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Last updated on Mar 02, 2020

The Best Online Liberal Arts Programs

10 Online Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts Degrees That Deliver a Worthwhile Education ​
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The Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Liberal Arts

According to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, those who hold a bachelor’s degree are half as likely to face unemployment and are also on pace to earn $1 million more in their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma.

With such significant benefits in mind, it is important to take the time to find the degree program that best fits your learning and lifestyle needs. Online colleges provide students with the opportunity to forego a traditional, in-person education in favor of a more flexible route. Furthermore, internet-based courses allow students to pursue part-time or full-time employment while earning a degree.

If you are in the market for an online liberal arts program best suited to your current situation, it is important to consider a few essential factors. These include the student experience itself, graduation rate, tuition costs, and admissions rate, among other factors.

The 10 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Liberal Arts

  • University of Washington-Seattle Campus
  • University of Virginia-Main Campus – Best Graduation Rate
  • University of Iowa
  • Colorado State University-Fort Collins
  • University of Central Florida – Cheapest In-State Tuition
  • California State University-Long Beach – Cheapest Out-of-State Tuition
  • California State University-Fullerton
  • Iowa State University – Highest Admission Rate
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Oregon State University

A liberal arts degree includes the study of the humanities, including subject areas like history, literature, philosophy, psychology, and more.

We chose the liberal arts schools below based on data-driven rankings for a broad, quantitative assessment. We also added specific recommendations where it makes sense for schools deemed the most affordable, or schools with the highest graduation rate.

UniversityLocationOur RankingIn State Tuition*Out of State Tuition*Graduation Rate**Loan Default Rate**Admissions Rate**
University of Washington-Seattle CampusSeattle, WA4.7$11,207$36,58884%3%49%
University of Virginia-Main CampusCharlottesville, VA4.4$17,653$49,03294%1%26%
University of IowaIowa City, IA4.4$9,267$31,23373%3%83%
Colorado State University-Fort CollinsFort Collins, CO4.4$11,707$29,60871%3%84%
University of Central FloridaOrlando, FL4.3$6,368$22,46773%4%43%
California State University-Long BeachLong Beach, CA4.3$6,798$18,67869%3%31%
California State University-FullertonFullerton, CA4.3$6,886$18,76668%3%43%
Iowa State UniversityAmes, IA4.0$8,988$23,39275%3%91%
University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MO4.0$9,972$27,04269%4%78%
Oregon State UniversityCorvallis, OR4.0$11,166$30,14167%4%81%

*Tuition costs are based on 2019-2020 figures and are subject to change per academic year. **Based on overall university rates.

The 10 Best Universities with Online Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

The University of Washington at Seattle claims the top spot on our chart with a score of 4.7. Not only does this west coast college boast an impressive graduation rate of 84%, but its in-state tuition costs are also moderate at just over $11,000.

When it comes to its liberal arts program, the Seattle branch offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences, which promises to educate students on issues relating to the contemporary globalized economy and culture. This bachelor’s program can be completed in one to two years of full-time study or in three to four years of part-time study, making it ideal for a range of personal situations.

The entire program is conducted online, which is perfect for students who have steady employment or who live outside of the Seattle area. Just like students who attend classes in person, students of UW’s ISS program gain access to UW Alumni Services, which includes the Career & Internship Center, job counseling, job listings, networking opportunities, and more.

University of Virginia-Main Campus – Best Graduation Rate

Like the University of Washington, the main campus of the University of Virginia also offers a completely online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) Liberal Arts degree.

UVA’s BIS degree prides itself on helping adults seek postsecondary education while juggling work and family commitments. This program provides a wide-ranging course of study that is amenable to those looking to start a new career, advance in their current career, or to pursue graduate studies.

This BIS degree can be completed between three and four years, depending on the needs of each student, with flexible course offerings including synchronous and asynchronous options.

Students earning this degree are connected with a peer mentor who helps foster a sense of community and provides insight for new students. The program’s graduation rate is stellar, at 94% — although its admissions process is rigorous, resulting in a 26% admissions rate.

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers an ideal program for those who are interested in taking classes across a multitude of academic departments as opposed to selecting a major or minor. The school’s online Bachelor of Liberal Studies (BLS) degree allows students to do just that.

To earn the degree, students must complete a minimum of 120 semester hours, with a maximum of 60 hours coming from an associate degree program or two-year program.

This program offers six potential tracks: expression in writing and arts; family, community, and social support; global studies; health and human studies; justice and ethics; and organizational studies.

The University also offers a second online liberal arts program, the Bachelor of Applied Studies degree, which includes four tracks: creative writing, human relations, justice studies, and political science.

In-state tuition is relatively affordable at just over $9,000, and the rate of admissions is a comfortable 83%. Graduation rates hover just below 75%.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Colorado State University (CSU) offers another non-traditional online degree program, a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts. The college program provides students with a greater depth of communication and analytical skills that plays a positive role in the student’s personal and professional lives.

CSU prides itself on being the first institution in Colorado to offer a completely online liberal arts bachelor’s degree that gives students the flexibility needed to maintain an appropriate work/school/life balance.

