Many critics have proclaimed that earning a liberal arts major is useless with today’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focus. It’s popularly believed that studying English, philosophy, history, and other liberal arts leads directly to the unemployment line. This notion is false though because a liberal arts education can provide tremendous value. Bachelor of Liberal Arts programs develop well-read professionals with essential rhetorical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
In this article, we’ll distinguish the Top 15 Online Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree Programs available across the United States. We researched online colleges offering a flexible bachelor’s degree in liberal arts fully online using Peterson’s search tool. A whopping 170 options were found, so we began narrowing schools down based on national rankings. Each college had to be regionally accredited and ranked by the U.S. News and World Report. Extra attention was given to online universities with multiple awards and recognitions. Bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts had to be highly customizable, accept transfer credits, and offer financial aid. Online tuition per credit hour was recorded from the college’s website. Other factors considered were student support, learning technology, degree concentrations, class size, faculty strengths, job placement, and retention rate.
1. Boston University
As a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), Boston University is a private, nonsectarian institution with “very high research activity.” Known for producing 23 Pulitzer Prize and seven Nobel Prize winners, Boston University educates more than 33,400 students across 18 schools each year. Boston University is located on a 135-acre urban campus on the Charles River in Massachusetts’ capital, but there’s also an Online Learning Division. Recognized in the Princeton Review’s “Colleges That Pay You Back,” Boston University is ranked America’s 41st Best University and 33rd Top School for Veterans by the U.S. News and World Report. The Times Higher Education also placed Boston University among the Top 65 Global Universities.
Online students from 75+ countries log onto Boston University’s New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited distance learning platform that’s won the Blackboard Catalyst Award. Fully online, the Bachelor of Liberal Studies in Interdisciplinary Studies can be completed in just 30 months. Requiring 64 to 76 credits, the degree completion program allows transfers to finish their liberal arts education. Students develop college-level rhetorical acumen through courses in the humanities, including history, philosophy, economics, ethics, religion, music, and literature. Online classes integrate asynchronous material with live sessions via Adobe Connect. BU’s student-faculty ratio of 13:1 lends to interactive student engagement. Online tutoring services are also available for free with Smarthinking.
Online Tuition: $435 per credit hour
2. Northeastern University
Endowed for $729 million, Northeastern University is a private, nonprofit RU/VH research institution known for integrating cooperative education. Since its founding in 1898, Northeastern University has grown to serve a highly residential student population of 24,900. In the Back Bay neighborhood, Northeastern University occupies a 73-acre urban campus in Boston, Massachusetts. Among Northeastern University’s 65 academic departments is the College of Professional Studies, which houses several online options too. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Northeastern the 47th Best University, 38th Top School for Military, and sixth Most Innovative College. Honored within the Princeton Review’s “Guide to 353 Green Colleges,” Northeastern ranked third globally in the GreenMetric Ranking of World Universities.
Students at Northeastern University can select from 11 online bachelor’s degrees, including a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies. This 120-credit program allows students to work with an academic adviser and select specific courses that meet their intellectual goals. Undergraduates can complete the self-designed major in four years full-time or six to seven years part-time. The liberal arts core fosters reasoning development in algebra, writing, art, philosophy, psychology, history, and economics. Online courses are held during two 15-week semesters each year for increased depth of knowledge. NEU offers online experiential learning through its hands-on, cooperative program. Students could add an 18-credit Undergraduate Certificate in Accounting online for entering the finance sector.
Online Tuition: $504 per credit hour
3. University of Kansas
Created by Governor Thomas Carney in 1863, the University of Kansas is the Wheat State’s flagship public, four-year research institution with a $1.86 billion endowment. Based on a 1,100-acre urban campus in Lawrence atop Mount Oread, the University of Kansas has branches in Wichita, Salina, Topeka, Kansas City, Overland Park, and online from anywhere. Offering fixed tuition rates, Kansas serves more than 28,000 students total with a 79 percent retention rate. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the University of Kansas is America’s 115th Best University, 55th Top Public School, and 94th Best College for Veterans. Forbes named the University of Kansas the Midwest’s 54th Best College. The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) also placed Kansas among the world’s Top 200 Universities.
