Top 8 Liberal Arts Colleges in Illinois, Ranked by U.S. News and World Report

Though it's too late for this year's first-time college students to make use of U.S. News and World Report's college rankings, the list comes just in time for high school students are who are just starting to think about colleges. As part of their national rankings of colleges and universities around the country, eight colleges in Illinois were listed among the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

U.S. News and World Report breaks down its rankings in to four different categories: National Universities, Regional Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges and Regional Colleges. Here's a description on how the four categories are separated:

Schools are categorized by their mission, which is derived from the breakdown of types of higher education institutions as refined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2010. The Carnegie classification, which is used extensively by higher education researchers, has been the basis of the Best Colleges ranking category system since our first rankings were published in 1983.

The U.S. Department of Education and many higher education associations use the system to organize their data and to determine colleges' eligibility for grant money. In short, the Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in higher education. The category names we use are our own -- National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges -- but their definitions rely on the Carnegie principles.

National Universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and doctoral programs, and emphasize faculty research. National Liberal Arts Colleges focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education. They award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the arts and sciences.

Regional Universities offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master's degree programs but few, if any, doctoral programs. Regional Colleges focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines; this category also includes schools that have small bachelor's degree programs but primarily grant two-year associate degrees.

Illinois didn't do as well on national liberal arts colleges rankings as the city of Claremont, Calif. did... Claremont had five of the top 35 liberal arts colleges. But Illinois still had a strong showing with eight colleges ranked. Those eight Illinois liberal arts colleges are below, with their national rank in parenthesis and their location and enrollment listed:

8. Monmouth College (tie 165th)
Monmouth, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,256

7. Illinois College (tie 155th)
Jacksonville, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,028

6. Principia College (tie 139th)
Elsah, Ill.

Total enrollment: 480

5. Lake Forest College (tie 120th)
Lake Forest, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,622

See the top four Illinois liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News and World Report at Reboot Illinois.