Every year, the Princeton Review ranks the most conservative and liberal colleges in America, among other various rankings they release. To the FFL young woman, these rankings can be very important information to know, whether they are looking for an institution to continue their education, or pinpointing schools to advocate their strong views. Today, we’re going to take a deeper look at the top 15 schools that Princeton Review ranked as most liberal, and what that means.
Every school on the list is a small liberal arts college with an average undergraduate enrollment of around 1,500. Only five schools on the list are from the South and Midwest combined, while the remaining 75 percent are located in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and California — typically blue states.
15. Mills College – Oakland, CA
Mills College in Oakland, California, is a small women’s institution, with one of its notable alumni being Barbara Lee, the Democratic U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district and Dixy Lee Ray, a scientist who served as the 17th Governor of the U.S. state of Washington, who also a Democrat. Also, one of the most active clubs on campus is the Feminist Democrats, more commonly known as the Fem Dems.
14. Pitzer College – Claremont, CA
Pitzer College is a private residential liberal arts college located in Claremont, California, United States. Claremont is a college town approximately 39 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. With an acceptance rate of 12.9%, Pitzer has been recognized as one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the United States. Newsweek ranked Pitzer College #7 in “Free-Spirited Students.” They also have a long standing event called Dining with Democracy a student-run speaker series that brings politicians and community activists to campus. Participants have included: Alfre Woodard, Christopher Hitchens, Chalmers Johnson Mike Bonanno of The Yes Men, and Ralph Nader – all with known liberal backgrounds. Their other rankings include #8 Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians, #16 Least Religious Students, #10 LGBT-Friendly and #9 Reefer Madness.
13. Grinnell College – Grinnell, IA
Founded in 1846, Grinnell College is a small private liberal arts college in Iowa where the school stresses self-governance (“Self-Gov is Love”), wherein they are expected to govern their own choices and behavior with minimal direct intervention by the college administration. They ranked #16 on the Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians list as well. Notable alumni include Katayama Sen, 1892, a founder of the Japanese Communist Party and Harry Hopkins, 1912, senior advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a principal architect of the New Deal.
12. Skidmore College – Saratoga Springs, NY
Founded in 1903 and located in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Skidmore is an independent, coeducational, liberal arts college that prides itself on its creative approaches to just about everything. Hence, the college’s core belief that creative thought matters. They also rank #1 in Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians and Reefer Madness. When asked about the student body, one student said “you see a lot of people chain-smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee out of mason jars, and wearing torn-up ‘vintage’ clothing.”
11. Macalester College – St. Paul, MN
Macalester College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was also one of the first colleges to offer all-gender bathrooms and housing, where gender is not specified in any way. When asked about the campus life, one student said “It would be easier to define the typical kid who is not at Mac: bro/fraternity-type guys and ditzy, sorority girls. Mainstream people without their own opinions don’t make it here.”
10. Smith College – Northampton, MA
Smith College is “a socially liberal, and well-respected institution,” located in Northampton, Massachusetts. Offering “academic freedom,” Smith doesn’t have course requirements beyond the major, and “self-scheduled finals” allow students to take exam week at their own pace. “One thing all students have in common here is the will for women’s empowerment and acceptance of any gender or sexual preference,” one student said. Though there’s some political diversity on campus, most Smithies hold “very liberal views,” Among the most notable of Smith College’s alumnae are chef, author and television personality Julia Child, The Feminine Mystique author and feminist Betty Friedan; former First Lady of the United States Nancy Reagan, feminist, activist, and journalist Gloria Steinem, and renowned poet Sylvia Plath.
9. New College of Florida – Sarasota, FL
New College of Florida, a uniquely small and unconventional public institution. It’s all about “self-directed learning”, working closely with faculty advisers, “the student decides what he or she is going to learn and how she is going to learn it.” It leaves undergrads “free to do what they please—with their bodies, their studies, their behavior—but while also being held to high academic standards.” NCF undergrads receive narrative evaluations instead of grades. The students are “largely middle-class, white, and liberal. There are some Republicans on campus. Maybe four. I’m not sure. We’re not the type of school that generally attracts heavy right-wingers,” according to one student.
