right arrow
PARENTS4PARENTS is a new initiative aimed at highlighting the vast expertise of our parents community while helping other parents better navigate the college admissions process. aggies1989 is a UC alumnus and parent of two UC college kids. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: fintech3753 is a current student at the Wharton School. Majoring in finance, he is hoping to pursue a career at the intersection of finance and technology. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
Make sure to check out our August Checklist for HS Seniors. Consult these quick resources to get you started on the process this month.
As we work to adjust to the current reality, make sure to check out these dedicated COVID-19 resources: our directory of virtual campus tours, our directory of extended deadlines, as well as the list of schools going test optional this fall.

What defines an lac?

Clementine7624Clementine7624 149 replies25 threads Junior Member
I am trying to figure out the difference between an lac and a Jesuit school like University of San Francisco? There is a probably an easy obvious answer here. Thanks
18 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: What defines an lac?

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8037 replies85 threads Senior Member
    USF *is* an LAC.

    A "liberal arts college" is simply an institution whose primary focus is on undergraduate teaching of the "liberal arts" (arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences). They do not typically focus on 'pre-professional' subjects and they offer few (if any) masters or phd programs.
    · Reply · Share
  • CorbettCorbett 3434 replies4 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    USF *is* an LAC.

    A "liberal arts college" is simply an institution whose primary focus is on undergraduate teaching of the "liberal arts" (arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences). They do not typically focus on 'pre-professional' subjects and they offer few (if any) masters or phd programs.
    That's all true -- but by those standards, USF is not a LAC.
    they offer few (if any) masters or phd programs
    In Fall 2016, USF had 4,258 graduate students. In 2015-16, they conferred 1,356 master's degrees and 222 doctoral degrees, or 1,578 graduate degrees total. For comparison, they conferred 1,695 bachelor's degree, which is only slightly more than the graduate degree total.
    They do not typically focus on 'pre-professional' subjects
    The five most popular undergraduate majors at USF in 2015-16 were (1) business administration; (2) nursing; (3) finance; (4) psychology; and (5) marketing. All of these, except psychology, are pre-professional majors that are not typically offered at LACs.

    All data above are from the US Dept. of Education "College Navigator" website.

    I would add that LACs typically have about 3,000 or fewer undergraduates; some have only around 1,500. USF has 6,745 undergraduates, and the total enrollment with grad students is around 11,000. There are no LACs that are even close to this size. In college guides and classifications, you will find USF with the universities, not the LACs. For example, USF is a "National University" for purposes of the USNews rankings.
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8037 replies85 threads Senior Member
    my bad for going on a little top-of-the-head impression of USF- I didn't realize either how many grad students there are or how many pre-professional students their are- thanks for the clarifications, @Corbett
    · Reply · Share
  • happy1happy1 24198 replies2428 threads Super Moderator
    edited December 2017
    My D went to a LAC (Lafayette College) and my S went to a Jesuit college (Fordham). Both kids had absolutely wonderful experiences and got great educations but here were some differences -- I've tried to list the ones that came to mind below.. You should look at details of schools you are considering to see which things hold true.

    --The LAC does not have any graduate students.
    --The LAC was smaller in size (about 2,400 students v over 15,000 including grad students)
    --Both schools offered small class sizes.
    --Both kids developed relationships with a couple of professors who served as mentors as they applied to grad school and started a career..
    --My D's LAC had distribution requirements that were very flexible while the Jesuit college had a very set core curriculum.
    --The Jesuit college offered an undergraduate busienss school while the LAC did not. In general there were more majors at the Jesuit university.
    --The Jesuit university offered some opportunities for combined undergrad/graduate programs (ex. a five year MBA) while that is not possible at a LAC which has no graduate programs.
    --Both offer opportunities for students to do research with professors (I think doing research was a more common occurrence at the LAC -- but that may have had something to do with my kid's different undergraduate majors)
    --The Jesuit College had religious symbols on campus, a more active campus ministry, as well as theology/philosophy academic requirements.
    --The LAC had a smaller, more close knit and nurturing feel to it. My S looked at a LAC and felt it would be too small/too confining while my D immediately fell in love with the idea of a small college. It becomes a matter of fit.

