Liberal arts colleges in the United States are certain undergraduate institutions of higher education in the United States. The Encyclopædia Britannica Concise offers a definition of the liberal arts as a "college or university curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum." Generally, a full-time, four-year course of study at a liberal arts college leads students to earning a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.
These schools are American institutions of higher education which have traditionally emphasized interactive instruction (although research is still a component of these institutions) at the undergraduate level. While there is no nationwide legal standard in the United States, the term "university" is primarily used to designate graduate education and research institutions, and is reserved for doctorate-granting institutions, and some US states, such as Massachusetts, will only grant a school "university status" if it offers graduate programs in multiple disciplines.
These colleges also encourage a high level of student-teacher interaction at the center of which are classes taught by full-time faculty rather than graduate student TAs (who teach some of the classes at Research I and other universities). They are known for being residential and for having smaller enrollment, class size and student-teacher ratios than universities, but have been exploring the recent trend of online learning as a blended or exclusive environment to offer certain courses. Due in part to a trend in the United States toward higher numbers of students enrolling in science and research universities, liberal arts colleges have decided to explore the idea of creating the traditional environment using online technology, and some liberal arts colleges are now offering entire degree programs online like New England College, Bryn Mawr College and Wesleyan University. In addition, some colleges offer experimental curricula.
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