30 Liberal Arts Colleges In or Near Cities

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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  1. Coe college is in Cedar Rapids which isnt really a BIG city but there you go, Hillsdale though isn’t in a big city, but it’s 30ish miles from Lansing and maybe 40ish from Ann Arbor or so

  2. Bard
    SUNY schools
    New School
    Holy Cross
    St. Olaf
    Lawrence Un
    Lake Forest (with an L)

    These are ALL with in about an hour or LESS from a major city. And some with EASY access to public trans.

  3. Moraga is definitely not San Francisco or even 40 minutes near it. They may claim it is close enough to visit, but it’s a very sleepy suburb. It’s 30 minutes away from Oakland, if students make the trip.

  4. You forgot Transylvania University also, in Lexington, KY. It’s not a HUGE city by any means, but it’s still a big city, and its Carnegie classification is Liberal Arts, I’d imagine!

      1. thanks! This is a good list, but of course impossible to get every one listed. We all have our biases about what make a ‘big city!’

    1. Thanks Carol for adding Wellesley College to the list. It’s close enough to Boston.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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

  10. 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.

    1. 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

    1. HI Michael,

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


      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  11. 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.