For students who are interested in studying at a liberal arts college, the list of U.S. News top 20 ranking liberal arts college provides insight into the best schools to choose from across the nation. This list highlights schools that award at least half of their degrees in the arts and sciences. From this list, we took a look at the livability of each of the towns these colleges resides in and compared the affordability of rent with the unique amenities offered. We narrowed down the list to the top five cities with acclaimed liberal arts colleges. To meet our criteria the towns needed a livability score of over 70 with high marks for amenities and lack of crime as well as offering average two bedroom rental house prices under $2,000 a month.
Check out our list to see how rent prices stack up and discover the one-of-a-kind experiences each town and college offers. Counting down from number five, read on to find out who took spot number one on our list of the top U.S. cities with the best ranking liberal arts colleges.
#5: Claremont, CA – Claremont McKenna College
Livability Score: 73
A+ for amenities and housing
Average 2 Bedroom Rent Prices $1,662
Located east of Los Angeles, Claremont, California, is a small, but charming college town. Home to Claremont McKenna College, one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, this city boasts a high livability score with A+ scores for amenities and housing options. Those who choose to study at Claremont Mckenna College will not only benefit from the college’s renowned expertise in economics and government, they will also enjoy the proximity of six other colleges which share resources in a consortium reminiscent of the Oxford-Cambridge model. Each college runs independently, but students have access to co-curricular activities and shared resources, creating the ideal mix of a small, intimate experience, paired with the access of a large university.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Claremont’s location at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains will be sure to please. Residents of Claremont enjoy scenic hiking, biking, and easy access to nearby ski resorts. Not only does Claremont afford access to an array of outdoor adventures, the town itself provides a bike-friendly and walkable environment, as well as easy access to neighboring cities through the Metrolink. For students interested in ditching their car during their studies, this town is a must-consider.
When visiting Claremont, be sure to take in the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, which is the largest botanic garden dedicated to California’s native plants. You can also access local produce and goods at the farmers market in Claremont Village.
When evening falls, Claremont hosts an exciting nightlife with everything from college hangouts to jazz bars to a Las Vegas-style piano bar. Comedy clubs, live music, and quiet wine bars round out the thriving evening scene.
Those who choose Claremont for their college experience will be sure to fall in love with this California gem. Two bedroom rentals have an average cost of $1,662, making Claremont the most expensive town to make our list.
#4: Brunswick, ME – Bowdoin College
Livability Score: 77
A+ for amenities and lack of crime
Average 2 Bedroom Rent Prices $1,259
Image credit: Benjamin Williamson, Tiffany Studios, and Patti Spencer-Yost
Located on the rugged coastline of Maquoit and Casco Bays and bordered by the Androscoggin River, Brunswick boasts a shoreline of over 60 miles and a rich history dating back to the 17th century. This beautiful northern town is home to Bowdoin College, a liberal arts college that focuses on providing its students “the support to take surprising risks.” With a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, this historic and prestigious college offers 41 majors and 42 minors.
With two bedroom rent prices averaging at $1,259, this charming town in Maine is an idyllic place to study. With a downtown that is extremely pedestrian friendly and the perfect place to find restaurants, shops, and art, Brunswick provides an array of activities for residents year round. Summer brings the renowned Bowdoin International Music Festival, with performances by 250 acclaimed visiting musicians. Throughout the entire year, Brunswick hosts farmers markets featuring fresh local produce and other local goods.
Looking for the perfect morning pick me up? Try out one of the many coffee shops this college town boasts, such as Little Dog or Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe. When it’s time to wind down, Ebenezer’s Brew Pub is the perfect location for a relaxing beer with friends. Parks and trails provide endless options for outdoor activities, including access to the beautiful islands of Casco Bay.
With an A+ rating for a lack of crime and beautiful housing available near downtown, this charming city is focused on healthy living, the great outdoors, and a safe community for all. For those who don’t mind a northern winter, Brunswick, Maine, may offer the perfect college experience.
#3: Williamstown, MA – Williams College
Livability Score: 78
A+ for amenities and lack of crime
Average 2 Bedroom Rent Prices $903
Though Williamstown has the lowest rental costs on our list, this Massachusetts college town has no shortage of amenities and natural beauty to lure in potential college students. Home to Williams College, this small town resides on the border of Vermont and New York with access to nearby Brodie Mountain and Mount Greylock.
Williams College is a renowned private liberal arts school, with high recognition, including taking second place for the best undergraduate institution in the US according to Forbes magazine. The college offers three academic curricular divisions, sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Students are encouraged through course-study to strengthen both their writing and ability to reason mathematically and abstractly. The college boasts a stately campus with grandiose and historic buildings dotting the picturesque campus.
