A liberal arts college is an institution of higher education found in the United States, usually private, and offering primarily or exclusively a tertiary education leading to a bachelor's degree in a liberal arts program designed to be completed in four years' worth of study. Such a college may be distinguished from a university, which offers quaternary education and post-graduate degrees, and is more often larger and/or public. Small institutions of learning offer a more uniform experience across the student body than might be found at a larger university setting with more diffuse offerings.
Some institutions referred to as "liberal arts colleges" are distinguished from universities not so much by a difference in kind, but a difference in size, taking the form of small universities, complete with subsidiary schools dedicated to a particular specialized course of study and offering a limited set of graduate degrees. In this sense, large liberal arts colleges and small private universities occupy similar niches.
Liberal arts colleges retain a measure of elitism in a few ways. Most such colleges are funded privately and so take a large portion of their operating revenue directly from tuition, making such education more expensive than an education from a taxpayer-subsidized community college, public university, or land grant university. Many also aspire to selective admissions procedures, the least controversial of which may be based on the academic and extra-curricular achievements of applicants during their high-school studies, and on standardized test scores. Because alumni contributions are a valuable adjunct to tuition, alumni loyalty is also cultivated, and liberal arts colleges spur such loyalty by giving admissions preference to "legacies"--ie, the children or close relatives of past graduates.
Liberal arts colleges