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The 5 best liberal arts colleges in the US

While Ivy League universities like Harvard command a lot of attention, some of the best educational resources in the country can go overlooked. Liberal arts colleges focus on undergraduate education, and have been known to produce incredibly successful alumni.

U.S. News & World Report assessed more than 1,800 U.S.-based colleges and universities to rank the best schools in the country. In order to determine the best liberal arts schools, U.S. News considered student outcomes, faculty resources, financial resources, expert opinion, student excellence and alumni giving.

Read on to see the five best liberal arts colleges in the country:

3. Bowdoin College (tie)

Brunswick, Maine

Total undergraduate enrollment: 1,806

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $51,848

Average first-year student retention rate: 97 percent

Chapin Hall at Williams College
Barry Winiker | Getty Images
Chapin Hall at Williams College

3. Swarthmore College (tie)

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Total undergraduate enrollment: 1,543

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $50,822

Average first-year student retention rate: 97 percent

3. Wellesley College (tie)

Wellesley, Massachusetts

Total undergraduate enrollment: 2,347

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $51,148

Average first-year student retention rate: 95 percent

2. Amherst College

Amherst, Massachusetts

Total undergraduate enrollment: 1,849

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $54,310

Average first-year student retention rate: 98 percent

1. Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Total undergraduate enrollment: 2,076

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $53,550

Average first-year student retention rate: 98 percent

This year, Williams College was ranked the best liberal arts college in the country. Williams scored a perfect 100 out of 100 score, followed by Amherst College which scored 95 points. Each has a long legacy atop the list of the best liberal arts colleges, and they are also the two most expensive schools on the list. It costs $53,550 a year to attend Williams and $54,310 a year to attend Amherst.

The least expensive school in the top five is Swarthmore College, which costs $50,822 a year. Wellesley College ranks second on the list of liberal arts colleges where students have the least debt. Forty-eight percent of Wellesley Students graduate with an average amount of $13,415 in student debt, far lower than the national average. The average American in their 30s with student debt owes $34,033.

Lake Waban and Galen Stone Tower at Wellesley College
Doug Chudzik / EyeEm | Getty Images
Lake Waban and Galen Stone Tower at Wellesley College

Before taking on student debt, Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News suggests that students review retention and graduation rates. "Before taking out student loans or writing a tuition check, families should research graduation and retention rates. These are important indicators of how well a school supports its students both academically and financially," he said in a statement.

"Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle — without that valuable degree, students will have a difficult time landing well-paying jobs and repaying their loans, which puts them in a precarious financial situation early on in their careers."

It is also a good idea to take advantage of your federal student loan options. Unlike federal student loans, private loans often come with high-interest rates and lack many consumer protection benefits. The Institute for College Access and Success reports that 47 percent of private loan borrowers could have used more affordable federal loans.

By attending a school that will help you earn more after graduation and keeping your student debt levels low, you can make sure your degree pays off.

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