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Best Masters Liberal Studies Online: Students Before Profits Award

master of liberal arts online

The Students Before Profits Awards were created to recognize nonprofit colleges and universities offering degrees that put students before profits and education before the bottom-line. For our ranking of the Online Master’s in Liberal Studies award winners, we chose online interdisciplinary degree programs from nonprofit colleges and universities, accredited by independent and trusted accreditation boards, with lower than average tuition costs, and have ranked them by affordability.

Students who complete a Master of Liberal Arts Online will have an array of careers available to them upon graduating; conversely, students applying for admission into these programs come from a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds, and are able to make the most of their hard-earned experience, academic and otherwise. Many working adults utilize an interdisciplinary degree to achieve greater standing in the workplace — by way of promotions and salary increases — or to gain entry into fields as diverse as journalism, politics, library science, creative writing, education, business, communications, the arts, and more.

Liberal Studies programs are generally socially and professionally relevant, delving into the disciplines of art, philosophy, history, technology, and cultural studies, and employing these platforms in both traditional and contemporary manners. Because of the opportunity for self-designed curriculums and creative projects and residencies, these programs attract self-starters and autonomous life-learners who value diverse experiences and are inclined to steer their education in kind.

Note that tuition rates listed below are based on cost per credit and individual programs may have additional fees.

Ranking the Top Master of Liberal Arts Online Programs

#1. Fort Hays State University

The fastest growing and the fourth-largest of all of the Kansas Board of Regents universities, Fort Hays State University is located in Hays, Kansas and enrolls over 11,000 students, half of which are distance learners. The school was established in 1902 and currently sits on 200 rural acres. Big Creek, a natural stream that runs through the acreage, both enhances the beauty of the campus and serves as a laboratory for students studying the biological sciences.

Master of Liberal Arts Online Overview

Fort Hays State University offers an online Master’s of Liberal Studies degree from their Virtual College. The degree consists of a ten-course core curriculum accompanied by eighteen hours of a concentration of the student’s choosing. Concentrations include Art, Corporate Communications, Educational Leadership and Management, Global Studies, International Enterprise Leadership, Gerontology, Global Management, Literary Arts, Health Sciences, Instructional Sciences, Management Information Systems, Political Leadership and Public Service, Political Science, Public Administration, and Rural Advocacy. Thirty-one completed credits are required for graduation; the final three hours are represented by a personalized culmination experience.


Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $8,454

#2. Western New Mexico University

A public university located in Silver City, New Mexico, Western New Mexico University was established in 1893 as a normal school for aspiring teachers and has since evolved into an institution enrolling over 3,500 students in more than seventy areas of study. WNMU offers over 150 of its courses online and is renowned for its programs in Criminal Justice, Education, Occupational Therapy, Nursing, Social Work, and Business Management.

Online Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Overview

WNMU’s online Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Students is a highly-customizable degree intended for working teachers, aspiring teachers, those whose career could benefit from a graduate degree, and life-long learners wishing to continue their formal education. Available online concentrations include Bilingual Education, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Educational Leadership, English, History, Instructional Technology and Design, Management Information Systems, Political Science, Psychology, Reading Education, Special Education, and Writing. Students may choose a degree plan formatted to include two concentrations or a degree plan formatted to include three concentrations. Students must complete a minimum of nine hours in each discipline chosen, regardless of the plan. Once students have completed a total of fifteen hours, they must submit a Midpoint Self-Reflection Essay; upon preparing to graduate from this 36-credit program, students must also produce an Exit Essay incorporating all the disciplines of their chosen plan of study. Likewise, the program must begin with a student-authored Letter of Intent, specifically addressing not only one’s capability of performing high-level graduate work but also the experience and subsequent academic outcome desired.


Western New Mexico University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $13,348

#3. University of South Dakota

Founded in 1862 by the Dakota Territory legislature, the University of South Dakota is located in Vermillion, South Dakota. USD houses South Dakota’s only law school, medical school, and accredited business school, and presently enrolls over 10,000 students on-campus. Alum Ernest Lawrence, who graduated in 1922, received the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics, and nine other alumni have been selected as Rhodes Scholars.

Online Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies Overview

A flexible program geared toward working professionals, the University of South Dakota’s online MAIS was designed to meet a variety of educational goals by offering courses in business, political science, administration, education, health services administration, and more. Students will whittle down their plan of study to two or three disciplines — with the help of a faculty advisor — that will propel personal career and academic advancement. 32 credit-hours must be completed for students to be eligible for graduation, and students may choose to enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Required coursework includes an applied learning course and a statistics class.


