Best Online Associate in Liberal Arts Programs

Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBachelor'sin Liberal Arts2017
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With an emphasis on communication, argument, and critical thought, an associate degree in liberal arts can help students build a generalized knowledge in a wide variety of subjects, from humanities and social sciences to foreign languages. The broad scope of these curricula prepare you for a range of entry-level careers, but many programs also allow concentrations in a specific subject, such as psychology, fine arts, or business administration. An online liberal arts associate degree also lays the foundation for a more advanced degree, such as a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, while increasing your earning potential in the short term. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, professionals with associate degrees earn 15% more than those with only a high school diploma.

Time to Complete

1.5 – 2 Years

Credit Hours

60 credits total/30 credits per year

Program Costs

$3,440/year

Core Courses
  • English Composition
  • Applied Social Sciences
  • Introduction to History
Concentrations
  • Fine arts
  • Business Administration
  • Social Sciences
Accreditation

American Academy for Liberal Education

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1 Saint Leo University 80.72 3/5 86% Saint Leo, FL

An AA in liberal arts from Florida-based Saint Leo helps students strengthen their communication, computer literacy, and leadership skills, while also preparing them for further study in a number of disciplines. The 60-credit associate degree in liberal arts is fully online and explores modern life in America through courses such as the McDonaldization of society, living in a multiracial society, and democracy in troubled times. Additionally, the program investigates scientific issues in courses covering evolution, global warming, and human ecology.

Online programs at Saint Leo are delivered asynchronously to give students flexibility in scheduling. Students should submit high school or GED transcripts along with AP, CLEP, DANTES, and other applicable examination scores. For qualified students, the school permits professional experience to count as college credit. The school facilitates peer-to-peer and student-faculty interactions with an interactive learning platform that includes message boards and discussions.

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2 Southern New Hampshire University 73.01 5/5 95% Manchester, NH

One of the fastest growing colleges in the nation, SNHU has approximately 80,000 online students and an expanding catalog of online degrees, including the online AA in liberal arts. The program strengthens students’ writing, communication, and critical thinking skills while they explore a range of academic subjects. The 60-credit liberal arts associate degree also includes courses in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and mathematics. The online program is delivered asynchronously with six eight-week terms so that students can complete the degree at their own pace.

Graduates are prepared for entry-level careers in social services, business, administration, or retail. SNHU also provides academic and career advisors to foster student success. The university allows up to 45 credits to be transferred to the associate degree in liberal arts. To be admitted, students must submit a high school diploma or GED. The school offers an affordable tuition rate, and U.S. service members receive a 30% tuition discount.

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3 Minnesota West Community and Technical College 70.76 2/5 59% Granite Falls, MN

MWCTC offers an online AA in liberal arts that serves as a pathway to a BA or BS program. The associate degree in liberal arts gives students the opportunity to try out several occupations before committing to a major. At the same time, students can meet the general education requirements necessary to earn a four-year degree at any college in the state. The 60-credit program is completed over two years and includes up to 10 credits of electives on top of core classes in the social sciences, natural sciences, and English composition. Students may use the electives to take courses in business, human services, computer science, and agriculture.

The online program is delivered using the D2L Brightspace learning management system. MWCTC notes that its small class sizes offer personalized attention, and because the learning is hands-on, the program fosters knowledge applicable to the real world. Admission requires a GED or high school diploma. Some states in the region have a reciprocity agreement with Minnesota resulting in reduced tuition.

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4 Southwest Virginia Community College 66.49 2/5 39% Richlands, VA

SWCC’s associate degree in liberal arts is a four-semester curriculum that prepares students for entry into baccalaureate programs in the liberal arts or social sciences. The 61-credit online program includes courses in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. While choosing electives for the online liberal arts associate degree, students should acquaint themselves with the requirements of the four-year program they are planning to enter. Graduates of the liberal arts program are prepared for a variety of majors including education, psychology, political science, law, and journalism.

Admission into this two-year program requires a high school diploma or GED with prerequisite coursework in English, mathematics, lab science, and history. Student services for online learners include academic support, tutoring, success coaches, and career services. Coursework at SWCC is delivered through Blackboard.

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5 North Dakota State College of Science 64.46 2/5 47% Wahpeton, ND

At NDSCS, the online associate degree in liberal arts is a transfer program designed for those planning to pursue a baccalaureate degree. Students who select this degree are typically unsure of which major to choose. By studying liberal arts, they have an opportunity to explore different disciplines while also meeting their general education requirements. The 65-credit curriculum of the associate of liberal arts degree focuses on subjects such as the humanities, English, natural sciences, mathematics, and social sciences.

