North Carolina’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 North Carolina offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

North Carolina’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Among these schools are over 60 public colleges and universities, including the state’s largest school, North Carolina State University, which serves almost 30,000 students. Tuition costs average about $9,000, just below the national average, and students also have the option to enroll in over 1,000 online courses. Another notable public school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is one of the country’s oldest universities.

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The 25,000 students who attend UNC will walk the same halls as Francis Collins, Thomas Wolfe, and former president James K. Polk. North Carolina’s private schools have also made a name for themselves, including the well-known Duke University located in Durham. Here, students can earn degrees in some of the top programs, like nursing, political science, and business. Additionally, students can attend one of the many small schools which serve less than 5,000 students, like Campbell University in Buies Creek, or a religiously affiliated school, like Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City.

From its coastal beaches to its lush forests, it’s no wonder the Wright Brothers dreamed of taking flight over North Carolina. This state is rich with history, scenic views, and famous people who once called it home, like John Coltrane and Nicholas Sparks. Students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree also have the option of choosing from over 100 schools in the Tar Heel State.

Whether you prefer ocean views or wooded forests, North Carolina has something for everyone. Discover more about the state’s higher learning options.

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Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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 36 liberal arts colleges and universities in North Carolina, 14 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the 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%.

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How do we determine North Carolina'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.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in North Carolina

  1. Davidson College
    #1

    Davidson College

    #678 institution's overall influence
    #36 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    Davidson, NC

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    What is Davidson College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Guilford College
    #2

    Guilford College

    #1414 institution's overall influence
    #343 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is Guilford College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Warren Wilson College
    #3

    Warren Wilson College

    #2434 institution's overall influence
    #374 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1177/25

    Swannanoa, NC

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    What is Warren Wilson College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Queens University of Charlotte
    #4

    Queens University of Charlotte

    #2440 institution's overall influence
    #431 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Charlotte, NC

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  5. Appalachian State University
    #5

    Appalachian State University

    #1094 institution's overall influence
    #1467 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    Boone, NC

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    What is Appalachian State University known for?

    Appalachian State University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Catawba College
    #6

    Catawba College

    #2292 institution's overall influence
    #893 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    Salisbury, NC

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    What is Catawba College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Johnson C. Smith University
    #7

    Johnson C. Smith University

    #2045 institution's overall influence
    #570 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    881/16

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is Johnson C. Smith University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Salem College
    #8

    Salem College

    #2696 institution's overall influence
    #989 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    Winston-Salem, NC

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  9. High Point University
    #9

    High Point University

    #1800 institution's overall influence
    #312 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    High Point, NC

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    What is High Point University known for?

    High Point University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. University of North Carolina at Asheville
    #10

    University of North Carolina at Asheville

    #2072 institution's overall influence
    #555 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    Asheville, NC

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  11. Meredith College
    #11

    Meredith College

    #1831 institution's overall influence
    #1109 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/21

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is Meredith College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Western Carolina University
    #12

    Western Carolina University

    #1305 institution's overall influence
    #632 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    Cullowhee, NC

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    What is Western Carolina University known for?

    Western Carolina University's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • Medical
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. Barton College
    #13

    Barton College

    #5098 institution's overall influence
    #1425 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    Wilson, NC

    View profile

    What is Barton College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. University of Mount Olive
    #14

    University of Mount Olive

    #4896 institution's overall influence
    #1147 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $21K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    Mount Olive, NC

    View profile

    What is University of Mount Olive known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

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Photo By: Dacoslett at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.

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