The University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $14,216

#4. Wayland Baptist University

A private Baptist university located in Plainview, Texas, Wayland Baptist University enrolls over 5,000 students on all of its campuses, including twelve satellite campuses dotting the U.S. — in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, and additional cities in Texas, and in Kijabe, Kenya. Wayland Baptist was founded in 1908 as Wayland Literary and Technical Institute, and currently houses nine distinct degree-granting schools. Notable alumni include Baptist preacher Grady Nutt, Barry Loudermilk, U.S. Congressman from Georgia, and former head coach of the Texas Tech Lady Raiders basketball team Marsha Sharp.

Online Master’s of Arts in Humanities Overview

WBU offers a flexible, multidisciplinary online graduate degree program in Humanities; students choose three disciplines and divide 33 credit-hours among them — eighteen for one discipline, nine each for the remaining two. A comprehensive final exam makes up the remaining credit. Graduates are prepared to teach two disciplines at the college level, to move into a leadership role in their current professional field, or to undertake a humanities or other interdisciplinary doctorate. Students can take their online classes anywhere they can pick up an internet signal, and can choose to enroll full-time or part-time, or take it semester by semester.


Wayland Baptist University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $14,685

#5. California State University, Dominguez Hills

Located in the South Bay region of Los Angeles, in Carson, California, California State University, Dominguez Hills was founded in 1960 and currently enrolls approximately 15,000 students. The university has made a name for itself in terms of its affordability and quality, as well as its ethnic diversity. CSUDH’s nursing program is especially renowned, with three fully-accredited nursing degrees offered and taught by excellent faculty members. The school also boasts highly-acclaimed and lauded faculty in the fields of Psychology, Anthropology, Educational Leadership, and Negotiation, Conflict, and Peacebuilding.

Online Master’s of Arts in Humanities Overview

An interdisciplinary degree exploring existentialism through the major disciplines of the humanities — art, literature, music, philosophy, and history — California State University, Dominguez Hill’s online M.A. in Humanities concerns itself with age-old human concerns and longings, and presses its learners to develop both their curiosity and skills of analysis and criticism. The distance curriculum is organized by way of a cohort model, meaning that each incoming class of students works its way through the program together, settling on a community theme and question to carry them through the eighteen to twenty months of study. The program culminates in an on-campus seminar during the final semester, just prior to graduation. Examples of required coursework include History and the Human Endeavor, Literature and Human Experience, Music and Hearing Humanity, Philosophy and Human Being, and more.


California State University, Dominguez Hills is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $16,335

#6. University of Massachusetts Boston

The University of Massachusetts Boston is an urban research university located on over 175 acres on the Columbia Point peninsula. The only public university in Boston, UMass Boston confers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees from eleven schools and colleges within the university. The school’s current and former faculty consists of feminist scholar Carol Cohn, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Lloyd Schwartz, feminist author Beverly Smith, chemist John Warner, poet Martha Collins, political scientist Jalal Alamgir, and many more. Recognized favorably by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and QS World University rankings, UMass Boston currently enrolls nearly 17,000 students.

Online Master’s of Arts in Critical and Creative Thinking Overview

The University of Massachusetts Boston offers an online M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking for active professionals, or aspiring professionals, in education, science, the creative arts, social justice activism, and more. The curriculum encourages risk-taking by way of alternative solutions to complex problems; students are likely to find that UMass Boston’s CCT program guides students down an educational path that diverges from any previous schooling they have thus encountered. 33 credits are required for graduation, with foundational courses including Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Advanced Cognitive Psychology, and Foundations of Philosophical Thought. From there, students will choose a number of electives — Children and Science, Issues in Antiracist and Multicultural Education, Mathematical Thinking, and Dialogue Processes, to name a few — and then cap the program with practices in research and engagement. Although alumni go on to work in a variety of disciplines, many will become teachers or mentors.


The University of Massachusetts Boston is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $17,160

#7. Salve Regina University

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1934, Salve Regina University is a Catholic institution located in Newport, Rhode Island. The school currently enrolls almost 3,000 students on its historical campus, with many of its buildings being constructed in the late 1800s. Salve Regina boasts a number of lauded military alumni, as well as Janet L. Robinson, former president and CEO of The New York Times Company, and old Hollywood actress Betty Hutton.