The degree can be earned entirely online, and distance learning is delivered through Blackboard. Online support includes a 24/7 help desk, tutoring, and proctoring services as needed. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED, and applicants may need to undergo a skills evaluation prior to enrollment. The school offers a full suite of financial aid options, including institutional and external scholarships.

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6 Indiana Wesleyan University 64.42 4/5 70% Marion, IN

Earning an associate degree is made easy with IWU’s associate degree in general studies, which allows students to combine courses they have taken at other institutions to complete the degree. The 62-credit associate degree in liberal arts offers a number of concentrations, including communications, computer information technology, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, and liberal arts. The program can be completed fully online or in a hybrid format in as few as 18 months.

Online students have several start dates throughout the year. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED. In order to graduate, students must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and complete at least 30 credits at IWU. The school offers several financial aid options including scholarships, grants, and loans. Online students pay the same per-credit tuition as those studying on campus.

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7 Alexandria Technical & Community College 63.84 3/5 67% Alexandria, MN

Minnesota’s ATCC offers an associate degree in liberal arts that covers the two years of general education requirements needed to transfer into baccalaureate program. The 60-credit curriculum includes the 40-credit Minnesota Transfer Curriculum required for four-year colleges in the state. Students take a series of courses in critical thinking, natural sciences, communication, math, and the humanities, and can use the 11 to 16 elective credits to take classes compatible with their career interests.

The program can be taken entirely online and includes individualized advising and flexibility in course scheduling. ATCC allows students to transfer credits based on a review of prior coursework. Several institutional and external scholarships are available at ATCC, in addition to other financial aid options such as federal loans and grants.

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8 Lord Fairfax Community College 63.62 2/5 41% Middletown, VA

With four locations in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions in Virginia, LFCC offers dozens of associate degrees in an online format, including the two-year associate degree in liberal arts. Students take a series of core classes in the humanities, natural sciences, English, social sciences, and mathematics. The online curriculum also covers the first two years of a four-year degree, and is ideal for students who are undecided about their college major. Possible pathways at baccalaureate level include majors in communication, economics, government, and journalism.

Among the benefits of studying at LFCC is that the tuition about one-third the cost of four-year colleges in Virginia. The school has guaranteed transfer agreements with 40 colleges and offers a number of services to ensure the seamless transfer of credits. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED. LFCC also offers financial aid options, including loans and grants.

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9 Wilmington University 62.50 3/5 50% New Castle, DE

A well-rounded academic foundation supports students earning Wilmington's associate degree in liberal studies. While enrolled, you will develop critical thinking skills, learn about business applications, and improve your public speaking. The online 60-credit curriculum includes courses in the social sciences, humanities, English composition, and mathematics. Students can use 18 credits of electives to structure a specialization based on their career interests.

Wilmington's AA in liberal arts can serve as the first two years of a four-year degree either at Wilmington or another institution. Online courses are delivered asynchronously through Blackboard. Services available to online learners include library resources, advising, and online tutoring. Other noteworthy benefits are a generous transfer credit policy and affordable tuition that can be paid for through a number of financial aid options.

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10 Lake Region State College 62.14 2/5 50% Devils Lake, ND

Located in North Dakota, LRSC's AA in liberal arts degree provides students with the academic foundation necessary to enter a four-year degree program. The 60-credit curriculum focuses on five subject areas: arts and humanities; communication skills; math, science, and computer science; social sciences; and physical education. Students also have 21 elective credits that can be used to build a foundation for upper division coursework at a four-year college. Elective options at LRSC include criminal justice, pre-law, psychology, marketing, and sociology.

Advisors work with students to choose electives that meet the transfer requirements for four-year programs. Among other benefits, RSC boasts a healthy student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Courses at LRSC are delivered through Blackboard. The associate degree in liberal arts is meant to be completed in two years, and students are eligible for financial aid.

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11 Bucks County Community College 61.45 2/5 47% Newtown, PA

Transferring to a four-year college of your choosing is made easier through Bucks’ associate degree in liberal arts. The online program consists of 61 to 63 credits in general education areas such as the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and behavioral sciences. The associate degree gives students the opportunity to explore various facets of liberal arts before committing to a major. You can also create your own study plan that matches your career aspirations in areas such as business administration, education, criminal justice, and psychology.