Williamstown itself boasts gorgeous views, outdoor activities galore, and a community focused on arts and culture. If you are looking for a bite to eat, check out the numerous restaurants focused on locally sourced food. Part of the Berkshires of Massachusetts (a rural region in the mountains), Williamstown is a hub for tourism and festivals. The Williamstown Theatre Festival is an acclaimed, Tony Award-winning summer theater festival featuring plays, musicals, readings, workshops, education programs, and more.
Nestled in a region well-loved for its plethora of dairy farming and agriculture, those who reside in Williamstown have access to some of the finest local cheeses, raw milk, handmade baked goods, and other local produce. If you are planning a visit to the area, check out the list of themed itineraries Williamstown has put together. There is something for everyone on these engaging itineraries, from visits to local farms and historic sites to delicious restaurant fare. For college students, the campus’ central location in town means easy walkability to coffee shops like Tunnel City Coffee, and nightlife choices like Red Herring and the Purple Pub. Speaking of nightlife, the historic Log is a unique and recently renovated venue that provides food, beverages, and events for students, faculty, alumni, and staff to gather together, right on campus.
With extremely affordable rent prices, Williamstown provides a safe place for college students to reside, study, and play. This location is a great fit for those who are seeking a peaceful town with access to plenty of outdoor activities.
#2: Haverford, PA – Haverford College
Livability Score: 84
A+ for amenities, education, employment, and lack of crime
Average 2 Bedroom Rent Prices $1,565
Coming in at second place on our list is Haverford, an unincorporated community bordered by Ardmore, a small suburban area about eight miles from the center of Philadelphia. Located in the heart of this community is Haverford College, a liberal arts school known for its high level of academics and intimate classroom size.
The Haverford / Ardmore area is a peaceful and serene setting with farmers markets and an array of locally sourced restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. For a quick bite to eat, local residents enjoy the artisan, custom pizzeria, Snap Pizza. For a quirky, dog-themed experience, check out the White Dog Cafe featuring farm-fresh fare. The college features a stunning nature trail that wraps around the campus and provides the perfect place for a morning jog or evening stroll. Historic residence halls paired with modern amenities make this campus both stunning and convenient.
Not only will those who attend Haverford College enjoy the close proximity to local eateries and shops, the train station is only a ten-minute walk away from campus and provides access to the heart of Philadelphia. The nearby Philly offers an array of sporting events, concerts, museums, and festivals as well as access to a thriving job and internship market.
Haverford College is comprised of a small student body with a student-faculty ratio of 9:1. The school operates in a unique manner, appealing to the Honor Code. Under this code, there are no proctored exams and students help to write and govern the Honor Code. The college is part of a consortium of Quaker colleges and universities that include the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and Swarthmore College. Students can opt to take classes at any of the four colleges with transportation provided between the campuses.
With an A+ score for amenities, lack of crime, education, and employment, Haverford garners the second place landing on our list of top cities with the best ranking liberal arts colleges in America.
#1: Davidson, NC – Davidson College
The Top US City With A Best Ranking Liberal Arts College
Livability Score: 86
A+ for amenities, education, and lack of crime
Average 2 Bedroom Rent Prices $1,176
Davidson, North Carolina, located a mere 20-minutes away from Charlotte, ranks number one as the Top US City With A Best Ranking Liberal Arts College. This city, which was founded around Davidson College, has the highest livability score on our list paired with affordable rent prices. With an array of amenities, a lack of crime, and a strong focus on education, Davidson offers a thriving and safe community for college students to enjoy during their studies.
Because of the central focus on Davidson College, the city’s historic downtown is easily accessible for students on foot. The downtown hosts an array of year-round events and provides students with an assortment of eateries, coffee shops, nightlife, and galleries. If you are planning a visit to Davidson to check the town out, be sure to stop by Summit Coffee, a local community favorite featuring live music, open mic nights, and trivia. Stop by the Farmers Market to purchase local goods and sample foods from locally renowned chefs.
If the outdoors entice you, Davidson’s location on Lake Norman will provide you with countless hours of fun. This expansive lake has 520 miles of shoreline and Davidson College itself has exclusive lake access through the college’s Lake Campus, which is located five minutes north of the downtown campus. This campus hosts club sailing, crew teams, yoga classes, cookouts, socials, and more. Not only does the lake offer aquatic activities, it also is home to neighboring communities Cornelius, Huntersville, and Mooresville. Each of these charming communities provides additional restaurants, activities, and downtowns to explore. The outdoor enthusiasm doesn’t end with water-based activities, the area also provides opportunities for backpacking, rock climbing, caving, and more.
Residents of this charming community can also take part in activities found in nearby Charlotte. This thriving metropolis, known as the Queen City, is the largest city in North Carolina and provides access to an array of entertainment options. Davidson’s close proximity to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport makes accessing any part of the country simple.
With affordable rent prices and an idyllic location along Lake Norman, it is easy to see why Davidson not only provides a great location for students looking to study at a top-ranking liberal arts college but also for those who wish to reside here long after they finish their undergrad.