    In short both can provide outstanding 4 year college experiences. It would not be unusual for a student to apply to both some LACs and Jesuit colleges. If you have any questions you can feel free to PM me.
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys 4213 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Broadly, a LAC is a single college, usually the functional equivalent of the "College of Letters and Science" which does not offer graduate programs (though there are exceptions). A university consists of several colleges, such as College of Letters and Science, College of Engineering, College of Business etc. and does offer graduate degrees.
    · Reply · Share
  • Eeyore123Eeyore123 2083 replies25 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    And a Jesuit school is a four-year college or university operated by Society of Jesus. In the US they are:
    Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
    Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Brighton, Massachusetts
    Canisius College, Buffalo, New York
    College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
    Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska
    Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut
    Fordham University, New York City
    Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
    Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington
    Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, Berkeley, California
    John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio
    Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York
    Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California
    Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
    Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland
    Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana
    Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    Regis University, Denver, Colorado
    Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri
    Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri
    Saint Peter's University, Jersey City, New Jersey
    Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California
    Seattle University, Seattle, Washington
    Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama
    University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, Michigan
    University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California
    University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania
    Wheeling Jesuit University, Wheeling, West Virginia
    Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • CorbettCorbett 3434 replies4 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    Broadly, a LAC is a single college, usually the functional equivalent of the "College of Letters and Science" which does not offer graduate programs (though there are exceptions). A university consists of several colleges, such as College of Letters and Science, College of Engineering, College of Business etc. and does offer graduate degrees.
    At USF, for example, there are five academic divisions:

    - College of Arts & Sciences
    - School of Management
    - School of Education
    - School of Nursing
    - School of Law

    Suppose you threw out the Schools of Management, Education, Nursing, and Law. Now all you have is the College of Arts & Sciences. Now suppose you threw out all of the graduate students from the College of Arts & Sciences, leaving only undergraduates. Now suppose you threw out some of the more pre-professional undergraduate majors in the College of Arts & Sciences, like Communications or Kinesiology.

    You would be left with a few thousand undergraduates in the College of Arts & Sciences, and they would be majoring in traditional liberal arts disciplines like biology, English, history, economics, art history, and religion. This would be approximately equivalent to a typical LAC.
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • CorbettCorbett 3434 replies4 threads Senior Member
    Another difference between a LAC and university is non-academic: housing.

    LACs are small, and they can typically provide four years of on-campus or near-campus housing to all students, as well as dining halls with the capacities to feed everyone. So LAC students don't have to concern themselves with things like rent or groceries; the college is paternalistic and takes care of everything. The students don't just attend classes together; they also eat together and live together, which tends to build a strong sense of community. LACs tend to have the highest rates of alumni giving, even years after graduation.

    Universities are usually too large to take care of their undergraduates to the same degree. They commonly guarantee housing to freshmen, and maybe to sophomores, but at some point the students are typically required to strike out on their own. At USF, for example, there is housing for the freshmen, but not much beyond that. USF upperclassmen are probably scattered all across the Bay Area, taking advantage of any location that is reasonably affordable (note: they are hard to find). It can be very educational for undergraduates to start commuting, paying rent, and shopping for groceries on their own. However, it's harder to get that sense of community when most students don't live on or near the campus.
    · Reply · Share
  • Clementine7624Clementine7624 149 replies25 threads Junior Member
    Thanks all. Very helpful. D18 thinks most LACs are too small and won’t consider applying. She really likes USF and has gotten good merit there and admitted into their new honors program which makes it even more appealing (at least on paper - since it will be the first year of the honors program - no info exists). I need to make sure she has looked at and understands what their required classes are - she tends to like to have more choices versus more requirements. The only LAC she has applied to is Wesleyan and that is a reach school for her. She isn’t that keen on Connecticut and we haven’t visited so hard for her to see appeal at the moment.
    · Reply · Share
  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    USF and Wesleyan are very different. So are Tampa and Middletown. It's hard to imagine that someone would like both schools equally well. If your D is accepted to Wesleyan and the net cost is affordable, then she really ought to schedule a visit (especially if she was interested enough to apply but is not very familiar with LACs).
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • CorbettCorbett 3434 replies4 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    USF and Wesleyan are very different. So are Tampa and Middletown. It's hard to imagine that someone would like both schools equally well.
    The OP is asking about the San Francisco USF, not the South Florida USF. However, Middletown CT is quite different either way.