The program is designed for full-time students taking about 15 credits per semester. The top transfer schools for Bucks’ graduates include Temple University, Pennsylvania State, West Chester University, and Drexel University. Applicants must submit a high school diploma or GED. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

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12 Ocean County College 61.30 2/5 46% Toms River, NJ

OCC offers many degree completion and transfer programs through its New Jersey campus. Among them is the 64-credit AA in liberal arts, designed as a transfer curriculum to four-year institutions. The degree, which can be taken entirely online or in a hybrid format, consists of 45 general education credits in areas such as communication, history, the humanities, math, science, and technology. Students also choose 16 electives from a number of fields including education, science, health and human performance, and sports medicine.

The school’s online readiness test and remedial course modules ensure students are ready for the associate degree curriculum. Among the services offered to online learners are tutoring through Smarthinking and support coaches to help with administrative and veteran affairs. Students can pay as they go with the school’s tuition payment plan, in addition to more traditional financial aid options. Admission into the associate in liberal arts degree requires a high school diploma or equivalent.

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13 Brenau University 59.53 3/5 84% Gainesville, GA

Located in Georgia, Brenau's AA in liberal studies consists of several core and concentration courses that can be applied to later baccalaureate studies. Twenty courses are required and include study areas such as communication, languages, science, and the arts. Students can transfer credits to the 61-credit program from another accredited institution, with a minimum of 15 credits that must be taken at Brenau.

Online learning is condensed into seven-week sessions and is delivered through Canvas. Among other benefits, the school has a low student-to-faculty ratio along with counselling, tutoring, and an online bookstore. Admission into the associate degree in liberal arts requires a high school diploma or equivalent, a minimum 2.5 GPA at the high school level, and a cumulative 2.0 GPA for college credits earned. The school accepts CLEP, AP, and DSST credits, but they do not count toward the number of credits that must be taken at Brenau.

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14 Ridgewater College 57.64 2/5 60% Willmar, MN

You can take all the time you need exploring possible majors while earning RC’s associate degree in liberal arts. The 60-credit program is fully online and incorporates the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, which facilitates transfer to any four-year institution in the state. The general education requirements include classes in the natural sciences, humanities, critical thinking, math, history, and humanities. Students in the program also have a long list of majors they can explore including accounting, engineering, law enforcement, pre-law, and pre-med.

The liberal arts associate degree is delivered fully online. The schools offers a generous transfer credit policy, and students have access to financial aid options that include grants and scholarships. In-state students and students living in a state with a reciprocity agreement with Minnesota receive reduced tuition.

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15 Lincoln Land Community College 57.39 1/5 45% Springfield, IL

Located in Illinois, LLCC has a history of offering online education to students in a flexible and dynamic learning environment. Among the school’s online degree programs is the AA in liberal arts, a 61-credit program that includes general education courses in the humanities, social sciences, life sciences, and foreign languages. There are also 15 elective credits that students complete to customize their course of study. Students in the associate degree program who are planning to transfer to a four-year program are responsible for determining the credit and transfer requirements of their chosen schools.

Online learning at LLCC is administered through Blackboard. Services available to online learners include academic support through the Center for Academic Success, technical support, online library research databases, various tools via the Learning Lab website, and exam proctoring as needed. Financial aid options are available including loans and grants.

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16 Palo Alto College 56.85 1/5 28% San Antonio, TX

Designed to fulfill the first two years of a baccalaureate degree, the 60-credit AA in liberal arts at Palo Alto College includes the study of the life sciences, communication, math, social sciences, and political science. The Texas institution’s associate degree in liberal arts allows students to take 18 elective credits that can be used to satisfy transfer requirements for their desired four-year degree program.

Courses are delivered via a combination of videoconferences and telecourses and are accessible at the student’s convenience. Available resources include tutoring labs, an online bookstore, and career services. Admission into the AA in liberal arts requires a high school diploma or GED. Transfer students must submit college transcripts for an evaluation of credit transferability. In addition to loans and grants, students may apply for one of the school’s scholarships available to part- or full-time students with a satisfactory GPA.

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17 Rowan College at Burlington County 56.52 2/5 42% Pemberton, NJ

The two-year AA in liberal arts at New Jersey's RCBC is a fully online program that provides the knowledge necessary to enter a variety of occupations or transfer to a four-year school. Students can focus on liberal arts as a major or concentrate in one of a number of available concentrations such as psychology, political science, communications, or journalism. General education coursework includes the study of math, science, art, history, and the humanities. Students in the 64-credit liberal arts associate degree program explore various fields to develop occupational interests; develop an appreciation for Western culture and diversity; and come to understand the complexities of human behavior.

Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent. All students entering institutions of higher learning in New Jersey are required to be tested in reading, computation, elementary algebra, and writing. The school offers a full suite of financial aid options.

