50 Great Affordable Colleges in the West

Badge - Great Value CollegesBelow you will find a list of the Top 50 affordable colleges and universities in the Western United States, commonly agreed to comprise Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. All schools in this region were analyzed and ranked separately according to public and private institutions.

To start, we first compiled a list of all the regionally accredited institutions in the region, and then we zeroed in on schools meeting our definition of affordable. For the purposes of this article, “affordable” refers to having a net price (total cost of attendance minus the average financial aid package) below $22,000 –  roughly the typical price tag of a year of college. At this point, we then collected a large amount of data on eight quality indicators: 6-year graduation rate, freshmen retention rate, student-to-faculty ratio, percentage of classes entrusted to graduate assistants, average entrance ACT score, number of campus organizations, number of academic programs, and Forbes ranking. We included the Forbes ranking because, more than other sources that write on education, it assesses schools based on measures of student “output” and satisfaction (read more here).

We then assigned points to each school based on their performance in each category; the 25 schools in each division (public and private) with the highest scores made this list. They are listed in descending order according to their net price, but we also included their quality ranking so you can see for yourself just how much value each institution offers.

Public Schools

25. University of California – Berkeley

Berkeley, California

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The University of California at Berkeley combines elite academic status with a strong history of community service and activism. Academically, the school has few peers. From engineering, to physical sciences, to anthropology, analysis by the National Research Council found that Berkeley has the greatest number of top ranked graduate programs in the U.S. After your classes with top-notch faculty (no TA classes here) that currently include eight Nobel Laureates, you can dine in the FSM Café to attend an event celebrating Berkeley’s role in the Free Speech Movement of 1964. Looking to compete in (or watch) your favorite sport? Berkeley teams have earned 85 national titles. Considering the Peace Corps? Berkeley is the only university to have more than 3000 alums serve.
Net Price: $16,614
Ranking: 4th

24. Washington State University

Pullman, Washington

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Washington State University is situated at the heart of the Palouse Scenic Byway running along the Idaho border. The Byway is home to natural areas like the 200-foot Palouse Falls, named in 2014 as the official state waterfall. Pullman itself has been named a top college town and one of the safest communities in Washington. Among WSU’s 200 fields of study, the vet school, pharmacy school, and communication school all research at the forefront of their fields, and the nursing school produces more new nurses for Washington State than does any other school. You’ll have excellent writing skills when you graduate; U.S. News and World Report has repeatedly praised WSU for its pan-university writing discipline. There are more than 300 student organizations to suit your interests. In your spare time stop by and visit the grizzlies at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center.
Net Price: $16,278
Ranking: 12th

23. Oregon State University

Corvallis, Oregon

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Top students attend Oregon State University for its recognized advancements in conservation biology, nuclear engineering, climate change, public health, marine sciences, and forestry. It is one of the only land, sea, space, and sun grant schools in the nation. Students love living one hour from the Cascades and one hour from the Pacific. Outdoor-bound students might opt to study at the Adventure Leadership Institute to become qualified to lead expeditions and outdoor challenge experiences. With more than 400 student organizations you’re sure to find camaraderie, which helps drive OSU’s freshman retention rate to an impressive 83%. Fourth in the nation in using renewable energy, OSU and the town of Corvallis are well known for environmental responsibility. When you work out, feel free to use one of the 22 exercise machines at Dixon Recreation Center that actually help to power the university’s electrical grid!
Net Price: $16,219
Ranking: 19th

22. University of California – Davis

Davis, California

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UC Davis boasts the largest campus of the UC system. Davis is an exceptional town, with the highest education level in the state. Davis is on many “best towns” lists and is also on many lists as the most bike-friendly city in the country. The university is known for its focus on sustainability, including the West Village area, which contains experimental homes designed for zero net energy living. Founded as an agricultural school in 1908, UC Davis has been ranked #1 in the world for agriculture and forestry by QS World University Rankings. The school’s distinguished faculty, one for every 17 students, now span four colleges and six professional schools, with a veterinary teaching hospital that treats 45,000 animals each year. It’s easy to see why Newsweek ranks UC Davis as the 10th Happiest College Campus in the nation.
Net Price: $15,641
Ranking: 6th

21. University of Oregon

Eugene, Oregon

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The University of Oregon enjoys status as a member of the Association of American Universities, an elite group of leading research schools. Thanks in part to its research prowess, UO has many highly ranked programs, including architecture, education, physics, and geological sciences. You’ll enjoy plenty of faculty interaction with a student-faculty ratio of 19:1 and a median class size of 20. Outside the Portland campus, students study marine life on the coast through the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. Those wishing to go even farther afield might elect one of 190 study abroad programs. For a more local change of scenery, make your way to the McKenzie River to enjoy the mountain bike trail rated #1 by Bike Magazine, and stop for a rest at the breathtaking Tamolitch Blue Pool.

Net Price: $15,362
Ranking: 23rd

20. Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, Arizona

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Just 90 minutes from the Grand Canyon sits Northern Arizona University. Often ranked as a “best value” university, NAU offers a substantial reduction in out-of-state tuition to residents of 14 western states through the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. Students enjoy a low student-faculty ratio of 19:1, more than 150 undergraduate majors to consider, and 350 student organizations to join. NAU’s Student Learning Centers foster student success through free tutoring, free Supplemental Instruction sessions for difficult courses, and a Peer Jacks mentoring program for out-of-state students. The Global Learning Initiative ensures that your coursework gives you a global perspective across courses to ready you for the global economy post-graduation. And of interest to those studying beyond our own globe, NAU’s astronomy program entered into a partnership in 2014 giving it significant access to the famed Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered.
Net Price: $14,398
Ranking: 25th

19. University of California – San Diego

La Jolla, California

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The University of California – San Diego is one of the most selective of the UC schools, with a high median ACT score. Within a college system, admitted applicants are assigned to one of six colleges, based on stated preference and availability, where they will live for two years of their studies. Each college has its own dining facilities and traditions, as well as differing general education requirements, offering benefits of a small liberal arts school within a large research university. Academic departments operate independently of the colleges and are highly acclaimed. Students of marine sciences and earth sciences can study through the renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which operates four research vessels and in 2013 logged 767 days at sea. You can keep busy all year through 596 student clubs and celebrate the end of the school year with the annual Watermelon Drop from Urey Hall.
Net Price: $14,329
Ranking: 3rd

18. Western Washington University

Bellingham, Washington

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A short walk from downtown Bellingham sits Western Washington University, listed as one of Kiplinger’s Best Values in 2013. WWU touts its commitment to faculty availability, with a student-faculty ratio of 20:1 and only 2% of classes taught by TAs. Students are encouraged to customize their educational experience, through options such as the Fairhaven College interdisciplinary experience. WWU has operated on the leading edge of green sciences since it founded the Huxley College of the Environment in 1969. Student initiative led to the launch in 2005 of a quarterly fee (up to $7 per student) to enable the university to purchase renewable energy and fund student-driven energy projects. When they’re not saving the planet, students might relax playing one of more than 30 intramural sports, participating in 200+ clubs, or laughing with the Dead Parrots Society comedy improve troupe.
Net Price: $14,253
Ranking: 15th

17. University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

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The University of Arizona was founded in the desert in 1885 before Arizona was even a state. Today, it is a top 25 source of Fulbright scholars in the nation. Across its 100+ academic programs, the university encourages every student to graduate with real world experience and supports this goal through internships, research, and more. The National Science Foundation ranks UA 29th in the nation in research expenditures, and many academic departments have earned top achievements thanks to this research focus. UA boasts the largest optics program in the country, a lead position in planning and architecture for arid climates, and a top ranking astronomy program. In 2020, UA will lead a first-ever mission to obtain samples from a nearby asteroid to help explain the beginnings of our solar system. Beyond the sciences, UA has much to offer as well, including the Center for Creative Photography founded in part by Ansel Adams.
Net Price: $14,070
Ranking: 7th

16. University of California – Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

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Imagine attending classes on a campus situated directly on the Pacific Ocean, walking to class while the bells of Storke Tower chime in the background. It’s easy to see why 91% of freshman return to UC Santa Barbara. UCSB is home to 100 research units and 11 national institutes and centers like the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. The school’s research accomplishments earned it Leiden University’s ranking of #2 globally for “impact in the field of the sciences.” A student-faculty ratio of 17:1 means that you get more attention from UCSB’s award-winning faculty, which includes five Nobel Prize winners. Students who can bear to leave the idyllic campus may study abroad in one of 200 programs in 40 countries.
Net Price: $13,991
Ranking: 8th

15. University of California – Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California

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Students at UC Santa Cruz are proud of their unusual mascot, the Banana Slug, and their 2,000-acre campus on the north side of Monterey Bay. The unusual geology of the campus features sinkholes, springs, and disappearing creeks. Students belong to one of ten residential colleges at UC Santa Cruz, where they can take advantage of unique learning opportunities. The university’s academic departments also present unique learning, in top-rated programs and research centers in areas like linguistics or marine mammal research. TA’s don’t teach any classes at UC Santa Cruz, where the student-faculty ratio is 19:1. Professors also show their commitment to students by issuing narrative evaluations in addition to grades. Need a diversion? UC Santa Cruz was apparently a favorite of the Grateful Dead, which donated its entire memorabilia collection to the school; they’re housing it in a room they call Dead Central.
Net Price: $13,748
Ranking: 20th

14. University of California – Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

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UCLA is a top institution by almost any measure, and its in-state price tag makes it an exceptional value for those admitted to this highly selective school. UCLA boasts a 90% 6-year graduation rate and a 96% freshman retention rate. Faculty includes Nobel Prize winners and Fulbright Scholars, and they are very accessible thanks to a low 17:1 student-faculty ratio. The university is consistently found in Top 25 lists nationally and globally, and it dubs itself the “most applied-to university in the nation.” Host to 290 research centers and the world’s largest university media archive, UCLA was awarded more than $1 billion in research grants in 2011. Its engineering school is frequently listed as a top 10 program, and the School of Theater, Film, and Television has produced 29 Academy Award winners. The Los Angeles location has additional perks, too; the annual Bruin Bash festival often hosts star performers like Jay-Z.
Net Price: $13,686
Ranking: 1st

13. Colorado State University

Fort Collins, Colorado

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Colorado State University is nestled at the foot of the Rockies in Fort Collins, a town named the 4th healthiest mid-sized city in a 2013 Gallup survey and the 4th best place to live by Money Magazine in 2010. CSU has received top rankings for its sustainability efforts and was recently chosen to receive special Smart cars for research. Several of its academic programs are also top ranked, including the vet school and programs in occupational therapy, agriculture, and journalism. Colorado State’s more than $300 million in annual research funding puts it at the forefront of areas such as infectious disease, cancer research, and atmospheric science. Outside the classroom, students stay busy through more than 500 student organizations and attend 11,000 individual appointments with career advisors. An 84% freshman retention rate indicates that students feel satisfied with their experience at Colorado State.
Net Price: $13,487
Ranking: 9th

12. Humboldt State University

Arcata, California

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Humboldt State University is the northernmost school in the California State University system, located on the Redwood Coast. Humboldt prides itself on being a smaller school (8,000 students) at which students and faculty truly get to know each other. Professors are committed to mentoring students and teach all classes themselves. You can frequently find Humboldt on lists of top regional universities, due in part to this classroom intimacy but also due to its great achievements in research and academia through centers like the Humboldt Earthquake Education Center and the Institute for Redwood Ecology. Undergrads have unusual access at Humboldt to facilities like Fickle Hill Observatory and research vessels of the Department of Oceanography. Humboldt has a reputation for environmental awareness, and students take a Graduation Pledge to consider social and environmental impact when finding a career.
Net Price: $13,193
Ranking: 17th

11. Arizona State University

Phoenix, Arizona

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Students might choose Arizona State University for its reputation for innovative education practices, or maybe because it has a high number of student entrepreneurs. Perhaps it’s because students enjoy close attention from professors, as 90% of graduating students report having worked closely with professors on projects, internships, and more. Maybe they know that ASU’s more than 100 programs were judged by a Wall Street Journal analysis to be in the top five for producing graduates most qualified for employment. Since Phoenix gets more than its share of sunlight, ASU has installed more than 78,000 solar panels in 86 systems across its four campuses, generating 23.5MW of power and shading thousands of parking spots! It’s no wonder that the school that turned itself into a “living solar laboratory” has an engineering program ranked in the top ten percent by U.S. News and World Report.
Net Price: $13,061
Ranking: 10th

10. University of Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

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Along the edge of the Rockies lies the architecturally acclaimed campus of CU Boulder, which includes two museums, a planetarium, and the Sommers-Bausch Observatory. Some CU students haven’t been content just to observe space, though; 14 CU alums have flown on space shuttle missions and CU Boulder is the largest recipient of NASA research funds of all U.S. universities. Here on Earth students can choose to help out in the first student-run recycling center or attend a CU football game knowing that the zero-waste home football game initiative will recycle and compost as much stadium waste as possible. More than 1,200 undergrads annually are involved in worldwide faculty research, and with a student-faculty ratio of 18:1 it’s easy to get to know professors. Thanks to its efforts to keep students engaged, CU enjoys the highest graduation rates for public universities in the State.
Net Price: $12,580
Ranking: 14th

9. University of Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

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The University of Utah keeps its students happy, as evidenced by its 88% freshman retention rate. Students can get engaged with the university through more than 500 student organizations and can bond with friends at the Redfest and Grand Kerfuffle concert festivals. You can help grow organic produce in the Edible Campus Gardens and then visit one of the three top Utah attractions right on campus: the Natural History Museum, Red Butte Gardens, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Looking for innovation? Choose the U, which in 2009 topped a list of research universities by creating 19 spinoff companies based on U technology. Some top programs include the College of Engineering and the #1 ranked Entertainment Arts and Engineering program. The U makes it easy for you to customize your college experience through MUSE (My Utah Signature Experience), a portal which connects students to internships and other opportunities based on their areas of interest.
Net Price: $11,702
Ranking: 11th

8. University of California – Irvine

Irvine, California

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UC Irvine holds an 86% six-year graduation rate and a 93% freshman retention rate. This may be one reason why Times Higher Education in 2013 once again ranked UC Irvine 1st in the nation and 5th in the world for universities less than 50 years old. Several of the school’s academic programs earn high praise as well, including engineering, physical sciences, business, and anthropology. If you’re interested in cutting-edge technology, investigate the Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games. With only 19 students per faculty member and no classes taught by TAs, you’ll get plenty of faculty attention at UC Irvine. You’ll get plenty of sunshine, too, as Irvine gets almost 300 sunny days per year. It’s no surprise that the school received 80,000 applications in 2014. Meet your friends at the game after class; the Anteaters have won 28 national titles. And mark your calendar for the annual Shocktoberfest street festival!
Net Price: $11,569
Ranking: 5th

7. University of Wyoming

Laramie, Wyoming

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The Cowboys and Cowgirls of the University of Wyoming celebrate their extreme Wyoming pride by wearing their brown and gold colors on Pride Fridays. The school has adopted the Cowboy Ethics set out by the state of Wyoming, ten tenets that include “Always finish what you start” and “Talk less and say more.” Average class size is 29 and the student-faculty ratio is an enviable 14:1. You can study in well-reputed programs in agriculture and natural resources, business, and education, to name a few of the colleges that house 85 undergraduate majors. At an elevation of 7,220 feet and just 25 minutes from the Snowy Range Mountains, you’ll have easy access to outdoor recreation. Outside magazine calls UW a top “adventure college,” and you can even earn UW credit for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) courses. After class, relax with friends at Pete’s Pocket Game Room at the Wyoming Union.
Net Price: $11,484
Ranking: 24th

6. University of California – Riverside

Riverside, California

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The fastest growing school in the UC system, UC Riverside is updating its campus for a planned enrollment increase from 21,000 to 25,000 by 2020. The university is located 50 miles east of Los Angeles near Box Spring Mountain on 1,200 acres. UC Riverside is appealing to applicants both because of its reputation for being ethnically diverse and because of a desirable 19:1 student-faculty ratio. Top fields of study include Chemistry, Environmental Engineering, Philosophy, Education, and Business. Campus housing options include ten Special Interest communities that students may opt into based on their academic programs or personal interests. If one of your interests is music, be sure not to miss Riverside’s multiple music festivals, such as Heat, Spring Splash, and Block Party.
Net Price: $11,351
Ranking: 16th

5. University of Hawaii – Manoa

Honolulu, Hawaii

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The University of Hawaii – Manoa sits just outside Honolulu on the island of Oahu, which students can traverse for free on the public bus system – and campus housing will provide a storage locker for your surfboard! U.S. News and World Report dubs it the 6th most ethnically diverse school in the country. “Do-It-In-Four” is the university’s slogan for getting you to graduation day in one of its 150+ undergraduate programs, so they offer support services such as mandatory advising for two years and a Student Success Center. Some of its programs with high acclaim include oceanography, marine biology, library and information science, and international business. UH Manoa is proud to be a land grant, sea grant, and space grant university. Its Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden is the nation’s only one situated in a tropical rainforest. Students also enjoy a low student-faculty ratio of 13.5:1 and more than 200 student clubs offering plenty of opportunities for involvement.
Net Price: $11,345
Ranking: 22nd

4. San Jose State University

San Jose, California

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San Jose State University is not only the oldest CSU school but also the oldest public university on the West Coast. Campus covers 19 city blocks of downtown San Jose, which is now the 10th largest city in the U.S. The proximity to Silicon Valley companies gives students atypical access for internships and research projects, and SJSU is the top producer of graduates for business, engineering, and computer science jobs in Silicon Valley. Some other of SJSU’s top-rated programs include Design, Creative Arts, Communicative Disorders, Social Work, and Occupational Therapy. SJSU is a leader in graduating minority students, supported by its Educational Opportunity Program, which aids disadvantaged students who qualify for admission. Faculty and administrators make small classes and superior teaching quality priorities, which helps drive its freshman retention rate to 83%.
Net Price: $11,138
Ranking: 21st

3. San Diego State University

San Diego, California

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While San Diego State University expects a lot from its students, it also holds itself to a high standard. In the last decade, it has raised its graduation rate by more than ten points. The innovative changes it has made to education may be why U.S. News and World Report ranked them #14 on a list of Up-and-Coming Schools. SDSU also receives praise for strong diversity, service to underrepresented students, and an LGBT-friendly environment. Top rated fields of study include international business, engineering, speech pathology, and psychology. 89% of freshmen return for a second year, though they might also opt for one of 300+ international programs that rank SDSU a top 25 school for study abroad. As a student you’ll enjoy the schedule of Aztec Night events like Templo del Sol, an initiation rite for new students, Campus Carnival, and Midnight Study Breaks during finals weeks.
Net Price: $9,856
Ranking: 13th

2. University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

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The University of Washington is committed to making education accessible; its Husky Promise guarantees scholarships and grants to qualified students to help cover tuition costs. Also committed to its quality of education, the school enjoys a 93% freshman return rate and an 82% six-year graduation rate. Top quality students with high ACT scores enjoy an extremely low student-faculty ratio of 10:1. Students can choose from 700 clubs and opt for such diverse recreation activities as climbing walls, wilderness medical training, a golf driving range, and bowling at the HUB. Academics and research are also outstanding; for 40 years the UW has been in one of the top two spots for public universities receiving the most federal research funds. It licenses more than 350 technologies, more than any other university, and launched 17 startups in 2013 based on such technologies.
Net Price: $9,559
Ranking: 2nd

1. California State University – Long Beach

Long Beach, California

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The CSU Long Beach campus sits on a hilltop near the Pacific and is filled with 3,200 flowering peach trees given to the university by Long Beach residents. Here as you walk to class, you might pass pieces of the campus sculpture collection, the Japanese Garden, or the chiming Carlson Bloc Bell Tower. The new Walter Pyramid is an 18-story fitness complex and conference center. CSULB students are first rate, with 350 current undergraduate California Merit Finalists. 88% of freshmen return for their second year, and CSULB is a top awarder of degrees to minority students. Long Beach is often ranked as a top regional and best value school, including a recent top 10 rating for Best Value by Time magazine. Areas of study among the school’s more than 100 degree programs with high acclaim include Social Work, Health Care Administration, Fine Arts, and Political Science.
Net Price: $8,169
Ranking: 18th

Private

25. Warner Pacific College

Portland, Oregon

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Warner Pacific College is a small, urban liberal arts school that provides students the perfect place to challenge themselves and try new things. As a religious institution, there is an added emphasis on community, faith, and the ways to bring diverse groups together. The student-to-faculty ratio is a cozy 11:1 and the number of student organizations and academic programs is on the lower side in order to encourage maximum interaction among students. The school isn’t particularly selective, but once students are accepted they are encouraged to find their passion in study. As an example of this, they have created the “First Year Learning Communities,” which help students develop social support, strong study skills, and a comfortable sense of community.
Net Price: $21,798
Ranking: 22nd

24. University of La Verne

La Verne, California

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The University of La Verne is one of the more highly ranked schools on this list, and for good reason. It has a freshmen retention rate of 86%, undoubtedly because students are too busy exploring the more than 100 campus organizations and academic programs to consider leaving! In addition to a variety of traditional modes of study, La Verne also offers accelerated programs for adults in seventeen different majors, from business to psychology. The school boasts a small but active Greek life as well as campus organizations such as the Anthropology Club, Black Student Union, the Global Medical Brigade, Model U.N., and Spoken Word Play.
Net Price: $21,720
Ranking: 4th

23. Concordia University – Portland

Portland, Oregon

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Although Concordia is a private, Christian institution, it is open to students of any faith who are looking for a traditional liberal arts education. The school is generous in its attempts to reduce the financial burdens on students, and the average award package for freshmen is $10,000. Because Concordia keeps its population small, at around $1,400, it can also afford to keep the average class size at 20 or fewer students. You can choose to major in a typical field, like Biology, Business, English, or Music, or you can choose from one of Concordia’s many theological majors, such as Pastoral Ministry, Youth Ministry, or Outreach. Most of the campus life is centered on spiritual programs, but you can also join groups like Concordia Business Leaders, the Healthcare Administration Club, or the Multicultural Club.
Net Price: $20,857
Ranking: 23rd

22. Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, Arizona

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Grand Canyon is another Christian university, and it puts an emphasis on infusing education with Christian values, hard work, and ethics in the workplace. GCU has seven distinct colleges that together offer over 100 majors in areas like Accounting, Psychology, and Digital Design. This institution also offers a number of master’s degrees and some unique programs, such as Business Intelligence, Disaster Preparedness, Addiction, Worship Arts, and Big Data Analytics. On campus events include a spirited Welcome Week, complete with a dodge ball tournament; Student Success Webinars to improve your study skills; and theatrical performances in the beautiful Ethington Theatre.
Net Price: $20,084
Ranking: 18th

21. Chaminade University of Honolulu

Honolulu, Hawaii

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What could be better than going to school in Hawaii? Relax amongst the palm trees and the nearby waves as you grow both intellectually and spiritually. Chaminade prides itself on providing an education that includes close interaction between students and teachers, multicultural awareness and understanding, a supportive campus atmosphere, a vibrant campus life, and programs that will prepare you for professional life. Chaminade also offers the “Four Year Guarantee,” which is an agreement that the school will pay the rest of your tuition if you don’t graduate in four years. That’s a hard deal to beat!
Net Price: $19,820
Ranking: 17th

20. Reed College

Portland, Oregon

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Reed College is a small, residential college in Portland that has long since maintained a reputation as one of the most intellectually stimulating institutions in the country. As if proving this, the school maintains an incredibly high freshmen retention rate of 92% and a 6-year graduation rate of 82%. The school is incredibly selective and the average ACT score of incoming students is above a 31. If you are accepted, you’ll enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of only 10:1, 130 campus organizations, and more than 40 bachelor of arts degrees. Reed also made it into the top 10% on Forbes’ list of “America’s Greatest Colleges” at #65.
Net Price: $19,424
Ranking: 3rd

19. Thomas Aquinas College

Santa Paula, California

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Thomas Aquinas is an incredibly unique Catholic institution that takes a quite unusual approach to education. There are no majors and no minors; everyone grows together in a liberal arts program that includes study of the most notorious philosophers, mathematicians, authors, historians, scientists, and theologians throughout history. There are also no textbooks or lectures; instead, you will read the original texts of everyone from Aristotle to Shakespeare and learn through dynamic classroom discussion. Students who choose TAC are almost always satisfied with their experience, and the school boasts a freshmen retention rate of 84% and a graduation rate of 80%.
Net Price: $19,169
Ranking: 8th

18. Stanford University

Stanford, California

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We’ve all heard of Stanford, and it’s no surprise that this institution holds the #1 spot on our list for quality. It scores high marks in all of the categories we assessed, and has a freshmen retention rate of 99%, a 6-year graduation rate of 96%, and a student-to-faculty ratio of an almost unbelievable 5:1. The school is one of the most selective in the country and the average ACT score of incoming students is over 32 – that’s nearing a perfect score! If you do get in, though, you’ll enjoy more than 600 student organizations and nearly 70 academic programs. It makes perfect sense that Forbes, a source that ranks schools on measures of “output” and student satisfaction, gave Stanford the #1 spot on its list.
Net Price: $19,109
Ranking: 1st

17. Saint Martin’s University

Lacey, Washington

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Saint Martin’s is a religious institution rooted in the Benedictine traditions of hospitality, service, and intellectual and spiritual growth. SMU encourages students to learn through dedicated inquiry and self-examination, and the school offers nearly 50 majors and minors to support your journey. When you’re not in class you can cheer one of 13 athletic teams, check out the intramural sports teams (including dodgeball, flag football, ping pong, kickball, ultimate Frisbee, and bowling), or join any student organization from the Arab Student Association to the Veterans Club. Saint Martin’s also hosts the Benedictine Leaders Program, a day-long conference that includes education sessions and an information panel.
Net Price: $19,069
Ranking: 15th

16. William Jessup University

Rocklin, California

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William Jessup is yet another religious university on this list – this is to be expected, as private spiritual institutions are often cheaper and/or provide more financial aid than secular private schools. Located in the greater Sacramento area, WJU is ideally situated between all the advantages of a bustling downtown and pristine lakes, rolling hills, and the El Dorado National Forest. The school offers undergraduate and graduate programs as well as accelerated adult and online programs. The freshmen retention rate is 82% and the student-to-faculty ratio is 13:1, ensuring that you’ll have lots of opportunities to communicate with professors.
Net Price: $19,019
Ranking: 12th

15. Northwest Nazarene University

Nampa, Idaho

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Northwest Nazarene is a small Christian university that was rated a “College of Distinction” in the 2013-14 school year. The beautiful 90-acre campus in Nampa is the school’s main center, but you’ll also find locations in Boise, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls. In addition, programs are available online and in conjunction with institutions in ten other countries. Choose from over 60 areas of study in all the traditional areas of the liberal arts and sciences as well as theology and pre-professional programs. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1 and only qualified professors, not graduate assistants, teach classes.
Net Price: $18,969
Ranking: 7th

14. Alliant International University

Alhambra, California

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Although Alliant’s principle location is in Alhambra, the school actually has seven campuses throughout the state in addition to three international locations. All Alliant’s programs focus on preparing students to enter professions that require highly advanced and specialized skills. Most of the school’s academic majors are at the graduate level, but undergraduate students will find degrees available in many basic areas, such as Business Administration, Psychology, Political Science, and Criminal Justice. All five of Alliant’s schools are founded on a belief in four pillars of education: professional practice, applied research and scholarship, multicultural and international competence, and community engagement.
Net Price: $18,968
Ranking: 14th

13. Northwest University

Kirkland, Washington

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If you’re interested in a scenic, distraction-free setting for your postsecondary study, take a look at Northwest University. The campus lies on 56 acres of semi-wooded land overlooking Lake Washington and the majestic Olympic Mountains. Although you will definitely feel one with nature, you can also make the short drive to Seattle for lots of entertainment and dining options. Northwest has a freshmen retention rate of 82% and a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. In addition to joining numerous clubs, you can also cheer on ten sports teams, including basketball, soccer, and volleyball teams. As for academics, there is a definite trend toward religious majors, but you still get to choose from all the more typical majors as well.
Net Price: $18,923
Ranking: 10th

12. The College of Idaho

Caldwell, Idaho

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The College of Idaho, the state’s oldest private institution, has a great track record of educating students in a close-knit community characterized by small class sizes and outstanding professors. Signs of superior student satisfaction include a freshmen retention rate of 83%, a nearly 70% 6-year graduation rate, and a spot on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Colleges.” Opportunities to get involved on campus include campus ministries, multicultural and international affairs, wellness services, and an outdoor program that includes activities like rock climbing and kayaking. C of I also has more than 20 athletic teams, including football.
Net Price: $18,135
Ranking: 5th

11. Rocky Mountain College

Billings, Montana

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Rocky Mountain College is another institution that produces enough satisfied, successful students that it’s on Forbes’ list in the 602nd spot. That might be near the bottom of the list, but keep in mind the number of schools that didn’t make it at all! True to how most people think of Montana, RMC’s campus is park-like, with evergreen trees, perennials, and shrubs at every turn. The school puts a particular emphasis on the value extracurricular activities can add to an education and so provides a plethora of opportunities for students to join campus ministries, sports teams, theatre troupes, community service organizations, choruses and bands, and of course student clubs.
Net Price: $17,642
Ranking: 16th

10. Pomona College

Claremont, California

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The vision for Pomona College grew out of the desire to build a school out West that would imitate the greatest Ivy League institutions of the Northeast. The founders were largely successful, and today Pomona is one of the region’s premier liberal arts colleges. With just 1,600 students equally split between men and women, Pomona maintains a small student-to-teacher ratio of just 8:1. Students actively engage each other not just in the classroom, but in state-of-the-art laboratories; a two million volume library; and updated music, theatre, and dance facilities. As the #2 school on this list, Pomona’s graduation and freshmen retention rates rival Stanford’s, at 96% and 97%, respectively.
Net Price: $17,419
Ranking: 2nd

9. University of Great Falls

Great Falls, Montana

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The University of Great Falls is a Catholic university located between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks in Montana. The small campus consists of just ten buildings but more than makes up for the lack of acreage with tree-studded walkways and 1960’s architecture. The school has fourteen athletic teams in the NAIA that include basketball, golf, and even rodeo! If you’re not an athlete there’s still plenty to do, such as becoming a student ambassador, cheering on teams as a member of the “Argo Army,” or joining the Outdoor Club. UGF offers 40 undergraduate degrees, eight graduate degrees, and four distance learning programs.
Net Price: $17,119
Ranking: 24th

8. Simpson University

Redding, California

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Simpson University is a “Christ-centered learning community” located in the Sacramento Valley town of Redding. The small school has a freshmen retention rate of 74%, and the many students who choose to stay pursue one of 25 undergraduate majors. Examples of degrees include Accounting, Biology, Mathematics, and Outdoor Leadership, as well a religious majors such as Bible and Theology, Discipleship and Education Ministries, Worship Music, Pastoral Studies, World Missions, and Youth Ministries. Many students at Simpson also choose to study abroad in locations as diverse as Australia, Israel, and Oxford.
Net Price: $16,329
Ranking: 21st

7. Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, California

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Fresno Pacific, located in the city for which it is named, is the only accredited Christian postsecondary institution in the Central Valley. The school has more than fifty academic programs – high for a private liberal arts institution – at the undergraduate, graduate, certificate, credentialing, and adult degree completion levels. FPU’s most extensive programs are related to Biblical and Religious Studies, Business Administration, Communication, and Kinesiology. Of course you shouldn’t spend all your time studying, so Fresno offers clubs (like “Longboards United” and the “Sunbird Conservatives”), intramurals (including something called the “Night of Champions”), and service and leadership opportunities to keep you busy.
Net Price: $15,742
Ranking: 9th

6. Humphrey’s College

Stockton, California

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Humphrey’s College is a prestigious, independent California school with campuses in both Stockton and Modesto. The number of academic programs is small and concentrated on just five main areas – law, business, education, human services, and liberal arts – which allows the school to really specialize in delivering a top-notch education to students. The freshmen retention rate is only slightly above average, at 67%, but of those students who stay, 93% graduate within 6 years. As the school concentrates almost exclusively on academics, most of the student clubs, such as the Criminal Justice Club, the Poetry Club, and the Student Bar Association, are all of studious natures.
Net Price: $14,544
Ranking: 19th

5. Soka University of America

Aliso Viejo, California

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Located on 103 acres in south Orange County, the Soka University of America is just minutes from all the culture, entertainment, and adventure of Los Angeles – and yes, it’s also only a short drive from the beach! SUA prides itself on a generous financial aid program and offers free tuition to all eligible students whose families earn less than $60,000. In contrast to many of the Christian universities on this list, Soka was founded on Buddhist principles that emphasize peace, life, and human rights. And when it comes to the numbers, there are lots of positive things to say about this university. The freshmen retention rate is 99%, the 6-year graduation rate is 84%, and the student-to-faculty ratio is only 8:1.
Net Price: $13,065
Ranking: 6th

4. Brigham Young University – Hawaii

Laie, Hawaii

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Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded Brigham Young University in the 1950s. The Hawaii campus is located in the quiet ocean side community of Laie, a town surrounded by tall mountains and low valleys. BYU offers over 40 majors in areas separated into four main categories: Business, Computing, and Government; Human Development; Language, Culture, and Arts; and Math and Sciences. In their free time, students can join one of more than 50 clubs, catch a theatrical presentation in the Performance Series, or hang out in “The Hub” game center.
Net Price: $10,660
Ranking: 13th

3. Heritage University

Toppenish, Washington

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Heritage is a community dedicated to making education affordable to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic class. It also understands that many people need to work while they are in school, and so classes are frequently available in the evening and on weekends. Although the main campus is in Toppenish, Heritage also has buildings in Tri-Cities, South Seattle, and Moses Lake. Students benefit from small class sizes that average only eleven students, as well as from talented professors who often have professional experience in their fields. Heritage offers events, research opportunities, and project initiatives through the Center for a New Washington, the Center for Native Health and Culture, and other campus-wide events.
Net Price: $10,660
Ranking: 20th

2. Brigham Young University – Idaho

Rexburg, Idaho

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The better-known arm of Brigham Young University, located in Idaho, has also made it onto this list. Guided by its LDS affiliation, this institution provides a social, cultural, academic, and spiritual education to students of a variety of faiths. BYU’s freshmen retention rate is a solid 72%, and students are often attracted to the school’s diversity of academic programs and student clubs. You can also join the orchestra, participate in ROTC, become a student ambassador, or volunteer as a devotional usher. Active students will also enjoy numerous athletic events and outdoor activities like backpacking, canoeing, caving, horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking, river boarding, whitewater rafting, and more.
Net Price: $8,148
Ranking: 11th

1. University of the West

Rosemead, California

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The University of the West is a traditional liberal arts university that differentiates itself by taking a global approach to learning. Understanding that we live in an increasingly complex, interdependent world, this university encourages students to investigate a broad range of cultural experiences. In support of this, the institution has founded two research centers dedicated to the study of Sanskrit and Chinese Buddhist studies. The small school of fewer than 400 maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of only 6:1. It focuses mainly on graduate programs in religion and culture, but you will also find options for undergraduate and certificate degrees.
Net Price: $8,017
Ranking: 25th

Sources:

Palouse Scenic Byway
Visit McKensie River
Eugene Cascades Coast
College Navigator
Princeton Review
U.S. News and World Report
Wikipedia
Forbes

About the Author:
Iris Stone got her start in writing when she began working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Check out her Google+ profile.