Online Master of Arts in Humanities Overview

Salve Regina University’s online Master’s of Arts in Humanities seeks to push students to explore complex and difficult questions about the human condition through a core curriculum structured around the arts, ethics, history, language and literature, philosophy, and religion. To finish the degree, students will complete a minimum of twelve courses; these hours include four courses of a concentration area and a six-credit written thesis or internship. The three concentration options are as follows: Humanitarian Assistance, Public Humanities, and Religion, Peace, and Justice. Students often utilize their M.A. in Humanities as a path to a doctoral program, or as a stepping stone to a variety of careers including non-profit work, the arts, education, counseling, and more.


Salve Regina University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $18,360

#8. Tiffin University

Presently enrolling almost 4,000 students at its 115-acre campus in Tiffin, Ohio, at the University of Bucharest in Romania, and at a number of other locations throughout Ohio, Tiffin University is a private university offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Founded in 1888, the school is nationally-renowned for its distinctive music program, including more than 15% of the on-campus population, wherein music students are encouraged to focus on contemporary, commercial styles of music and incorporate these styles into their ensembles. Tiffin’s undergraduate study abroad program is also well-developed and popular; more than 29 different countries are represented.

Online Master’s of Humanities Overview

Tiffin University’s graduate degree in Humanities is an umbrella covering concentrations in Art and Visual Media, Communication, Creative Writing, English, Film Studies, and Humanities itself. The Humanities concentration within the Humanities program highlights man’s search for meaning, creativity, and value by way of meticulously investigating the mythological, cultural and philosophical infrastructures of historical and contemporary peoples. A thirty-hour program, Tiffin’s MH ends with either a comprehensive exam or an individual capstone project requiring independent research under the guidance of a faculty member. Courses are structured in fifteen-week increments starting in January, May, and August.


Tiffin University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $19,500

#9. Liberty University

Originally established in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist College by evangelical Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg University is located in Virginia at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The university is a Christian community focused on developing not only the intellectual nature of the student, but also the spiritual. When factoring in the school’s approximately 90,000 distance learners, Liberty University is the world’s largest Evangelical Christian institution and the nation’s largest private not-for-profit university.

Online Master’s of Arts in Global Studies Overview

Liberty University’s online M.A. in Global Studies is a 36-credit graduate program designed for students aspiring to study and work in cross-cultural contexts, emphasizing the beauty of diverse cultures and worldviews, world religions, and global trends, all from an evangelical perspective. Up to six credit hours can be transferred in, and most students will complete the program within two. Alumni have gone on to work in faith-based development and aid work, global refugee work, in global nonprofits and NGO service, in education, the arts, and more.


Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $20,340

#10. University of Toledo

Located in northwest Ohio, the University of Toledo is a research university founded in 1872 as the Toledo University of Arts and Trades. The school went through different incarnations as various training institutions until evolving into a public university in the late 1800s. U of Toledo currently enrolls 20,000 students at five different locations, including the flagship campus that has been situated in Toledo’s Ottawa neighborhood since 1931. The motto, “Coadyuvando El Presente, Formando El Porvenir”, translates to “Guide to the Present, Molder of the Future.”

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

The University of Toledo offers an M.A. in Liberal Studies, an interdisciplinary, student-centered distance degree made up of 33 credits of core and elective coursework. The curriculum covers topics in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and the visual and performing arts; each student will personalize her degree plan with the director of the graduate program throughout the duration of study. Many students begin the program without certainty regarding their long-term academic and professional goals, but with a variety of experiences and interests. As the program progresses, most students organically tailor their studies into a workable theme, and graduate with a newfound sense of direction.


The University of Toledo is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $21,0176

#11. Albertus Magnus College

A private Catholic college in New Haven, Connecticut, Albertus Magnus College is a small liberal arts institution. Founded in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of Peace — formerly known as the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs — the school was originally a women’s college. Albertus Magnus currently enrolls 1,500 students on fifty acres in the historic Prospect Hill neighborhood, a mere three miles from Yale; notable alumni include pediatric cardiologist Jacqueline Noonan and U.S. Federal Judge Ellen Bree Burns.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

A multidisciplinary scholar’s program, the MALS degree at Albertus Magnus is a thematic study of the humanistic, scientific, and social dimensions of the human condition. This online degree is flexible and designed to be self-directed, curated for adult learners with other professional and personal responsibilities. All coursework falls into four interrelated categories: Society and Culture; Arts and Humanities; Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies; and Religion, Philosophy, and Moral Choice. Students will explore a variety of different, and often disparate, cultures, religions, and disciplines, and in doing so will conduct an academic investigation of the historical human experience. Prospective students must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum of a 2.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale. A maximum of six appropriate transfer credits may be accepted, and approximately eleven courses are needed to graduate from the program.


Albertus Magnus College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $22,044

#12. Arizona State University

A national space-grant institution with the highest population of students in the country, ASU was established in 1885 and has since extended across multiple campuses in the Phoenix area. Arizona State University offers over fifty undergraduate and graduate online degree programs, and their distance education program was ranked #1 in Student Services and Technology by U.S. News & World Report.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Science offers an online Master’s of Liberal Arts, a multidisciplinary exploration of human culture, ideas, and values. Students will learn to connect and integrate politics, religion, science, and social climates, and will choose from concentrations including gender studies, religion, culture, creative nonfiction writing, nature studies, science, migration, health, borders, and cultural identity. Graduates leave the program with advanced writing and reasoning skills that prove to be valuable in a number of professional settings.


Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $23,166

#13. Nova Southeastern University

Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University is a nonsectarian research university and the nation’s eighth-largest non-profit private university. The land now occupied by NSU was, during the school’s inception in the 1960s, formerly utilized as a World War II-era naval training airfield. The flagship campus in Fort Lauderdale is also home to the “University School of Nova Southeastern University”, a college preparatory school serving pre-kindergarteners all the way through twelfth graders. Nova Southeastern’s distance programs fully comply with the Southern Regional Education Board’s list of Principles of Good Practice for online campuses.

Online Master’s of Cross-Disciplinary Studies Overview

Nova Southeastern University’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, through the Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, offers an online Master’s of Cross-Disciplinary Studies for students who prefer experiential learning and academic autonomy. Each student’s path of study is self-designed, and the program itself was created as a platform for self-starters to engage with and address contemporary social issues by way of a variety of traditional and nontraditional disciplines. Eleven courses, including conventional classwork, practicums, and four courses of concentrated study, are required to complete the program. Students may enroll either full or part-time — summer enrollment is mandatory — and full-time students will complete the program in approximately eighteen months; part-time students will take about two to three years to finish all requirements. Concentration tracks include Culture and Society, Health and Society, Information Systems and Society, Coastal Environment and Society, Education and Society, and Institutional Assessment. A final portfolio project takes the place of a comprehensive exam, and students who wish to tack on another three hours to their studies may complete a Master’s Thesis with permission from the Program Director.


Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $23,265

#14. Utica College

Founded in the 1930s when Syracuse University began offering courses in upstate New York, Utica College was originally located in downtown Utica, in Oneida Square. In 1961, the small campus was moved to a 128-acre plot on the western outskirts of the city, where it remains today. A private four-year university, UC enrolls nearly 5,000 graduates and postgraduates, and offers forty majors, thirty minors, and twenty graduate programs. The school has received national attention for its exceptional cybersecurity and crime management programs, as well as its courses in occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Utica College offers an interdisciplinary Master’s of Science in Liberal Studies for working professionals who desire the autonomy and flexibility of a student-designed program. Students come from an array of academic backgrounds and will create markedly different interpretations the given curriculum, however, all students must choose to broadly define their intent by affiliating with one of three Areas of Study: the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0, and may choose to utilize a maximum of six graduate-level transfer credits.


Utica College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $23,760

#15. Johns Hopkins University

A private research university in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 and is considered the first graduate school in the nation. Namesake of its earliest benefactor — Quaker, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and abolitionist Johns Hopkins — the highly-selective university is internationally renowned and has been recognized by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, and many more distinguished entities. Johns Hopkins boasts 36 Nobel laureates who have been affiliated with the school as either students or faculty; eighteen of which were honored in either Physiology or Medicine.

Online Master’s of Liberal Arts Overview

Johns Hopkins University’s M.L.A. program differs from other graduate programs in that instead of pressing students toward more and more specialized interpretations of a single discipline, the program encourages students to both branch out and deepen their academic practice. The degree program consists of ten courses, and students may start in the Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters. All courses are available online, and students choose from disciplines including religion, history, literature, philosophy, political science, music, art history, the performing arts, and the humanities. The program culminates in an individualized capstone experience — options include a portfolio, a local internship, or a graduate project. Appealing to educators, lawyers, healthcare workers, and business people, Johns Hopkin’s online M.L.A. is a flexible, nationally-recognized interdisciplinary program where scholars can meet their professional and personal aspirations.