The University of Kansas’ Center for Online and Distance Learning grants four online bachelor’s degrees, including a Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission – North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC-NCA), the degree completion program is 100 percent online for students with 45 to 60 transferrable credits. Online learners progress through four main components: the University of Kansas core, natural science and mathematics, world culture and language, and liberal arts breadth. Coursework is accessible from 15 different departments for interdisciplinary, career-enhancing education. Online students can specialize with certificates in World Business Culture or Professional Communication. Five flexible start dates are available for the eight-week minimesters. There’s also a Plus 12 Program with flat-rat tuition for returning Jayhawks.
Online Tuition: $319 (in-state) or $832 (out-of-state) per credit hour
Learn more about the University of Kansas’s Online Liberal Arts Degree Programs here.
4. Colorado State University
Formerly called Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado State University was founded in 1870 under the Morrill Art as a flagship public, land-grant doctoral research institution. With nearly $98 million in financial aid, Colorado State University educates around 25,600 undergraduates and 7,400 post-graduates. Colorado State is headquartered on a 586-acre urban campus in Fort Collins north of Denver, but there’s a well-developed Global Campus. Boasting America’s 86th Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees, Colorado State University is named the 127th Best University and 61st Top Public School by the U.S. News and World Report. Ranked #3 on the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index, Colorado State University was listed in Consumers Digest’s Top 50 Best Public Values Nationwide.
Joining the online Colorado State University Ram family allows undergraduates to select from eight bachelor’s programs, such as the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts. This 120-credit online curriculum lays the foundation for students to understand humans and their relationships across the globe. With an online average class size of 21, students benefit from sharpening the critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills employers seek. B.A. majors select from seven flexible minors: Anthropology, Business, Economics, Gerontology, Media Studies, Political Science, and Sociology. Previous college credits must be transferred with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Online coursework culminates in a senior capstone seminar. Tuition rates include student services like career advising, library access, and tech support.
Online Tuition: $444 per credit hour
5. Oregon State University
Holding all four land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant, and sun-grant designations, Oregon State University is an elite public, co-educational research institution. Located on a main 420-acre suburban campus in Corvallis within the Willamette Valley, Oregon State University has been rated the safest school in the Pac-10. Across 12 colleges, Oregon State enrolls approximately 25,600 undergraduate and 4,900 post-graduate scholars. The U.S. News and World Report recognized Oregon State University as the United States’ 135th Best University and 68th Top Public School with the seventh best online bachelor’s degrees. With $285 million in research funding, Oregon State University is honored in the Princeton Review’s “Best in the West” colleges. The Academic Ranking of World University’s (ARWU) also included Oregon State University within the globe’s 200 Best Universities.
The Oregon State ECampus provides flexible access to 40+ online programs granted Northweset Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) accreditation for quality. In particular, there’s a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies program available. Consisting of 180 quarter credits, this online degree gives students the valuable opportunity to tailor their major around any liberal arts theme. Concentrations could include Anthropology, English, Sociology, Theatre, Psychology, or Gender and Sexuality Studies. Some may declare the Elementary Education focus to prepare for teacher licensing. More than 1,000 online courses span 90 subjects for diverse learning options. Only 45 credits must be completed at OSU, so transfers are welcome. The ECampus promotes enriching, engaging education delivered asynchronously.
Online Tuition: $280 per credit hour
6. St. John’s University
Affiliated with the Vincentian Fathers, St. John’s University is an accredited private, nonprofit Roman Catholic teaching institution with a history tracing back to 1870. St. John’s University’s 11 academic divisions cater to more than 15,700 undergraduates and 5,600 post-graduates yearly. In addition to online learning, St. John’s operates a 105-acre urban campus on Utopia Parkway in New York City’s Queens borough and a branch in Manhattan. Listed among America’s Top 100 Investments in “The Wall Street Journal,” St. John’s University is ranked the 153rd Best University and 124th Top College for Veterans by the U.S. News and World Report. St. John’s University hosts the country’s 86th Best Online Bachelor’s Programs with a Forbes financial grade of B.
As part of the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), St. John’s offers six undergraduate degrees online through its College of Professional Studies. The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program draws on interdisciplinary disciplines to develop students’ knowledge of Western and non-Western cultures. Vincentian values are infused into the broad-based, 126-credit program to develop tomorrow’s global leaders. Students can travel abroad to SJU’s Rome or Paris campuses for international perspective. Available online minors are Administrative Studies, Business, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Health Services, Journalism, and Paralegal Studies. Online students have access to the 1.7-million volume University Library. A laptop can be provided for joining the interactive virtual classroom on Blackboard.
Online Tuition: $1,288 per credit hour
7. University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Chartered in 1894 as the Lowell Normal School, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell is the second largest public, metropolitan research institution within the UMass system. Granting more than 190 degrees, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell educates approximately 17,500 each semester. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited college is headquartered on a 150-acre urban campus in Lowell within the lush Merrimack Valley near the New Hampshire line. With a selective acceptance rate of 62 percent, UMass Lowell is ranked the 156th Best National University and 84th Top Public School with America’s 39th Top Online Bachelor’s Programs by the U.S. News and World Report. Named to the President’s Higher Education Honor Roll for four years, UML has the Northeast’s 40th Best Return On Investment (ROI).
The Division of Online & Continuing Education at UMass Lowell offers eight undergraduate programs fully online, including the Bachelor of Liberal Arts. The well-balanced program is ideal for working adults who’ve had their college education plans disrupted and need 24/7 course access. Students specialize their studies by picking two concentrations from Art History, Economics, English, Gender Studies, History, Legal Studies, Political Science, and Psychology. Eight to 10 online courses are taken for each concentration, and 12 credits of foreign language are required. Students are advised by full-time faculty who possess real-world experience in their subject. Entering the 120-credit BLA program only requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Online Tuition: $370 per credit hour
8. Azusa Pacific University
Following its “God First” motto, Azusa Pacific University is the largest private, nonprofit Wesleyan-Holiness institution in the Council for Christian College and Universities (CCCU). Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Azusa Pacific enrolls more than 10,700 students across 10 academic divisions. Based in the San Gabriel Valley on a 105-acre suburban campus outside Los Angeles, APU offers six off-site California locations and online learning. The U.S. News lauded Azusa Pacific University as the 175th best college and 139th top veterans school nationally. Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked Azusa Pacific University among the Top 100 Minority Degree Producers. Forbes also recognized Azusa Pacific as America’s 270th Best Private School.
Without stepping foot on campus, Azusa Pacific University students can select from 34 online programs. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences specifically houses the Online B.A. in Liberal Studies. This innovative, accelerated program integrates the Christian faith into enhancing students’ ethical worldview. The 120-unit curriculum is split into 47 liberal arts core units and 73 general studies elective units. Azusa Pacific University structured the 19-month degree completion program to develop subject-matter preparation for elementary and special education teachers. Graduates are qualified to pass California’s Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET). The B.A. could also prepare individuals for psychology, counseling, social work, and more. Success coaches guide students to an average retention rate of 84 percent.
Online Tuition: $400 (Level 100-200) and $450 (Level 300-400) per unit
9. University of North Carolina – Greensboro
Established by Charles Duncan McIver in 1891 as a women’s college, the University of North Carolina – Greensboro has grown into a public, co-educational liberal arts institution. Endowed for $251 million, the independent university holds the prized “Community Engagement” designation from Carnegie. Each year, UNCG enrolls more than 16,100 students across its five leadership areas. With 10 LEED certified buildings, UNC Greensboro encompasses a 231-acre urban campus in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad. The U.S. News and World Report currently ranks the University of North Carolina – Greensboro as America’s 187th Best University and 105th Top Public School. Washington Monthly placed the University of North Carolina – Greensboro eighth nationally for social mobility and 89th overall.
The Office of Online Learning offers competitively priced, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accredited distance programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. Available 100 percent online, the customizable degree increases students’ professional skills with interactive classes capped at 30. Online courses can be completed asynchronously in seven-week or full-semester lengths. Material is accessible via Blackboard and Canvas from far-flung places like India and South Africa. Admission to the 60-credit program requires having at least 60 transferrable credits or an associate degree. Three specialized tracks are granted for Professional Studies, Humanities, or Social Sciences. During the capstone seminar, online students research for an extended critical essay and create a Web-based portfolio.
Online Tuition: $161 (in-state) or $308 (out-of-state) per credit hour
10. Widener University
Named after Philadelphia’s prominent Widener family since 1972, Widener University has developed from a military academy into a private, co-educational liberal arts institution. Sitting atop a 108-acre urban campus, Widener is located in Chester, Pennsylvania, just 14 miles southwest of Philly. The MSCHE-accredited university also offers classes in Harrisburg, Exton, Wilmington, and online from anywhere. Enrollment statistics show that over 3,200 undergrad and 3,200 post-graduate students study at Widener yearly. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Widener as the 187th Best National University and 149th Best College for Veterans. Forbes crowned Widener University the 235th Top Research Institute Nationwide. In 2011, Newsweek named Widener the country’s 19th Most Service-Oriented College too.
