Our nation is a union of individual political systems—the United States of America—50 of them strong, and each with its own unique system of universities and four-year, liberal arts colleges.
There are already plenty of lists of “best” colleges and universities out there. Certainly, they serve a useful purpose. But they can sometimes give a distorted picture of one of this country’s greatest strengths—its educational federalism. By that, we mean the vast and highly varied network of colleges and universities that has grown up over the years in each and every one of the 50 states.
Of course, these schools share many characteristics in common. We are one nation, after all—e pluribus, unum! And higher education today is not only a national, but an international affair.
Nevertheless, many schools strongly reflect the local character of the states where they are located. There is a huge difference between attending college in Hawaii or in Minnesota, for example, not just from the point of view of the weather, but from that of culture, as well.
In our opinion, this diversity is an enormous asset for higher education in our country. Often, the 50 state governments are referred to as 50 “laboratories of democracy.” That is indeed an excellent thing for our nation. But we believe the experimental character of American federalism is nowhere more visible and more fruitful than in the field of education. And higher education is no exception to that rule.
That is why we decided it was time to create a list of the very best liberal arts colleges and universities on a state-by-state basis, one of each for each state. You may see the results here: The 100 Best U.S. Colleges and Universities by State.
Of course, our list includes a fair number of the “usual suspects.” After all, Harvard is Harvard, and when you get to Massachusetts, there is really no getting around it! However, on our unique list you will find many hidden jewels—schools you may never have heard of, but which do things in their own distinctive way (and very well, too!), enriching American higher education immeasurably in the process.
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins used to speak of the “gorgeous mosaic” that is the Big Apple. We present you with the gorgeous mosaic of educational federalism in America today!