Johns Hopkins University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Tuition: $23,930

#16. The University of Memphis

Originally founded in 1912 as a normal school in Memphis, Tennessee, the University of Memphis is the flagship school of the Tennessee Board of Regents system. UofM is made up of approximately one thousand faculty members and 20,000 students, with the majority of its undergraduate students hailing from Tennessee and its graduate students coming from all over the United States and more than one hundred separate nations.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

A 33 semester hour program, the UofM’s online Master’s of Liberal Studies is a customizable, interdisciplinary degree program created to help students achieve their personal academic goals and turn their unique skills into tangible professional possibilities. Students will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to not only complete a variety of in-classroom coursework, but to gain graduate credit from extracurricular experiences and activities. Applications are accepted throughout the year, and must include two sealed letters of recommendation along with a personal essay.


The University of Memphis is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $24,255

#17. California State University, Northridge

Founded in 1959 as San Fernando Valley State College, California State University, Northridge is a public university in Los Angeles with the largest enrollment of all 23 schools in the California State University system. CSUN began as a satellite offshoot of California State University, Los Angeles — what was then Los Angeles State College — but quickly separated from its parent school, becoming a successful university in its own right. The university consists of nine separate colleges, and has been praised by Washington Monthly, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report.

Online Master’s of Arts in Humanities Overview

California State University, Northridge’s Tseng College offers an online Master’s of Arts in Humanities wherein students with wide-ranging interests and a desire for a holistic educational approach can complete a graduate program in approximately twenty months. The program is accelerated and highly flexible, allowing adult students to create their own schedules to accommodate career and family priorities. Requisite courses include The Sacred: What Is It? What Makes Us Seek It?, Family and Life Cycles: The Nature of Connections Among Individuals, Science and Magic: The Varied Modes of Knowing and Believing, and Norms and Knowledge: How Ideas Define the World. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 throughout the entirety of the program to be eligible for graduation.


California State University, Northridge is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $24,420

#18. University of Michigan Flint

The University of Michigan Flint is one of two satellite campuses of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; the foundation of the school began to be laid in 1944 during the demand for higher education near the end of World War II, just preceding the creation of the G.I. Bill. The school began admitting students in 1956 as the Flint Community Junior College, and by 1965 had evolved into a full-fledged four-year branch campus. Notable alumni include poet John Sinclair, Newbery Medal-winner Christopher Paul Curtis, and documentarian Michael Moore.

Online Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies in American Culture Overview

Offered through U of M-Flint’s Rackham School of Graduate Studies, the online Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies in American Culture covers a range of topics and their intersections, including national identity, gender, literature, sociology, politics, history, art, popular culture, and more. Core courses include Topics on American Institutions, The American Character, and The United States in Comparative Perspective. Students will choose fifteen hours of pre-approved electives courses that are consistent with their chosen theme of study, and the online availability of these diverse courses varies from semester to semester. The final nine credits consist of research-oriented coursework: the Research Foundations course, a co-created Directed Study, and a Final Thesis. A maximum of six graduate credits can be transferred from an accredited institution.


The University of Michigan Flint is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $27,357

#19. University of North Carolina Wilmington

Founded in the fall of 1947 as Wilmington College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington primarily served newly-returned World War II veterans during its earliest embodiment. The school began offering a full four-year curriculum in 1963, and by the late 1960s had garnered university status, becoming the fifth institution of the University of North Carolina system. UNCW enrolls over 15,000 students on 661 acres, and is well-known for its outstanding marine science program, which draws both undergraduates and graduates, and takes full advantage of the proximity of the campus to the Atlantic Ocean.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

UNCW’s Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies was created with self-motivated students in mind: the program holds to a traditional interpretation of a diverse and expansive liberal arts education, but addresses current social issues, including the environment, culture, literature and the arts. Students are encouraged to create an individualized plan of study that takes into account their personal goals and histories. The innovative curriculum includes courses like Religion and Sex, The Social Organization of Cruelty, Post-Modern Childhood, Transitions from Communism, Atheism and Unbelief, Shamanism, Culture Wars and the Origin of Difference, American Roadways, Homelessness in America, and Black Mountain School of North Carolina, to name just a very few. The degree culminates in a Final Project, a full three-credit course, that acts as either a scholar’s thesis or a creative project.