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18 Eastern University 56.23 3/5 59% Saint Davids, PA

True to its Christian roots, Pennsylvania’s Eastern University integrates faith, justice, and reason into all of its programs, including the AA in liberal arts. The 61-credit program is delivered fully online or in a hybrid format, and covers general education subjects such as math, English, and the humanities — all taught from a faith-based perspective. There is an optional 18-credit concentration in early childhood education. The associate degree in liberal arts also prepares working professionals for baccalaureate-level degrees in business administration, criminal justice, organizational leadership, or youth ministry leadership.

Courses are delivered through Blackboard, and students can enroll every seven weeks. The number of transfer credits students bring to the program determine the time it takes to complete the degree. The school notes that its tuition is affordable, and many nontraditional students qualify for financial aid options such as grants and loans.

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19 Bay Path University 56.20 3/5 50% Longmeadow, MA

Liberal studies majors at Bay Path, located in Massachusetts, receive a comprehensive general education while expanding their critical thinking, communication, and writing skills. Administered through the American Women’s College Online, the AA in liberal studies includes the study of literature, computer applications, psychology, leadership, and biology. Working with an advisor, you can explore an array of disciplines to develop a plan of study that is uniquely yours. The liberal arts associate degree also provides students with the knowledge necessary for baccalaureate study in areas as diverse as business, history, art, and psychology.

The school's programming is designed to hone students’ skills in areas such as literacy, information synthesis, leadership development, and career preparation. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED as well as 12 transferable college credits or a short essay outlining goals. The school offers financial aid options including loans to scholarships.

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20 Cowley County Community College 56.16 2/5 49% Arkansas City, KS

Career exploration combined with a comprehensive general education is made possible with Crowley College’s AA in liberal arts. The 62-credit program is an ideal choice for students seeking entry-level positions following graduation. The degree also serves as the first two years of a four-year program for those planning to pursue bachelor’s degrees in the arts, social sciences, or humanities. Distance learning at Crowley is delivered asynchronously through Blackboard, providing the flexibilities many students need.

The college is authorized to provide online programming in all 50 states, and the tuition is a fraction of what students pay at four-year colleges. Admission into the associate degree in liberal arts requires a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to financial aid options, the school offers payment plans.

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21 New England College 56.16 4/5 43% Henniker, NH

From its inception, NEC has built its educational programming on a foundation of liberal studies. Students in the fully online AA in liberal studies are exposed to subjects including the humanities, philosophy, literature, science, and math, each serving as an entry point to different career possibilities. Among its notable courses are the evolution of American democracy, the evaluation of political thought, using the Internet to understand the world, and overcoming prejudice and discrimination.

The 60-credit associate degree in liberal arts prepares students with the foundation necessary for baccalaureate study, or for jobs ranging from childcare to marketing. The online program can be completed in two years and is composed of 15 courses delivered in a seven-week format. Admission into the program requires a high school diploma or equivalent along with school transcripts. In-state and out-of-state online students pay the same tuition.

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22 Brescia University 55.40 2/5 46% Owensboro, KY

Students enrolled in BU's online AA in liberal arts are immersed in general education courses while also sampling classes from the school's various majors. Courses in the 63-credit liberal arts associate degree include language and literature, philosophy, the natural sciences, and math. The program also hones the critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills that employers covet. Students can seamlessly transfer the degree into any one of BU's online bachelor’s degrees, or use them at another institution.

The program is designed with working professionals in mind and can be completed in two years. Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent and applicants are accepted on a rolling basis. The school offers affordable tuition along with financial aid options such as loans and grants. In-state and out-of-state online students pay the same tuition.

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23 Columbia College 54.49 3/5 42% Columbia, MO

Located in Missouri, CC offers an online associate degree in liberal arts that requires 38 to 41 credits in general education studies. Core courses include English, history, math, communication, and the natural sciences. The 60-credit program also allows you to choose 16 to 19 credits of electives in areas such as criminal justice, business administration, and psychology, all of which will expand your intellectual horizons and career possibilities. In addition to a well-rounded academic foundation, students are expected to hone their critical thinking skills and increase their cultural awareness.

Online courses at CC are delivered asynchronously. Admission into the associate degree in liberal arts requires a high school diploma or equivalent. All transfer students must submit college transcripts to determine credit transferability. CC gives credits for military experience and accepts credits with a grade "C" or higher along with AP, CLEP, and DSST scores. In-state and out-of-state online students pay the same tuition, and military students receive discounted tuition.

