New York’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities of 2021

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges in New York offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

New York’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in New York

They say New York is a place where dreams come true. Here, fashion, culture, food, business, art, and many languages comfortably coexist. While the Empire State’s metropolitan landmarks, like the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, are noteworthy, many forget New York also offers access to the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and countless cozy cabins tucked away in the verdant Catskills Mountains. Additionally, New York is home to over 200 colleges and universities, making it easy for students to dream big while earning their degrees.

On average, tuition at New York’s higher education institutes comes in well-below the national average at about $7,900. Students have nearly 80 public school options to choose from, ranging in fees from $1,000 at the United States Merchant Marine Academy up to $10,000 at the University at Buffalo, the largest public university. However, some of the state’s private schools, such as New York University (NYU), charge tuition fees at a much higher cost. Although tuition fees at NYU average $52,000, students who attend this school have access to some of the best programs in fields like literature, business, medicine, communications, and law. The school also boasts famous alumni like Whoopi Goldberg and Jonas Salk. New York also offers close to 40 religiously affiliated schools. Students can expect to pay a wide range of tuition costs at these schools, but have the option to major in fields like social work, law, religious studies, business, and nursing.

Explore some of the top programs New York higher education institutes have to offer, and make your educational and personal dreams come true.

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Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine New York's best colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.


25 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in New York

A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree. We’ve identified a total of 93 liberal arts colleges and universities in New York, 65 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 25 best liberal arts schools in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

  1. Sarah Lawrence College
    #1

    Sarah Lawrence College

    #239 institution's overall influence
    #1422 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1330/29

    Bronxville, NY

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    What is Sarah Lawrence College known for?

    Sarah Lawrence College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Barnard College
    #2

    Barnard College

    #125 institution's overall influence
    #65 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/31

    New York, NY

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    What is Barnard College known for?

    Barnard College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Vassar College
    #3

    Vassar College

    #139 institution's overall influence
    #88 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1440/32

    Poughkeepsie, NY

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    What is Vassar College known for?

    Vassar College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Cooper Union
    #4

    Cooper Union

    #312 institution's overall influence
    #62 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    16%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1396/32

    New York, NY

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    What is Cooper Union known for?

    Cooper Union's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Bard College
    #5

    Bard College

    #300 institution's overall influence
    #998 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    78%

    Student body

    2K

    Annandale-On-Hudson, NY

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    What is Bard College known for?

    Bard College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • History
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. United States Military Academy
    #6

    United States Military Academy

    #38 institution's overall influence
    #55 overall school desirability

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/30

    West Point, NY

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    What is United States Military Academy known for?

    United States Military Academy's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Colgate University
    #7

    Colgate University

    #278 institution's overall influence
    #42 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Hamilton, NY

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    What is Colgate University known for?

    Colgate University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Anthropology
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Hamilton College
    #8

    Hamilton College

    #324 institution's overall influence
    #85 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

    Clinton, NY

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    What is Hamilton College known for?

    Hamilton College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • History
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. Brooklyn College
    #9

    Brooklyn College

    #116 institution's overall influence
    #1381 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    44%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    15K

    Brooklyn, NY

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    What is Brooklyn College known for?

    Brooklyn College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Economics
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Union College
    #10

    Union College

    #292 institution's overall influence
    #188 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    39%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    2K

    Schenectady, NY

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    What is Union College known for?

    Union College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Engineering
    • Anthropology
    • Physics
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. State University of New York at Purchase
    #11

    State University of New York at Purchase

    #735 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    Purchase, NY

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    What is State University of New York at Purchase known for?

    State University of New York at Purchase's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Hunter College
    #12

    Hunter College

    #180 institution's overall influence
    #1193 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    19K

    New York, NY

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    What is Hunter College known for?

    Hunter College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Social Work
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. United States Merchant Marine Academy
    #13

    United States Merchant Marine Academy

    #1234 institution's overall influence
    #64 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $1K

    Acceptance

    22%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1260/28

    Kings Point, NY

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    What is United States Merchant Marine Academy known for?

    United States Merchant Marine Academy's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. Queens College
    #14

    Queens College

    #273 institution's overall influence
    #1468 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    16K

    Queens, NY

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    What is Queens College known for?

    Queens College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Skidmore College
    #15

    Skidmore College

    #1025 institution's overall influence
    #123 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    27%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1311/29

    Saratoga Springs, NY

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    What is Skidmore College known for?

    Skidmore College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. Wagner College
    #16

    Wagner College

    #699 institution's overall influence
    #718 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    2K

    Staten Island, NY

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    What is Wagner College known for?

    Wagner College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. Hobart and William Smith Colleges
    #17

    Hobart and William Smith Colleges

    #666 institution's overall influence
    #1302 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/27

    Geneva, NY

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    What is Hobart and William Smith Colleges known for?

    Hobart and William Smith Colleges's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Manhattan College
    #18

    Manhattan College

    #651 institution's overall influence
    #352 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/25

    Riverdale, NY

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    What is Manhattan College known for?

    Manhattan College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Communications
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. Marist College
    #19

    Marist College

    #1051 institution's overall influence
    #234 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    6K

    Poughkeepsie, NY

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    What is Marist College known for?

    Marist College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Social Work
    • Economics
    • History
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. St. Lawrence University
    #20

    St. Lawrence University

    #862 institution's overall influence

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1272/28

    Canton, NY

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    What is St. Lawrence University known for?

    St. Lawrence University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. Wells College
    #21

    Wells College

    #1368 institution's overall influence
    #880 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/24

    Aurora, NY

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    What is Wells College known for?

    Wells College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. Alfred University
    #22

    Alfred University

    #1076 institution's overall influence
    #430 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1085/23

    Alfred, NY

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    What is Alfred University known for?

    Alfred University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. St. Bonaventure University
    #23

    St. Bonaventure University

    #1260 institution's overall influence
    #881 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Saint Bonaventure, NY

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    What is St. Bonaventure University known for?

    St. Bonaventure University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. Houghton College
    #24

    Houghton College

    #1925 institution's overall influence
    #1121 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    1K

    Houghton, NY

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    What is Houghton College known for?

    Houghton College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. St. Francis College
    #25

    St. Francis College

    #1373 institution's overall influence
    #761 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Brooklyn Heights, NY

    View profile

    What is St. Francis College known for?

    St. Francis College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

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