

    20-Year Net ROI: $431,000
    Though founded by the Quakers, Swarthmore College is a non-religious liberal arts college located about 11 miles from Philadelphia. Still, its Quaker history does benefit current students. As part of the Quaker Consortium, those pursuing a degree at Swarthmore are able to cross-register for classes at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and University of Pennsylvania. The college has a long history of excellence, and has produced a number of notable figures in the fields of law, art, science, business, and politics, to name but a few.

  8. College of the Holy Cross
    Location

    Worcester, MA

    20-Year Net ROI: $411,000
    College of the Holy Cross, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a private liberal arts school associated with the Jesuits. Its approximately 2,800 students can choose between 28 liberal arts-centered majors in which to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. Also of interest is the fact that the college is home to the nation's second largest Classics program of any liberal arts school in the country. This impressive program played a major role in the editing of the Homer Multitext Project, and is also a primary collaborator on the Perseus Project, a huge digital database of Greek antiquity.

  9. Amherst College
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    20-Year Net ROI: $396,000
    Amherst College is a top-ranked liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts. Founded in 1821, it is the third oldest college in the state, and has been well-regarded for most of its history. U.S. News & World Report ranked Amherst the 2nd best liberal arts school in the country, while Forbes has named it the 12th best college or university in America. Amherst offers students 850 courses within 36 fields of study. While most of these are in the liberal arts, there are also options in the sciences and mathematics.

  10. Haverford College
    Location

    Haverford, PA

    20-Year Net ROI: $357,000
    Founded by the Quakers in 1833, Haverford College is a private liberal arts college located in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Students set on receiving an education in the liberal arts will love the flexibility provided by Haverford's degree programs. Students can choose from 31 majors across the disciplines of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, as well as register for classes at Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College, or University of Pennsylvania. Finally, consider this: this top northeastern liberal arts college has produced 3 Nobel laureates, 20 Rhodes Scholars, 104 Fulbright Scholars, and 6 Pulitzer Prize recipients.

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