Best Liberal Arts Colleges in North Carolina 2022

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.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in North Carolina 2022

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

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How do we determine North Carolina's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

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 36 liberal arts colleges in North Carolina. To be ranked among the 25 best liberal arts colleges in North Carolina, schools must fully accredited institutions.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in North Carolina 2022

  1. #1

    Davidson College

    Davidson , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    What is Davidson College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    970/18

    What is North Carolina Central University known for?

    North Carolina Central University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/25

    What is Appalachian State University known for?

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

    • Earth Sciences
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #4

    High Point University

    High Point , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    What is High Point University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Religious Studies
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • History
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. #5

    Meredith College

    Raleigh , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/21

    What is Meredith College known for?

    Meredith College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Economics
    • Education

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #6

    Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    11K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/22

    What is Western Carolina University known for?

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

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • History
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Shaw University

    Raleigh , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    19%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Shaw University known for?

    Shaw University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Queens University of Charlotte

    Charlotte , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    What is Queens University of Charlotte known for?

    Queens University of Charlotte’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Catawba College

    Salisbury , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    What is Catawba College known for?

    Catawba College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    What is University of North Carolina at Asheville known for?

    University of North Carolina at Asheville’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Guilford College

    Greensboro , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    What is Guilford College known for?

    Guilford College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    Warren Wilson College

    Swannanoa , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1177/25

    What is Warren Wilson College known for?

    Warren Wilson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Economics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Salem College

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    What is Salem College known for?

    Salem College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Communications
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  14. #14

    Bennett College

    Greensboro , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    29%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Bennett College known for?

    Bennett College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Social Work
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Fayetteville State University

    Fayetteville , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    940/19

    What is Fayetteville State University known for?

    Fayetteville State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Belmont Abbey College

    Belmont , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    What is Belmont Abbey College known for?

    Belmont Abbey College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Education
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • Nursing
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Winston-Salem State University

    Winston-Salem , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    960/17

    What is Winston-Salem State University known for?

    Winston-Salem State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    What is University of North Carolina at Pembroke known for?

    University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #19

    Greensboro College

    Greensboro , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/18

    What is Greensboro College known for?

    Greensboro College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #20

    Johnson C. Smith University

    Charlotte , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    881/16

    What is Johnson C. Smith University known for?

    Johnson C. Smith University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #21

    Elizabeth City State University

    Elizabeth City , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    962/18

    What is Elizabeth City State University known for?

    Elizabeth City State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #22

    Mars Hill University

    Mars Hill , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    What is Mars Hill University known for?

    Mars Hill University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. #23

    University of Mount Olive

    Mount Olive , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    What is University of Mount Olive known for?

    University of Mount Olive’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Criminal Justice
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  24. #24

    Livingstone College

    Salisbury , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    28%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    845/15

    What is Livingstone College known for?

    Livingstone College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  25. #25

    Montreat College

    Montreat , NC

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1036/20

    What is Montreat College known for?

    Montreat College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Business
    • Education
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

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North Carolina’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put 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.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Davidson College
  2. Guilford College
  3. Warren Wilson College
  4. Queens University of Charlotte
  5. Appalachian State University
  6. Catawba College
  7. Johnson C. Smith University
  8. Salem College
  9. High Point University
  10. University of North Carolina at Asheville
  11. Meredith College
  12. Western Carolina University
  13. Barton College
  14. University of Mount Olive