Widener’s Center for Continuing Studies has flexible enrollment options with evening, Saturday, and online classes. The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies can be completed 100 percent online for a breadth of academic knowledge in the humanities and social sciences. Online students lay a foundation of inquiry and problem-solving skills for various professional paths. Great emphasis is placed on ethics and civic leadership. The 120-credit program spans courses from public speaking to government and psychology. Online minors like Criminal Justice, Gender and Women’s Studies, or English could be added. Small classes are possible with a 12:1 student-faculty ratio. The portfolio assessment program also allows for prior experience credits.
Online Tuition: $600 per credit hour
11. University of Missouri – Kansas City
Initially affiliated with the Shawnee Methodist Mission, the University of Missouri – Kansas City has developed into a public, state-funded research institution in the Mizzou system. Along with its online division, UMKC has a 157-acre urban campus within the Rockhill district of the Midwest’s sixth largest city. As a selective university accepting only 63 percent of applicants, the University of Missouri – Kansas City enrolls more than 10,200 undergraduates and 5,400 post-graduates. Ranked in the top five LGBT-friendly campuses by Newsweek, the University of Missouri – Kansas City was recognized in the U.S. News and World Report survey for America’s 135th Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees. The University of Missouri – Kansas City is the 194th Best National University, 111th Top Public School, and 154th Best Pick for Veterans.
The University of Missouri – Kansas City Online offers three fully asynchronous bachelor’s programs, including the Bachelor of Liberal Arts. This online degree completion option is available for students carrying at least 65 transferrable credits. Students finish their 120-credit degree by studying humanities, fine arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. The College of Arts & Sciences allows students to log in through Blackboard to discuss human issues of contemporary, global concern. Students will select a concentration area, such as Bioethics, Classical and Ancient Studies, Communications, Writing, Gerontology, or Economics. Various courses are delivered each semester to build a customized curriculum. Although it holds HLC-NCA accreditation, please note the program isn’t authorized for Minnesota, Utah, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Vermont.
Online Tuition: $372 (in-state) or $832 (out-of-state) per credit hour
12. Marist College
Operating study sites in 26 countries, Marist College is a private, nonprofit international liberal arts institution grounded in Roman Catholic values since 1929. Regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) for arts and science education, Marist educates approximately 6,400 undergraduates and 900 post-graduates yearly. Overlooking the Hudson River, Marist has a 240-acre suburban campus nestled in Poughkeepsie, New York, just 78 miles north of Manhattan. According to the U.S. News and World Report, Marist is the North’s 13th Best Regional College and third Most Innovative School with the 38th Top Online Bachelor’s Programs nationwide. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance honored Marist College as America’s 57th Best Private Value with 91 percent of freshmen retained.
Through iLearn, Marist only offers one undergraduate program fully online – its Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Liberal Studies. Busy working adults can enroll 100 percent online or in a hybrid format at the Fishkill Executive Center to build the skills for complex professional responsibilities. Up to 90 credits graded “C” or higher can transfer for degree acceleration. Marist College is a Yellow Ribbon Program participant to serve military too. Online courses are taught on the same 15-week semester or a quicker 10-week schedule. Liberal arts concentrations include American Studies, Economics, Organizational Leadership, Project Management, Psychology, Communication, Information Technology, and Enterprise Systems. Students can select two to three tracks for the tailored 45-credit major.
Online Tuition: $650 per credit hour
13. University of Northern Iowa
Established in 1876 for orphans of Civil War soldiers, the University of Northern Iowa is a public, state-funded higher learning institution granting over 90 majors. Sprawled across 900 urban acres, the University of Northern Iowa is situated in Cedar Falls around 108 miles northeast of Des Moines. Annually, UNI enrolls more than 11,900 undergraduates and 1,900 post-graduates, primarily from Iowa. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Northern Iowa as the Midwest’s 18th Best College and second Top Public School. Named among GI Jobs magazine’s “Military Friendly” schools, the University of Northern Iowa was crowned the 38th Best Bang for the Buck in Washington Monthly. The Institute of International Education also recognized the University of Northern Iowa for the fourth largest study abroad program.