In addition to earning a bachelor’s, a minor is required to complete the program. Minor areas of study include agricultural business, anthropology, business administration, economics, gerontology, global and environmental sustainability, media studies, political science, and sociology.

In-state tuition averages around $11,000, while out-of-state students incur a much higher price tag upwards of $29,000. The school’s graduation rate is 71%, while its admissions rate is 84%.

University of Central Florida – Cheapest In-State Tuition

According to the US News & World Report, the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) online Interdisciplinary Studies program was considered one of the best online academic programs of 2020. The college offers both a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree and requires a minimum of 120 hours of coursework.

Like Colorado State University, UCF contends that its online interdisciplinary programs are designed to increase communication and analytical skills, as well as establish a diverse skill-set that can apply to a variety of careers.

The Orlando-based college costs around $6,300 for in-state students and about $22,500 for those who live out of state. Admissions can be a challenge, with rates chiming it at just 43%, but graduation rates are moderately high at 73%.

California State University-Long Beach – Cheapest Out-of-State Tuition

Unlike other typical four-year bachelor’s programs on the list, California State University at Long Beach’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts Degree Completion Program is a two-year academic study designed for working professionals looking to re-enter post-secondary education. This program is a hybrid course of study that includes both online and in-person classes.

Students pursuing this degree can expect to develop vast opportunities for networking while building a deeper foundation of skills in communication, critical thinking, language and literature, analytical and scientific reasoning, quantitative analysis, and philosophy.

Perhaps most alluring is the program’s cost, which we rated as being the cheapest for out-of-state tuition. Admission costs for non-California residents are the lowest on our list at $18,678.

Students should expect stiff competition when applying to this program, with the school having an acceptance rate of just 31%. Students who are accepted experience graduation rates that hover around 69%.

California State University-Fullerton

Keeping with the California State University network, its Fullerton campus offers an extension program that allows students to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and Social Sciences entirely online. This three-year (nine terms) program is designed for students who have previously begun their post-secondary careers.

To be eligible for the degree completion program, students must have already completed a minimum of 69 transferable units. However, if you have fewer than 69 units, you can still be admitted, but certain conditions apply.

This program seeks to enrich students’ communicative, collaborative, and analytical skills while focusing on identity and culture. Online students also collaborate with fellow students and professors through the program’s cohort model.

Like its Long Beach sibling’s online liberal arts program, Cal State Fullerton’s online Bachelor of Arts degree is affordable, with out-of-state tuition totaling $18,766. Graduation rates average 68%, while acceptance rates are at 43%.

Iowa State University – Highest Admission Rate

If you get anxious awaiting hiring decisions and exam results, you’ll be pleased to know that one of the perks of applying to Iowa State University’s Bachelor of Liberal Studies online degree is the school’s 91% acceptance rate. However, just because the acceptance rate is high, it doesn’t mean the program lacks quality.

This degree is aimed at students who have already completed some college courses, and students can transfer up to three-fourths of their degree requirements. The degree completion program technically requires students to have already 60 hours of coursework completed, though students with fewer credits may still be admitted to the program.

Class subjects span across a myriad of disciplines, including humanities (literature, history, philosophy, etc.), communications and art (linguistics, music theory, theater arts, journalism, etc.), Natural sciences and mathematics (biology, computer science, physics, etc.), professional fields (agriculture, business, education, etc.), and social sciences (anthropology, psychology, political science, etc.).

University of Missouri-Columbia

The University of Missouri at Columbia offers a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies degree that is entirely online. Though the program requires the completion of at least 120 hours, the typical student who transfers into the program only needs 85 credits to graduate.

Mizzou Online claims students who earn this degree can expect a 54% salary increase.

The coursework consists of general studies, including a foreign language study, arts and science foundation requirements, a major, electives, and a capstone. Be prepared to expand your language skills, as the program requires students to complete 12-13 credit hours of a foreign language.

Tuition for in-state students is just under $10,000, making this degree completion moderately affordable when compared to similar program offerings. Acceptance rates are relatively high at 78%, while graduation rates average 69%.

Oregon State University

Completing our list is the online program offered by Oregon State University. Students have the option of pursuing either a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies or a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies­–both delivered online.

Though in-state students can expect to pay about $11,000 in tuition costs and out-of-state students face costs above $30,000, the program prides itself on having courses designed by world-renowned faculty.

The University is also accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Students of these online courses receive diplomas just like their on-campus counterparts and have access to success mentoring, library services, free online tutoring, and career guidance.

To complete the degree, 180 credit hours are required and can be earned by courses such as speech communication, psychology, history, economics, anthropology, political science, foreign languages and literature, art, women, gender, sexuality studies, English, sociology, theatre, philosophy, ethnic studies, new media communications, and music.

Methodology

We started by coming up with a list of 50 well-known and well-regarded schools, based on lists and rankings from other online reviewers, and from other general and publicly available data about colleges.

From there, we found schools in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database and filtered out any school not eligible for federal financial aid.

Then we gave each school a score for the following parameters: tuition, graduation rate, and loan default rate (LDR is our way of measuring return on investment, assuming if graduates are defaulting on their student loans they probably could not get a job shortly after graduation).

Lastly, we weighted these scores for tuition, graduation rate, and LDR to calculate our final score.

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