The 5 Best Libertarian Colleges in America

If you’re a college-bound libertarian student, you’re probably looking for a school that shares your values of personal freedom, individual responsibility, and limited government intervention. And as you’ve probably figured out by now, that isn’t an easy thing to find these days.

To help students like you end up on a campus where your ideas are valued and you can voice your opinions without fear of reprisal or ostracization, we drilled into the data to find the most libertarian colleges in America.

These institutions are not only dedicated to academic excellence but also prioritize free speech and embrace a free and open marketplace of ideas, eschewing the idea that red-tape administrators have the right to control what students say or believe.

Whether you’re interested in studying economics or political science or you just want to be in an environment that fosters free thinking, these colleges are sure to give you the education and experience you’re looking for.

Let’s dive in and discover the top libertarian colleges in America.

The logo of the Libertarian Party of America.
The logo of the Libertarian Party of America.

The 5 Best Libertarian Colleges in America

After parsing the data and culling our list, here is what we believe are the true five best colleges in the country for libertarian-leaning students:

Hillsdale College

  • Location: Hillsdale, MI
  • Enrollment: 1,602
  • U.S. News ranking: #48 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Acceptance rate: 24%
  • Graduation rate: 87%
  • FIRE free speech rating: Warning (sexual morality)

Hillsdale College is one of our top choices for libertarians for a number of reasons. Even though some people think it’s only for hardcore conservatives, that’s not true. The school welcomes students from all political beliefs. They only ask that students listen to opinions they don’t agree with and use logic and evidence to support their own opinions. This is great for libertarians who like to think and debate.

The small class sizes and intimate campus make Hillsdale a good place for libertarians, too. It’s easy to have deep conversations and debates with other students. These conversations take place frequently on campus, both in and out of class. The curriculum is broad, exposing students to plenty of different subjects and ideas. This is important to libertarians who like to have a wide-ranging education.

One thing to note is that Hillsdale has a “warning” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). This is because the school has strict rules about sexual morality and cohabitation. If you’re a libertarian who also likes to “get your game on,” so to speak, you might want to familiarize yourself with these rules and make sure they won’t be too much of a problem.

Claremont McKenna College

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Enrollment: 1,416
  • U.S. News ranking: #9 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Acceptance rate: 11%
  • Graduation rate: 92%
  • FIRE free speech rating: Green
Claremont McKenna's beautiful SoCal campus.
Claremont McKenna’s beautiful SoCal campus.

Claremont McKenna College, part of the five-school Claremont Consortium in beautiful Claremont, CA, about 30 minutes west of Los Angeles, is another great school for libertarians. It too has a bit of a conservative reputation, but that’s mostly because it’s compared to the other four schools in the Consortium, all of which lean hard to the left.

At CMC, students and faculty value free inquiry and open debate more than partisan politics. Students who are politically active at CMC come from many viewpoints, creating a marketplace of ideas rather than groupthink.

The conservatism that does exist at CMC is more of the SoCal than the Bible Belt variety. This means that it’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal, like many libertarians describe themselves. This makes CMC a good place for libertarians who prioritize fiscal responsibility but also understand the importance of personal freedom.

With only an 11% acceptance rate, it’s certainly not the easiest school to get into. But if you have the academic chops, you’ll find the curriculum rigorous but manageable and your fellow students competitive but collaborative.

Claremont McKenna College gets a “green” rating from FIRE, showing that it’s dedicated to free speech principles. This means that students can speak their minds without fear of being silenced or punished.

University of Chicago

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Enrollment: 7,526
  • U.S. News ranking: #6 in National Universities
  • Acceptance rate: 6%
  • Graduation rate: 95%
  • FIRE free speech rating: Green

The University of Chicago is a top choice for libertarian students who are also academic superstars. It’s the birthplace of the Chicago Statement on Freedom of Expression, which declares the school’s commitment to free speech and open debate on campus.

The Chicago Statement, which has now been adopted by dozens of schools across the country, is a much-needed antidote to the stifling culture of political correctness that has squelched open and honest dialog on so many campuses. It establishes the expectation of free speech and open debate, so students can learn from each other and grow as individuals.

Because UC encourages free speech and open debate, students end up engaging with diverse perspectives and ideologies. This leads to strong, well-formed, battle-tested principles. After all, how do you know your views and opinions are solid if you’ve never allowed them to be subjected to resistance?

As most libertarians will agree, too many colleges today choke out free speech with political correctness, making it hard for students who don’t hold popular opinions. Chicago is not one of those schools.

UC is not easy to get into, nor does it get any easier once you’re in. It’s extremely selective, with an acceptance rate of only 6% as of 2023. And once you’re in, the curriculum is known as one of the most rigorous and demanding in the country. This is great for students who want to learn and grow, but it can be stressful.

While it may be tough to get into to the University of Chicago and equally challenging to navigate the school’s intense curriculum, it’s a great place for libertarians who value academic rigor and intellectual honesty.

St. John’s College

  • Location: Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM
  • Enrollment: 473 (Annapolis), 367 (Santa Fe)
  • U.S. News ranking: #61 (Annapolis) and #63 (Santa Fe) in National Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Acceptance rate: 53% (Annapolis), 62% (Santa Fe)
  • Graduation rate: 72% (Annapolis), 68% (Santa Fe)
  • FIRE free speech rating: N/A (not rated)
The Santa Fe campus of St. John's College.
The Santa Fe campus of St. John’s College.

St. John’s College is another excellent libertarian college. It has two campuses, one in Annapolis, MD, and the other in Santa Fe, NM, and students can transfer between them.

The college is a “great books” college. Students don’t have to declare a major or focus on a specific course of study. Instead, the curriculum is based entirely on classic texts written over centuries.

Classes are small and discussion-based, and students are expected to be respectful of opposing viewpoints. The education at St. John’s is broad and comprehensive, which is great for libertarians who value intellectual curiosity and openness.

The discussions at St. John’s can be intense, but that’s a good thing. Students are encouraged to think critically and to challenge each other’s ideas. No one is silenced, censored, or censured for going against the popular opinion or the “mob.” In fact, “Johnnies” – the slang term to describe a St. John’s student – tend to have an aversion to groupthink and mob behavior.

St. John’s College has a great academic reputation that far surpasses its U.S. News ranking. Many of its graduates go on to top programs in law, business, and academia. Because the education offered at St. John’s is rigorous and challenging but also broad and comprehensive, students tend to leave more than adequately prepared for whatever they choose to pursue next.

Sewanee—The University of the South

  • Location: Sewanee, TN
  • Enrollment: 1,820
  • U.S. News ranking: #51 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Acceptance rate: 60%
  • Graduation rate: 81%
  • FIRE free speech rating: Yellow

Rounding out our list of the country’s top libertarian schools is Sewanee, more formally known as The University of the South. 

Sewanee is owned by the Episcopal church, which is famous for being open-minded. However, the curriculum is not religious, and going to chapel is not required. The campus culture is not heavily church-influenced, either, as evidenced by the lively atmosphere at the frat houses on Friday and Saturday nights.

Sewanee is a true liberal arts college. Classes are discussion-based and writing-intensive, which means students learn how to express themselves clearly and effectively. Students come from all different political backgrounds, so you’ll get exposed to a wide range of viewpoints.

One downside is that Sewanee gets a “yellow” rating from FIRE. This is because some of the school’s policies on student conduct and what the administration calls “harassment” and “hate speech” are not as supportive of free expression as they could be. For the most part, however, ideas are debated and discussed freely on campus.

Overall, Sewanee is a great school for libertarians because it promotes critical thinking and open discussion. Students are encouraged to explore their interests and learn how to think for themselves. And with a mix of political beliefs on campus, there’s always someone to debate with.

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