The University of North Carolina Wilmington is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $27,807

#20. University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is a public research university with two campuses located three miles apart, in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. Founded in 1951 and currently enrolling over 50,000 students in nineteen internal colleges and schools, the Saint Paul campus is the oldest and largest campus within the University of Minnesota system. Other campuses are located in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester. One of America’s most distinguished Public Ivy universities, Minnesota faculty and alumni have been awarded over 25 Nobel Prizes — including Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature — and three Pulitzers.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

The University of Minnesota offers an online, self-designed graduate degree in Liberal Studies. The thirty-credit MLS curriculum consists of very few requisite courses, so students are expected to construct a plan of study that suits their individual backgrounds and ambitions, both academically and professionally. Core courses include Introduction to Interdisciplinary Inquiry, a total of three Liberal Studies Seminar courses, and Pulling the Pieces together, a final project proposal course. UMN’s Master’s of Liberal Studies is truly student-propelled — students commonly create their own courses with the help of faculty under the “Directed Study” option.


The University of Minnesota is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $28,800

#21. Texas Christian University

A classic liberal arts university, TCU is a private institution located on over 250 acres just outside of downtown Fort Worth. The school currently enrolls 10,000 students in eight constituent colleges and schools and is classified as a Higher Research Activity Doctoral University by the Carnegie Foundation. Recognized by Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly, Texas Christian University has been categorized as “More Selective” by the Carnegie Foundation, with an undergraduate acceptance rate of 37 percent. Notable alumni include Executive Editor of Texas Monthly Skip Hollandsworth, bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd, and American football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, among many others.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

A multidisciplinary, non-career oriented program, TCU’s online Master’s of Liberal Arts was designed to satisfy the academic curiosity of students who graduated from highly-structured bachelor’s programs without taking courses in other subjects of interest. Available online courses include The Wild West, History and Literature of the Bible, The Supreme Court’s Greatest Hits, Health Care and Quality, The Cold War at Home and Abroad, Ecological Principles of the Earth, Novel Writing 101, and many more. Successful completion of thirty hours of relevant coursework are required for graduation, and twelve of these hours must be designated as “Perspectives on Society” classes. This mandatory core of the curriculum serves to bring to light issues of contemporary American society, issues of culture or cultural diversity in America, and other world cultures and societies. An average GPA of 2.75 is required, and most students will graduate within two to three years.


Texas Christian University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $28,860

#22. Union Institute and University

A private, non-profit university renowned for its limited residence and distance programs, Union Institute and University was founded in Ohio in 1964, when the then-president of Goddard College hosted the presidents of nine other liberal arts institutions to collaborate in an educationally innovative experiment. The nine participating schools, made up of Antioch College, Bard College, Chicago Teachers North, Monteith Masson, New College at Hofstra University, Sarah Lawrence College, Shimer College, Stephens College, and of course, Goddard College, formed the Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education. UI&U has always, from the outset, valued interdisciplinary learning, social relevancy, and the needs of nontraditional students. The Union Institute and University boasts an array of unique and highly talented alumni: poet Rita Mae Brown, Civil Rights Activist Lez Edmond, Jungian analyst and author Clarissa Pinkola Estes, first female Prime Minister of Jamaica Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and Tania Aebi, the youngest to circumnavigate the globe by sailboat.

Online Master’s of Creativity Studies Overview

One of the nation’s only graduate degrees in Creative Studies, Union Institute and University’s Master’s of Creativity Studies guides students on a search for the source and nature of creativity from Ancient Greece to the present. Students will be encouraged to observe creativity as it relates to personal growth, business, science, education, cultural studies, and more. Built on a foundation harmonizing the arts, philosophy, education, religion, and psychology, the curriculum makes use of various modes of inquiry and research methodologies to ultimately point students in the direction of their own creativity, all the while engaging with different theories regarding how creativity occurs, who has access to it, and what exactly “it” is. Examples of this investigative work delve into gender studies, cultural context, the interplay between creativity and spirituality, creativity as unfolding in community, luck and chance, creativity as therapy, the role of mental illness in creation, formal education, and popular misconceptions regarding the creative process. A minimum of 36 credit-hours must be completed to graduate, and full-time students will likely finish the program in as few as 24 months.


