30 BEST LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES IN THE WEST, RANKED BY RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

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30 BEST LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES IN THE WEST, RANKED BY RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

By BVS Staff
July 2020

The Western United States may be home to large research universities and tech-heavy places like Silicon Valley, but the West also happens to be chock-full of smaller colleges where the liberal arts — that is, the study of classical academic fields like the humanities and natural sciences — prove key to success in all kinds of academic and career endeavors.

Ranking Methodology:

To find the 30 best liberal arts colleges in the West, we started by considering only those colleges in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. There are far more than 30 liberal arts colleges in the West, 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%)

Though we didn’t directly consider the 4-year cost of attending these liberal arts colleges, we did order our 30 best liberal arts colleges in the West based on their average 20-year net return on investment, as decided by PayScale.

Rank School Location
1 Harvey Mudd College Claremont, CA
2 Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA
3 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
4 Pomona College Claremont, CA
5 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA
6 University of San Diego San Diego, CA
7 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA
8 Point Loma Nazarene University San Diego, CA
9 Thomas Aquinas College Santa Paula, CA
10 Occidental College Los Angeles, CA
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  1. Harvey Mudd College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $962,000
    Harvey Mudd College is a top liberal arts college that excels in science, engineering, and mathematics. As the school's mission states, "Harvey Mudd College seeks to educate engineers, scientists, and mathematics well versed in …the humanities and the social sciences. . . ." Such a mission is important to the school's tradition of "science with a conscience." Harvey Mudd has been included in a number of national rankings, including those by Money (79th best college in the country), Forbes (59th best college in the country), and U.S. News & World Report (21st best liberal arts college).

  2. Claremont McKenna College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $514,000
    Claremont McKenna College is one of the seven private liberal arts colleges comprising the prestigious Claremont Colleges consortium. This connection makes it possible for Claremont McKenna students to cross-register in classes at the other member schools, thus tailoring their education. According to U.S. News & World Report, Claremont McKenna is the 8th best liberal arts college in the nation, while Forbes has the school ranked 31st on its list of the best colleges and universities in America.

  3. Gonzaga University
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    20-year Net ROI: $392,000
    Gonzaga University, located in Spokane, Washington, is a selective liberal arts university ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 4th best school in the West. Gonzaga employs a core curriculum that is especially strong in the liberal arts, and includes classes in mathematics, literature, natural and social sciences, philosophy and religious studies, and writing. Besides U.S. News & World Report, Gonzaga has been ranked amongst the best schools in the country by Forbes, The Princeton Review, and Fiske.

  4. Pomona College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $375,000
    Established in 1887 as one of the founding members of the Claremont Colleges consortium, Pomona College is today considered one of the best liberal arts schools in the country. Pomona itself offers more than 48 majors and 600 classes, and students are able to cross-register at any of the other schools in the consortium. Students can also choose to design their own major. Though the variety of classes included in Pomona's core curriculum makes it a liberal arts college, it's interesting to note that the college's most popular majors include computer science, economics, mathematics, and neuroscience. In 2015, Forbes named Pomona College the best liberal arts school in the nation.

  5. Loyola Marymount University
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $371,000
    Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit-affiliated liberal arts college located in Los Angeles, has a long history of excellence in education. The university is comprised of seven schools, including Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, and students from every school and major complete a core curriculum that focuses on the humanities and sciences. Loyola Marymount consistently ranks among the very best schools in the country by such publications as U.S. News & World Report (3rd best university in the West), The Wall Street Journal (110th best college in the country), and Forbes (150th best college in the country), to name but a few.

  6. University of San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $330,000
    Perched atop a hill in San Diego, California is University of San Diego, a private liberal arts college associated with the Roman Catholic church. The university offers more than 40 baccalaureate degrees, though each student, whether majoring in nursing or the arts, receives an education solidly built on the core principles of the liberal arts and sciences. University of San Diego is consistently ranked among the best colleges and programs in the nation by publications such U.S. News & World Report, PayScale, Princeton Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Forbes, among others.

  7. Mount Saint Mary's University
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $261,000
    Mount Saint Mary's University is a women's college located in Los Angeles. The university does a great job of attracting and admitting first-generation college students to its freshmen class. Additionally, more than three-quarters of the whole student body is made up of minority students. Students pursue a well-rounded, liberal arts core curriculum before choosing from more than 30 majors. Mount St. Mary's University is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 23rd best university in the West.

  8. Point Loma Nazarene University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $218,000
    Point Loma Nazarene University is a gorgeous liberal arts school located right on the beach in San Diego, California. As a true liberal arts university, Point Loma Nazarene's mission is to education students "as whole people." This includes a well-rounded core curriculum, plus more than 60 options for pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Point Loma Nazarene is currently included in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the best universities in the West (#17) and Best Value Schools (#24).

  9. Thomas Aquinas College
    Location

    Santa Paula, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $208,000
    Students at Thomas Aquinas College spend four years among the beautiful hills of Santa Paula, California while receiving a top notch liberal arts education. Thomas Aquinas College's curriculum is based almost entirely on the Great Books of the Western Heritage, and students read only from primary sources — that is, works by people like Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, Euclid, St. Augustine, Descartes, and Newton in their entireties. Upon graduation, students receive a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts.

  10. Occidental College
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    20-year Net ROI: $205,000
    Occidental College in Los Angeles is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast, so it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the best. Occidental has a strong liberal arts tradition in part because of its unique three-part core curriculum. Before pursuing one of 33 available majors, students must complete two writing seminars, a set of geography courses, a language class, three math and science courses, and a pre-1800s history class. Whatever the reason for its success, Occidental is indeed successful. It has produced more than 10 Rhodes Scholars and is almost always included on lists of the best colleges and universities.

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