8. Reed College – Portland, OR
Reed College is a private liberal arts college located in southeast Portland, Oregon. Reed shuns exclusive organizations and activities, so the college has no Greek organizations and no NCAA or NAIA athletic teams. Steve Jobs attended Reed College, but dropped out before graduation.
7. Beloit College – Beloit, WI
Beloit College is a private liberal arts college in Beloit, Wisconsin. Offering gender-neutral bathrooms, and extremely flexible curriculum, it is seen as very liberal. On Niche, on student said “Of course, everybody is soaked in “liberal,” which can get pretty monotonous. Students who aren’t so liberal either shut their traps about it or get picked on all the time.”
6. College of the Atlantic – Bar Harbor, ME
College of the Atlantic is a small liberal arts college in Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, Maine, that its students think of as a “progressive educational experiment that broadens perspective.” Most students consider themselves “fairly liberal” and “very individualistic.” Some are a little put off by the latter saying “at times it seems like an almost requirement.” The school’s curriculum is based on human ecology, and all first-year students are required to take an introductory course in human ecology. With its focus on interdisciplinary learning, College of the Atlantic does not have distinct departments, and all faculty members consider themselves human ecologists in addition to their formal specialization.
5. Marlboro College – Marlboro, VT
Marlboro College is a liberal arts college known for the rigor of its self-directed academic program. The school was founded on and continues to encourage a tradition of community participation and values. A bi-monthly “town meeting” allows all community members to gather and vote to change the college bylaws. An elected community court dispenses justice when necessary. Different elected committees, consisting of students, faculty and staff, help to hire faculty and steer the curriculum, among many other responsibilities. The school maintains minimal security measures in order to promote attitudes of trust and responsibility on campus. The library is also open all night and uses a self-checkout honor system to keep track of borrowed materials.
4. Bard College – Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Bard College is private, liberal arts institution located in the Hudson Valley. Bard students are “eccentric intellectuals” who “like pontificating about anything and everything.” One student said “Unfortunately, Bard remains a rather homogeneous institution in other ways. Politically, the majority of Bardians are hard-left liberals. As a result, discussions on campus tend to be rather one-sided, and any view in contention with the communal perspective often remains un-vocalized”
3. Bennington College – Bennington, VT
Bennington College is a private, nonsectarian liberal arts college located in Bennington, Vermont. There are no requirements to graduate, and instead allow each student to create their own path for their education. One student said “it’s not a super diverse place ethnically or politically, and most students tend to be liberal.”
2. Warren Wilson College – Asheville, NC
Warren Wilson College (WWC) is a private four-year liberal arts college near Asheville, North Carolina. It is known for its curriculum that combines academics, work and service which requires every student to complete a requisite course of study, work an on-campus job, and perform community service. There’s “a working farm on campus that students run” and the “vast majority of people who go here are liberal” and are concerned “with social justice issues.” Indeed, the mantle “hippie” is frequently bandied about. While some might object to this stereotype, many undergrads are “committed to environmental awareness.” A freshman notes that his fellow students “care about the outdoors, recycle, unplug appliances not in use, and would rather eat an organic salad than a steak. Additionally, most undergrads are hardworking and very industrious, constantly thinking of new projects to do and coming up with interesting ideas.” But perhaps this math major sums up his peers best, “If you like people with weird haircuts, people with a different gender identity, vegans, feminists, and future organic farmers—or are one of these people—you will probably fit right in.”
1. Sarah Lawrence College – Bronxville, NY
Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in the United States. It is located in southern Westchester County, New York, in the city of Yonkers, 15 miles (24 km) north of Manhattan. There are no majors or grades at SLC, only concentrations and evaluations (grades are given by professors and recorded by the Registrar). Political activism has played a crucial role in forming the spirit of the Sarah Lawrence community since the early years of the College. In the late 1980s, students occupied Westlands, the main administrative building for the campus, in a sit-in for wider diversity. Students have remained active in recent years, with numerous organizations and movements sprouting in response to the Iraq War. For many years, the College has been considered as being at the vanguard of the sexual rights movement. Notable alumni include two former members of the United States House of Representatives, Democrat and President Barack Obama’s former Chief of Staff and Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and former Republican Congresswoman Sue W. Kelly. Also fashion designer Vera Wang.