As they begin their search for a college, many students are confused by the term ‘liberal arts school.’ This is an often-used phrase, and many colleges fall under the liberal arts umbrella. However, it’s not a phrase which is clearly defined to many high school students.
The liberal arts have an interesting history. As far back as ancient Greece, these areas of study were those considered essential for each citizen. Traditional areas of study include language, literature, history, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, and science. The term ‘humanities’ is often used interchangeably with ‘liberal arts.’
There are several advantages of liberal arts colleges. They have smaller class sizes than other types of colleges, which allows closer communication between educators and students. They are typically residential colleges, with students living either on-campus or in nearby college-affiliated housing. This in itself is viewed as part of the educational experience, as most students are living away from their parents for the first time. In today’s academic world, liberal arts colleges traditionally encourage students to pursue liberal arts studies for the first two years of their college career, allowing them a full and broad education before declaring a major. These three attributes are considered to make or define an institution as a liberal arts college, although there is a good deal of flexibility on each defining aspect.
Liberal Arts HBCUs
The following is a sample list of the ten HBCU liberal arts colleges in the United States. The list was compiled by cross-referencing the top-ranked HBCUs in the country with their individual focuses on a liberal arts education.
Spelman College – Atlanta, GA
Spelman is an all-female college, offering students a unique education. Spelman has long been recognized as the best all-female HBCU in the country, as well as one of the top HBCUs overall. Perhaps not surprisingly, admissions at Spelman are known to be rather selective.
Morehouse College – Atlanta, GA
The second-ranked liberal arts HBCU is an all-male school, creating an ideal counterpart for Spelman College. Morehouse is also considered one of the top HBCUs in the United States as well as one of the best liberal arts colleges. Morehouse is known for its selective admissions process.
Xavier University of Louisiana – New Orleans, LA
With its campus in the historic Gert District of New Orleans, Xavier University has a long history as a liberal arts college. It is also the only current HBCU Roman Catholic college, providing a unique blend of Catholic values with a top-notch education. The college is noted for its selective admissions process.
Bennett College – Greensboro, NC
Founded in 1873 with the purpose of educating newly freed slaves, Bennett College is another all-female liberal arts HBCU. Bennett accepts an average of sixty percent of applicants.
Claflin University – Orangeburg, SC
Having been founded in 1869, Claflin has the distinction of being the very oldest HBCU in South Carolina. Another school with highly selective admissions, Claflin has long been regarded as one of the top liberal arts HBCUs in the country.
Dillard University – New Orleans, LA
Having also been found in 1869, Dillard University offers the appeal of Greek life (sororities and fraternities) combined with a strong HBCU heritage and an impressive ranking in the top liberal arts HBCUs. Dillard is very selective in its admissions process, with admissions averaging fifty percent of applicants.
Johnson C. Smith University – Charlotte, NC
JCSU is a private HBCU that was founded in 1867 and prides itself on diversity among its students and faculty that comes from around the world. The University has been ranked several times by U.S. News and World Reports as one of the best comprehensive colleges in the South.
Kentucky State University – Frankfort, KY
Founded in 1886, Kentucky State University is known for its strong laboratory research and community ties. The university has been ranked among the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, Tier 2 in 2013, and named one of the Best Colleges in the Southeast by Princeton Review in 2010.
Lane College – Jackson TN
Lane College is a small private HBCU founded in 1882, and is affiliated with Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Lane provides a liberal arts curriculum that offers baccalaureate degrees in the Arts and Sciences. The university is known for its management, business, and criminal justice programs.
Rust College – Holly Springs, MS
Rust College was founded in 1866 and is one of the oldest of the HBCUs affiliated with United Methodist Church. It is also the second oldest private college in Mississippi. The college provides its students with a variety of academic programs, including humanities, social and behavioral sciences, natural science, business, technology, and education.