The CIC website's program nomination forms and event registration systems are currently unavailable due to planned maintenance. Service will return Thursday, December 8. Please contact CIC at (202) 466-7230 with any questions or concerns.

Liberal Arts Research and Data

The research and data listed below focus on dispelling false stereotypes regarding a liberal arts education at independent colleges and universities.

The research is grouped by:
  1. Affordability
  2. Access and Academic Success
  3. Career and Personal Success

 

Affordability
Private liberal arts colleges are more affordable than you think.

  • One quarter of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a four-year independent college or university did not have any educational debt and nearly half had less than $20,000 in debt. Moreover, the difference between the median debt levels for graduates who borrowed at public versus independent institutions is only $4,375.
  • Chart 
  • Over the past decade, the published tuition and fees at public four-year institutions have increased twice as fast (50 percent) as at independent colleges and universities (25 percent).
  • Chart 
     


Access and Academic Success
Diverse students enroll and excel at private colleges.
 
Access
  • Approximately one-third of all undergraduates at independent colleges and universities are students of color, comparable with four-year public institutions.
  • Chart 
  • A slightly higher percentage of students enrolled at independent colleges are from low-income backgrounds (annual family income less than $25,000) than students enrolled at public research universities (16.3 percent vs. 15.4 percent). Conversely, upper-income students (annual family income of at least $105,000) make up a slightly larger share of enrollments at public universities (32.4 percent) than at independent colleges (32.0 percent).
  • Chart 
  • Independent colleges and universities serve other diverse groups of students as well. More than one-quarter of students at independent colleges and universities are 25 or older, and more than one-quarter attend part-time.
  • Chart 
 

Academic Success
  • The graduation rates at independent colleges and universities are much higher than at other types of institutions. For example, the four-year graduation rate at independent colleges is 52 percent, compared with 32 percent at public institutions and 36 percent at for-profit institutions.
  • Chart 
  • Graduates of independent colleges and universities complete their bachelor’s degrees much sooner than their peers at other types of institutions—almost a year earlier than at public institutions and four years earlier than at for-profit institutions—which means fewer years of paying tuition and a quicker start at earning a salary.
  • Chart 
  • Students of color, first-generation students, and low-income students are all more likely to graduate at independent colleges and universities than at public and for-profit institutions.
    • The six-year graduation rate of Hispanic students enrolled at independent colleges and universities is 62 percent, compared with 50 percent at public institutions. The six-year graduation rate of black students enrolled at independent colleges and universities is 45 percent, compared with 40 percent at public institutions.
    • Chart 
    • The six-year graduation rate of first-generation students at independent colleges and universities is 70 percent, versus only 57 percent at public institutions.
    • Chart 
    • The six-year graduation rates of low-income students at independent colleges and universities is 68 percent, versus only 61 percent at public institutions. Moreover, the four-year graduation rate of low-income students at independent colleges is nearly twice the rate at public institutions (44 percent vs. 24 percent).
    • Chart 



Career and Personal Success
A liberal arts education prepares students for personal and professional success.

  • Young people who are enrolled in independent colleges and universities are more likely to volunteer: 64 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds at independent colleges and universities volunteered, versus only 22 percent of all 16- to 24-year-olds in the general population.
  • Chart 
  • Young people enrolled in independent colleges and universities are more likely to register to vote: 77 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds at four-year independent colleges and universities registered to vote in the 2008 presidential election, versus only 53 percent of all 18- to 24-year-olds in the general population.
  • Chart