    For most USF students, the urban location in San Francisco is a major part of the appeal. There is obviously a lot going on in SF, and students are expected to explore the off-campus cultural resources as part of a USF education (tuition includes a MUNI pass, so students get unlimited free access to public transportation). In contrast, nobody goes to Wesleyan so that they can explore Middletown.

    By university standards, USF is relatively small and teaching-oriented, so it is arguably more LAC-like than most universities. By LAC standards, Wesleyan is relatively large and research-oriented, so it is arguably more university-like than most LACs. Wesleyan has about 3200 students, including more than 200 grad students. Those are both huge numbers for a LAC; however, they are still small by university standards, even in comparison to a smaller university like USF.
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • happy1happy1 24198 replies2428 threads Super Moderator
    As I said earlier my S had a fabulous experience at a Jesuit College. The honors program at USF with a nice scholarship sounds like a great option. I think the core is something she should look at. Here are my two kids' takes on the Jesuit core.

    My S went to the undergrad business school and we all felt that the core curriculum assured that he would also get strong and well rounded background in the liberal arts to go with an solid business degree. For him the extensive Jesuit core was an overall plus and he was OK with having very few free electives. In contrast my D went to college wanting to explore a few specific disciplines in depth and she felt that a huge core would stand in the way of her doing that -- she ended up at a college which had distribution requirements but it offered a much more flexibility and many fewer classes. Again, it is about preference, fit etc.
    · Reply · Share
  • circuitridercircuitrider 4006 replies182 threads Senior Member
    By LAC standards, Wesleyan is relatively large and research-oriented, so it is arguably more university-like than most LACs. Wesleyan has about 3200 students, including more than 200 grad students. Those are both huge numbers for a LAC; however, they are still small by university standards, even in comparison to a smaller university like USF.

    Ironically, a recent online publication took Wesleyan to task for allegedly fielding too many sports teams. What it failed to mention was that Wesleyan's size enabled it to contain the same number of preppy, male-oriented, helmet sports as other NESCAC members without its social life being dominated by them.
    · Reply · Share
  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10242 replies176 threads Super Moderator
    edited December 2017
    Corbett wrote:
    Another difference between a LAC and university is non-academic: housing... LACs are small, and they can typically provide four years of on-campus or near-campus housing to all students... Universities are usually too large to take care of their undergraduates to the same degree. They commonly guarantee housing to freshmen, and maybe to sophomores, but at some point the students are typically required to strike out on their own.
    That is something that's going to vary considerably from one college to another, so I'm not sure it's a helpful generalization. There is a huge difference between universities like Harvard (98% live on campus) and UT Austin (18% live on campus).
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • CorbettCorbett 3434 replies4 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    [Housing] is something that's going to vary considerably from one college to another, so I'm not sure it's a helpful generalization. There is a huge difference between universities like Harvard (98% live on campus) and UT Austin (18% live on campus).
    It's a generalization, so there are going to be exceptions, but I think it's a fair one overall (Harvard is not necessarily a typical case). To get school-specific info (which is always a good idea), check Section F1 of the school's Common Data Set. It provides the "Percent who live in college-owned, -operated, or - affiliated housing" for both freshmen and for all undergraduates. For example:

    Percent of freshmen who live in college housing:
    100 Wesleyan
    94 USF

    Percent of all undergraduates who live in college housing:
    100 Wesleyan
    32 USF

    That 32% figure for USF includes the freshmen, who almost all live in college housing. If you subtract out the freshmen (who are presumably about 25% of the total), it's clear that only a small percentage of USF sophomores, juniors, and seniors have college housing. So anyone enrolling at USF should probably count on moving off-campus after freshman year, and facing the (challenging) Bay Area rental market. In contrast, the availability of student housing would be a complete non-issue at Wesleyan.
    edited December 2017
    · Reply · Share
  • intparentintparent 36292 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Sure, and some LACs definitely don't provide housing all 4 years (Macalester, for example).
    · Reply · Share
  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Of the 68% of all USF undergrads who don't live in college housing, what percentage commute from home (or from locations relatively far from campus)? At Wesleyan, that percentage would be miniscule. How do these numbers impact student life? According to one entry about USF on a student review site, "the campus is like a ghost town on the weekends." Size isn't everything in assessing campus quality of life. Of course, with USF you do get everything the bay area has to offer, so maybe for many students who choose it, the campus itself isn't the main draw.
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity