University of Redlands sits in the shadow of the San Bernardino Mountains, halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, under the 400-foot-tall “R” carved into the hillside by a student in the early 1900s. Strengths at this private college include business, education and liberal arts. One of the College of Arts and Science’s most unique programs is based at the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies. Students are given a lot of autonomy: They design their own degrees, negotiate academic policy with faculty and receive written evaluations instead of traditional grades.

All undergraduates are required to participate in a community service activity or a faculty-taught service-learning course, and students find inventive ways to put this part of their education to work. Redlands also maintains that residential life is an essential part of students’ development and requires all unmarried undergrads younger than 23 to live on campus. Students can join more than 100 clubs, including several Greek organizations, an investment fund and a women’s weightlifting group. A decade after enrolling, Redlands students can expect to earn a little less than $69,000 annually.