The Continuing and Distance Education Division utilizes video conferencing technologies on Adobe Connect to support four online bachelor’s degrees. The Bachelor of Liberal Studies program requires no on-campus trips for adult learners to finish their broad-based college education. Online students can enroll any time and take up to nine months to complete self-paced coursework. The 120-credit bachelor’s is structured as a customized career advancement tool for individuals with an Associate of Arts degree. Students collaborate with an advisor to forge their own pathway through the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Courses are highly diverse from Italian Renaissance art to substance abuse prevention. UNI also partners with AmeriCorps for a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) program.
Online Tuition: $296 (domestic) or $445 (international) per unit
14. Rowan University
Divided into 13 academic units, Rowan University is a mid-sized public, state-funded research institution that’s regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Based on a 200-acre suburban campus in Glassboro, New Jersey, just 20 minutes south of Philadelphia, Rowan has extension centers in Camden, Stratford, and online from anywhere. Rowan University serves more than 13,100 undergraduates and 2,000 post-graduates each year with a 17:1 student-faculty ratio. Ranked #2 nationally on the Social Mobility Index, Rowan is the North’s 19th Best Regional College and third Top Public School according to the U.S. News and World Report. Boasting 13 sustainability awards, Rowan was named a “Top Green Power Purchaser” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Forbes crowned Rowan the 156th Best Public College in the United States.
Rowan Global offers an Online B.A. in Liberal Studies: Humanities/Social Science degree completion program for transfers with 24+ college credits. Designed for working adults, the 100 percent online degree promotes rigorous inquiry to build essential interpersonal, analytical, and decision-making skills. Online courses strive to develop cultural sensitivity for assuming upper-level leadership roles in a global workforce. The 120-credit curriculum is completed part-time over approximately seven semesters. Eight-week modules help foster learning in philosophy, religion, history, public relations, writing, and communications. The user-friendly online classroom integrates discussions, digital slideshows, video lectures, and group projects. Start dates occur every Fall, Spring, and Summer for students with a minimum 2.0 college GPA.
Online Tuition: $455 per semester hour
15. California State University, Chico
As part of the 23-campus CSU system, California State University, Chico is the second oldest public, co-educational teaching institution first founded in 1887. Conferring 160+ academic degrees, Chico State educates more than 16,000 undergraduates and 1,100 post-graduates annually. Built along Big Chico Creek, California State University, Chico occupies a 119-acre rural campus in the Sacramento Valley only 89 miles north of California’s capital. According to the U.S. News and World Report, California State University, Chico is the West’s 42nd Best College and ninth Top Public School with the 173rd Best Fine Arts Program nationwide. Washington Monthly honored Chico State as the region’s 28th Best Bang for the Buck. California State University, Chico was also a finalist for President Caleb Williams’ Higher Education Community Service Award.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Chico Distance & Online Education division expands the university’s Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredited program offerings. Web-based material and live video streaming can help students achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. This online degree completion program accepts 60 to 70 transferrable credits for graduating in just 24 months full-time. Liberal arts majors can choose from two online minors in Sociology or Career and Life Planning. General education courses will meet California’s State Content Standards for K-8 Teachers, but becoming credentialed requires extra on-site coursework and practicum. The multidisciplinary curriculum explores literature, art, environmental science, philosophy, psychology, math, social evolution, and much more.
Online Tuition: $2,364 (0-6 units) or $3,513 (6.1+ units) per semester
Why Should I Get an Online Liberal Arts Degree?
One AACU study found that four out of five employers want applicants who’ve studied liberal arts. Nearly 95 percent agreed that communication and reasoning skills were more important than major. Career success could begin here because one-third of Fortune 500 CEOs hold liberal arts degrees, including prominent names like Ken Chenault, Ted Turner, and Howard Schultz.
The good news is majoring in liberal arts doesn’t spell disaster in today’s economic market. Forgoing a specialized degree can still unlock high-paying jobs for liberal arts graduates. Available career opportunities include economist, entrepreneur, sales manager, archaeologist, art director, public relations specialist, writer, social worker, teacher, realtor, executive secretary, and more. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for liberal arts majors was $41,605 in 2014. If you’re looking for a well-rounded education where you’ll learn about the world from different perspectives, check out these Top 15 Online Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree Programs: