10 Incredible Liberal Arts Colleges On the Rise

7. Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN)

photo by McGhiever via Wikimedia Commons

In a 2017 ranking from The New York Times, Gustavus Adolphus College ranked in the top 40 colleges and universities nationwide in a unique list. The list, titled “Top Colleges Doing the Most for the American Dream,” ranked schools based on their commitment to economic diversity.

Gustavus Adolphus is widely known as the home of the Nobel Conference, a forum in which members of the public can listen to – and engage with – scholars based on topics in the social sciences.

This unique institution is a school on the rise; For its 2020 ranking Niche.com rated it a top-50 liberal arts college in the country.

Alumni of this school include world-famous jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist James McPherson, and theatre director David Esbjornson.

6. St. Anselm College (Manchester, NH)

photo by Ericci8996 via Wikimedia Commons

Ranked in 2019 as one of the top-50 “Best ROI” liberal arts colleges in the country by Payscale.com, Saint Anselm has historically played an important role in national politics, serving as the location to many presidential & political debates.

Indeed, St. Anselm is home to the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Founded in 2001, this unique place has hosted hundreds of potential presidential candidates. In today’s world, you cannot run for president without taking a trip to this Manchester staple.

However, what makes St. Anselm special is not only its status as a political forum, but rather with what goes on in their classroom.

Since 1977, over 40 campus buildings have been constructed. One recently created facility is the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center, a central hub of activity for the school’s “Anselmians.”

Additionally, one-hundred student organizations on campus comprise this school’s extra-curricular offerings, including those in arts & culture, religion, politics, and more.

5. Luther College (Decorah, IA)

photo by Bobak Ha’Eri via Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, Luther College has been home to one of America’s top collegiate choir programs; the school’s premiere ensemble, the Nordic Choir, has toured internationally throughout Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and many other countries. 

Artists who have performed in recent years with the Luther College Choir include Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds of The Dave Matthews Band, musician Ben Folds, the Empire Brass, and more.

The school’s symphony is equally impressive to the choir, maintaining a yearly residency in Vienna as well as an active touring schedule.

Luther’s ascendency as a top liberal arts college is not only because of its music program, however; it is also a premiere liberal arts college for the cultured student.

To this end, over two-thirds of the student body participate in a study-abroad program every year in over 40 countries. Few Baccalaureate schools have a higher percentage of students who participate in a study-abroad program than Luther.

A close-knit relationship between students and professors is at the heart of the Luther experience. In fact, 95% of professors live within 5 miles of campus.

4. Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, IL)

photo by Emilymarvin via Wikimedia Commons

According to Wallethub, Illinois Wesleyan is now regarded as a top-25 liberal arts college in the nation.

What has led Illinois Wesleyan to ascend to such heights – and what is continuing to lead its trajectory upwards?

Let’s start with the quality of the schools offerings. The Ames School of Art, as well as the Illinois Wesleyan School of Music, are considered two of the best specialty arts programs in liberal arts colleges today. One alumnus of Illinois Wesleyan started his own orchestra; others have placed in the country’s most prestigious competitions.

According to Niche.com’s most recent rankings, Illinois Wesleyan now stands in the top-70 nationwide for programs in Nursing, Education, Performing Arts, and Physics.

The campus life separates Illinois Wesleyan from many other liberal arts schools; sports, greek life, and more are central components to the unique experience at Illinois Wesleyan. 

In 2018, 97% of the school’s graduating student found work or placement into graduate school within 6 months of graduation. A study by Zippia found that Illinois Wesleyan is the top school in Illinois for getting a job after graduation.


  1. I was a 1963 graduate of Hendrix and went on to earn two degrees at SMU, one at the University of Dallas and a Certificate of Post Graduate Studies at the University of the South. I continue to rate Hendrix at the top of this experiences.

  2. Dear Robert,
    I was a freshman at Hendrix in 1962 and remember you there. I went to many, many schools in the 60s both large and small and I agree with you. Hendrix was easily the best of them and has provided the most memories.
    John Wright


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