30 Liberal Arts Colleges In or Near Cities

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I’ve talked to a lot of teenagers, who are interested in liberal arts colleges as long as they are in cities or at least close to metropolitan areas.

Unfortunately for these kids, many liberal arts colleges are in rural areas. My daughter Caitlin is fully aware of this reality because she attends Juniata College, in Huntingdon, PA, which is a great school, but it’s a pain to get to.

After my son and I visited Caitlin last week in Huntingdon, it  took us 13 hours to get back home to San Diego.

During the plane ride back, I compiled a list of liberal arts colleges that are in cities or are only 25 miles or less from a metropolitan area. I was really surprised at how few liberal arts colleges are in cities in the Midwest. What’s with that?

I’m sure that I must have missed some schools so if you see a college that should be on this list, please let me know.

30 Liberal Arts Colleges In or Near Cities

East Coast

  • Barnard College, New York City
  • Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA, near Philadelphia
  • Drew University, Madison, NJ, near New York City
  • Goucher College, Towson, MD, a Baltimore suburb
  • Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, near New York City
  • Simmons College, Boston
  • Trinity College, Hartford, CT
  • Wheaton College, Norton, MA, near Providence, RI


  • Lake Forest College, Chicago suburb
  • Macalester College, St. Paul


  • Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL
  • Fisk University, Nashville
  • Morehouse College, Atlanta
  • Rhodes College, Memphis, TN
  • University of Richmond, Richmond, VA


  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR
  • Mills College, Oakland, CA
  • Occidental College, Los Angeles
  • Reed College, Portland, OR
  • St. John’s College, Santa Fe, NM
  • St. Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA (San Francisco Bay)
  • Whittier College, Whittier, CA. Los Angeles suburb
  • Westminster College, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Westmont College, Santa Barbara CA (Not a large city, but awfully fun.)

These five Claremont (CA) colleges are on the outskirts of the Los Angeles metro area:

  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Pitzer College College
  • Pomona College
  • Scripps College

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and an eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree. She writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch and US News & World Report.

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16 Responses to “30 Liberal Arts Colleges In or Near Cities”

  1. Kate says:

    What about Willamette University? It is located in downtown Salem, OR right across from the state capital building. Also, Salem is a one-hour trip (through wine country) by train, bus, or car to Portland, and about an hour’s drive to the Oregon coast.

    Also, there’s Wagner College, which is located on Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. There is public transportation (bus, train, ferry) from Staten Island to Manhattan.

    Lastly, the University of Puget Sound is located in Tacoma, WA, and not too far from Seattle.

  2. Michael says:

    If Bryn Mawr is on the list, Haverford and Swartmore should be, too.

    • Lynn says:

      HI Michael,

      You are absolutely right! I should have included Swarthmore and Haverford. I’m going to do an update.


      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  3. Jordan Myers says:

    DePaul University is located in downtown Chicago.

  4. Greg Scheiderer says:

    It depends if you stick strictly to Carnegie classifications for liberal arts colleges. That cuts out places like DePaul or Seattle University, though both have a strong liberal arts philosophy to their curricula. It also depends how big a city or metro area students want.

    • Lynn says:

      Hi Greg,

      I originally had thought about DePaul U., but I was using the Carnegie classifications and DePaul is considered a university.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. hcarol says:

    Rollins is in Orlando

  6. Howard Mangel says:

    Here are some more schools to add, though some are state colleges, they are liberal artsy-I wasn’t sure if the list was meant only for ‘more selective’ schools:

    Near Philly: Arcadia (in Philly); Rowan and The College of NJ, both NJ state schools, in Glassboro NJ, 45 min from Philly to the east, and Ewing, NJ, 45min from Philly to the north, respectively… Rider U is in Lawrenceville, NJ, 45-50 min from Philly.

    Ramapo College of NJ is a state college in Bergen Co, NJ, about 15 miles from NYC. Haven’t been there, but Stonehill College in MA is what, an hour from Boston? Clark is in a small city, Worcester though it is a university, it struck me as liberal arts-like in nature.

    Thanks again for your fine works!

    Howard Mangel

  7. Luke says:

    Also there’s the University of Dallas. 1700 students, ultra-strong core program, located in Irving, TX, less than 10 min from Downtown Dallas.

  8. Ken Fuller says:

    Don’t foget about Centre College, St. John’s (Annapolis, MD), Connecticut College, Oberlin, or Hillsdale College – top notch liberal arts programs – also not well known.

  9. Lara says:

    If Morehouse is on the list, then Spelman College should be as well.

  10. Lara says:

    Oh, and Agnes Scott is also in Atlanta

  11. Kevin says:

    I attended a small liberal arts college (many years ago) on the north side of Chicago: North Park University. I stayed in Chicago after school and still love living in a big city, and am very glad I chose to go to a small school in an urban environment.

    Elmhurst College and Wheaton College are in Chicago suburbs with easy access into the city by Metra commuter rail.

    I would also add to the list Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Grand View College in Des Moines, Edgewood College in Madison, and Transylvania University in Lexington.

    • Lynn says:

      Thanks Kevin for sharing your experience with a liberal arts college. Also, thanks for all your liberal arts college suggestions!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  12. Amanda Murphy says:

    In Chicago, IL is not only DePaul, but Roosevelt University as well. Roosevelt is a private liberal arts college. It’s located right in the loop in Chicago. Just a few blocks from the shopping district and in a prime place for exploring all of Chicago’s wonderful neighborhoods. Right now RU is small enough to feel like a community, while still giving you that private, liberal arts name and feeling.

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