Union Institute and University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $29,052

#23. University of North Carolina Greensboro

A public liberal arts university in North Carolina, UNC Greensboro was founded as a women’s college in 1891; by 1941, it was the largest all-female institution of higher education in the country. Recognized by Forbes, The Princeton Review, and Kiplinger’s as a best value four-year school, the university has top-ranked programs in nursing, education, public affairs, and business and economics. UNC Greensboro’s creative writing M.F.A. is also nationally-known and has quite a distinguished history: early faculty and visiting lecturers include Caroline Gordon, Allen Tate, Robert Lowell, Flannery O’Connor, Saul Bellow, Eudora Welty, and Robert Penn Warren.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

UNC Greensboro’s online Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies is a member of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs and is appropriate for graduate students of any academic background. Classes are all fully-online, and are offered in seven-week increments; courses include Age of Revolutions, Contemporary World, Voices from Latin America: The Modern Period, Current Problems in the Middle East: An Historical Perspective, Global Human Rights, Science Through Nobel Laureates, London’s Fictions, Shakespeare: A Muse of Fire, Reel World, Diverse Identities: Contemporary Non-Western Literature, Simple Living in a Complex Age, and many more. Intended to meet the academic and professional needs of career-oriented, working adults, UNC Greensboro’s MALS is flexible, contemporary, and highly relevant.


The University of North Carolina Greensboro is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $30,033

#24. Stony Brook University

Established in 1957 in Oyster Bay as State University College on Long Island, the State University of New York at Stony Brook is part of the SUNY system. A public sea-grant and space-grant research university, SBU enrolls over 25,000 students on nearly 1,500 acres fifty miles east of Manhattan. In 2002, Stony Brook expanded to include a Manhattan campus on Park Avenue; the Manhattan campus offers primarily professional and graduate courses year-round, with undergraduate courses conducted during the shorter summer and winter sessions. Additional campuses are located in Southampton and South Korea, with just a few hundred students enrolled in each.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Developed predominantly for working adults who desire to take classes on a part-time basis, Stony Brook’s Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies is an interdisciplinary program that functions as a professional enrichment degree rather than as a prerequisite for a terminal or more advanced program. Classes are offered on-campus in the evenings, and online in a flexible, autonomous format. The degree can be advantageous toward seeking a professional educator certification, but does not lead directly to an initial or primary license. The core of the curriculum is represented by courses including Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Natural and Applied Sciences. The bulk of the curriculum is made up of eighteen hours of thematically-related “clusters”: groups of courses chosen by individual students to achieve a variety of unique academic goals. As a capstone, students will complete the three-hour Project Seminar, a graduate-level research paper, with a minimum grade of “B”. The entire degree comprises eleven, three-hour courses and must be completed within five years of enrollment.


Stony Brook University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Tuition: $30,107

#25. The University of Denver

Established in 1864 in the Rocky Mountain region, the University of Denver enrolls over 11,000 students on a 125-acre campus just south of downtown Denver. The school began as a Methodist seminary, created to “civilize” the area, which, at the time, was mainly a mining camp. In just fifteen years, DU became the University of Denver, though the institution legally remains Colorado Seminary. Daniels College of Business has been favorably recognized by BusinessWeek and the Financial Times, and the Creative Writing Doctoral Program, founded by Novelist John Edward Williams, is ranked first by Poets and Writers magazine. The Josef Korbel School of International Studies was ranked eleventh worldwide for its graduate programs, ahead of Yale, Syracuse, Stanford, Oxford, the University of California-Berkeley, and MIT, by Foreign Policy Magazine. Notable alumni include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, New York Times Editor Andrew Rosenthal, novelist Sandra Dallas, early African-American classical bassist Charlie Burrell, and many more.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Also referred to as DU’s Arts and Culture Program, the MALS, offered through the College of Professional and Continuing Studies, is perfect for aspiring students who want to work in or promote the visual arts, the performing arts, or the humanities. Students will gain an appreciation and understanding of the arts and culture industries through studying fundraising, marketing, audience development, and more. After graduation, alumni have worked in, and opened their own, galleries, dance studios, music venues, and community theaters. “Semesters” are laid out in ten-week sections, and a GRE or GME are not necessary for applying. Concentrations are available in Arts, Literature, and Culture; and in Art Development and Program Management. Twelve courses are required for program completion.


The University of Denver is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $31,680

#26. Empire State College

Founded in 1971, Empire State College was formulated to join the State University of New York system as a college dedicated primarily to adult education. The school aims to accommodate students who are juggling family, community, and professional responsibilities by offering night and online classes, independent study courses, intensive residencies, study groups, and more. One of the first schools in the nation to develop a model for assessing prior learning experience, wherein students may earn college credit through alternative avenues, Empire State also accepts an extensive number of transfer credits from students with a variety of academic backgrounds.