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24 Chesapeake College 53.88 2/5 43% Wye Mills, MD

The AA in liberal arts and sciences at Chesapeake in Maryland provides students with the general education requirements needed to transfer to four-year colleges. The 60-credit program includes free electives along with classes in the arts and humanities, math, and social sciences. The fully online program has established the following student outcomes: honing effective communication skills; understanding the humanities in cultural and historical contexts; understanding scientific reasoning and scientific principles; and applying skills such as critical and analytical thinking to solve problems.

Students are encouraged to determine the credit transfer requirements for the four-year program they plan on attending. Admission into the associate in liberal arts degree requires a high school diploma or equivalent. The school accepts transfer credits as well as AP and CLEP scores. Chesapeake offers financial aid options such as loans and grants. The school’s online self-test helps prospective students determine their suitability for online learning.

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25 Johnson County Community College 53.84 2/5 41% Overland Park, KS

JCCC, located in Kansas, offers a 63-credit AA in liberal arts program designed as a general transfer degree for baccalaureate programs. In addition to general education areas such as the arts, humanities, math, and natural sciences, students have a number of electives they can use to meet general education and lower-division requirements for specific majors. Students are advised to meet with a counselor as they develop a plan of study transferrable to another institution.

Online learning at JCCC is delivered via the Desire2Learn learning management system. Distance learners have access to technical support, tutoring, and academic advising. Admissions into the associate in liberal arts degree requires a high school diploma or GED. The school offers affordable tuition and financial aid options such as grants, loans, and scholarships.

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CAREER PATHS

The versatile curriculum of an associate degree in liberal arts prepares students for a range of career possibilities. Critical thinking, effective argumentation, and written and verbal communication are essential to careers in sales, business, the arts, and social services. Most entry-level jobs are attainable with an associate degree, while positions with greater leadership roles and responsibilities typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, an associate degree is a great way to evaluate a career path before deciding upon further education.

Administrative Assistant

Performing clerical and administrative tasks at offices of all types, administrative assistants carry a range of responsibilities, from filing and preparing documents to scheduling appointments and offering staff support.

Median Annual Salary – $37,230
Projected Growth Rate – 3%

Sales Associate

Sales associates work in retail environments, offer customer service, and maintain store facilities. They may be employed in a variety of industries, such as clothing, electronics, cars, and furniture.

Median Annual Salary – $22,900
Projected Growth Rate – 7%

Writer

Writers create written content for publications like books, magazines, advertisements, and websites. While some are employed by companies and work in offices, others are self-employed and work from home.

Median Annual Salary – $61,240
Projected Growth Rate – 2%

EDUCATIONAL PATHS

A liberal arts associate degree builds a strong foundation for further education. If you’re interested in career advancement and management opportunities, you should consider transferring your associate credits toward a full bachelor’s degree. The broad nature of the liberal arts curriculum prepares you for a range of educational paths in just about any subject that interests you. Along with specialized knowledge, you’ll also increase your earning potential dramatically; PayScale reports that, on average, bachelor’s degree holders earn about 20% more than associate degree holders.

  • English: English majors study the intricacies of writing and literature, while learning to develop compelling arguments and communicate effectively throughout writing. Many graduates pursue jobs as teachers, but English is applicable to any field that involves writing.
  • History: Students in history programs examine the history of countries, regions, cultures, ideas, and people. They analyze history itself and also the processes that create it. Like English, history is a versatile subject that helps distance learners develop skills in writing, communication, argumentation, and critical thinking, making it relevant to a range of careers.
  • Social Sciences: This broad field explores the practices of human socialization, providing students analytical and research skills to examine human behavior patterns. Social sciences may include disciplines as diverse as psychology, anthropology, international studies, and sociology.

ASSOCIATE IN LIBERAL ARTS SALARY

Given the range of careers available to liberal arts graduates, salaries can vary widely based on chosen profession. This chart collects median salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for some common liberal arts careers.

Median Salary by Career

Job Title Average Salary
High School Teacher $58,030
Writer $61,240
Social Worker $46,890
Graphic Designer $47,640
Human Resource Specialist $59,180

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Liberal arts students and professionals connect with one another through an assortment of professional organizations and associations, and feature members from around the world. These groups offer a vast selection of resources for those studying or employed in liberal arts fields, like mentoring, knowledge sharing, networking, job opportunities, trade publications, and professional conferences. The following groups are open to undergraduates studying liberal arts.

You have several options to fund your associate liberal arts degree, but your first step is to complete the FAFSA to determine your eligibility for federal funding. Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for some combination of grants, scholarships, work study, or student loans. If you’re pursuing a specific career path, such as teaching or social work, you may also be eligible for increased scholarship or grant opportunities in exchange for working with certain communities or organizations upon graduation.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.