Online Master’s of Arts in Liberal Arts Overview

Empire State College offers an online graduate program for artists, writer, activists, educators, advocates, and lifelong learners who wish to craft a unique degree plan by merging their personal interests and professional aspirations into a singular theme. A 36 credit-hour course, students are required to be present at approximately three weekend residencies and complete a final project — a thesis, practicum, case study, or paper series — before graduating. Students may choose to combine any available courses in the Graduate Studies Catalog, and may also add an Advanced Certificate to earn another credential. Required courses include Seminar in Liberal Studies, Models of Critical Inquiry, Perspectives on Interdisciplinary Studies, Literature Review, and Methods of Inquiry.


Empire State College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Tuition: $33,300

#27. Rutgers University

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, was chartered as Queen’s College in November of 1766 and was one of the nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution. The eighth-oldest college in the nation, Rutgers received its current name in 1825 after Colonel Henry Rutgers, a military officer and philanthropist, generously donated to the school, leading to a reopening after several years of financial instability. Rutgers gained university status in 1924 after expanding to include graduate education, and is one of only two of the original colonial institutions to evolve into a public university. Nearly 70,000 students are dispersed among three New Jersey campuses: New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Rutgers offers an online Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies with courses in music, art, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and more. Students are expected to create their own curriculum from the various course offerings, and to develop, over a period of approximately two years, an interdisciplinary, thematic perspective that culminates in an independent project. Classes start in the fall, the spring, and the summer, and are completely autonomous, able to fit into the schedule of a working professional and/or a full or part-time parent. Appropriate transfer credits are accepted, and can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the distance degree.


Rutgers University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tuition: $36,000

#28. Kent State University

A public research institution located on 866 acres in suburban Kent, Ohio, Kent State University is the flagship school of a university system that operates eight campuses in the northeastern part of the state. The school was founded in 1910 as a training ground for public school teachers, and is the namesake of William S. Kent. KSU currently enrolls over 30,000 students, and is most famous for its peace activism in opposition of the Vietnam War, and the related Kent State massacre in the spring of 1970.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Kent State’s Master’s of Liberal Studies degree is one of six interdisciplinary graduate degrees in the state of Ohio, yet is the only program that allows students to choose courses from any school or college in the university. Required courses include Introduction to Liberal Studies and Liberal Studies Essay; students will have twelve months to complete the courses successfully. Thirty credit hours are required for program completion, and sixteen of these hours must be 60000 level courses. Regarding areas of study, a minimum of twelve hours must be completed in the major discipline, along with an additional twelve hours divided among another two or three disciplines. Moreover, twelve of the aforementioned credit hours must be courses from the College of Arts & Sciences. Departments at Kent State that offer graduate Arts & Sciences coursework include Anthropology, English, Mathematical Sciences, Political Science, Biological Sciences, Geography, Modern & Classical Language Studies, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Geology, History, and more. Most students will complete the degree within one to two years, and will be wholly capable of taking all of their coursework online, save for the requirement of defending their Liberal Studies Essay in person at Kent State, which functions as a capstone to the program. Though Kent State’s Master’s of Liberal Studies program allows and even encourages great diversity of study, it is a program designed for highly motivated, intentional students with specific academic goals.


Kent State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

Tuition: $38,724

#29. The College at Brockport, State University of New York

Part of the SUNY system, The College at Brockport is a top-rated liberal arts college, ranked highly by both U.S. News and Kiplinger’s for value and quality. A fairly selective school with an acceptance rate of approximately 42%, Brockport State’s faculty includes a number of Fulbright scholars, three Distinguished Professors , and the 2007 winner of the Flannery O’Connor award for fiction.

Masters Liberal Studies Online Overview

Brockport’s thirty-credit multidisciplinary master’s degree is an open-ended graduate program designed for working professionals. Adults enrolled in Brockport’s online M.A. in Liberal Arts will tailor-make a unique plan of study to propel them toward career advancement. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is needed to apply, as well as three letters of recommendation, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and a personal essay stating individual study objectives and intent. Applications are accepted in the spring, summer, and fall; these dates coincide with semesterly offerings of different required seminars, including arts & humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences.


The College at Brockport, State University of New York is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Tuition: $44,42


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This concludes our ranking of the Top Master of Liberal Arts Online Programs.