2015-CollegeChoice-Regional-Universities-West
Our 2015 Rankings of Western Regional Universities are based exclusively on factors actual college freshmen said were most important to their college decision. According to the most recent nationwide survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, these factors include academic reputation, financial aid offerings, overall cost, and success of graduates in the post-college job market. Each of these factors were weighted equally in our ranking and data was derived from a variety of publicly available sources, including U.S. News & World Report, the National Center for Education Statistics, and PayScale.
 
Update: We have just released our 2016 ranking of the best Western Regional Universities. Click here for the latest ranking.

50
Central Washington University
Central Washington University

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Central Washington University, home of the Wildcats, is a public, four-year university located in historic Ellensburg, Washington. Its total undergraduate enrollment of 10,423 students can choose from more than 150 majors with an average class size of 25, and a student/faculty ratio of 17:1. Nearly all students who attend CWU are state residents, with only about 5 percent of freshmen being from outside the state. Its in-state tuition and fees are $8,976 and out-of-state tuition and fees are $20,522 for the 2014–15 school year. Notably CWU’s nationally recognized music program is the largest and most musically diverse in the Northwest, and The College of Education is one of the nation’s largest and a leader in assessment innovation. Around 2,500 students graduate from CWU each year ready for high-demand careers in construction management, accounting, engineering technology, teacher education, wine business, paramedicine, aviation, and more. The average starting salary of graduates is $44,100.

Academic reputation score: 38
Average financial aid: $5,533
Average net price: $14,532
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
49
Humboldt State University
Humboldt-State-University_crop

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Humboldt State’s undergraduate enrollment of 7,753 enjoy living and learning near ancient redwood forests, mountains, and beaches. It is located 275 miles north of San Francisco in the town of Arcata, which is recognized as one of the West’s best college towns. Humbolt’s full-time undergraduate (in-state) tuition of just $7,130 annually is one of the best higher education values in the nation. Offering a wide array of academic choices, with 48 majors and 11 graduate programs in 3 Colleges, Humboldt’s programs in natural resources and sciences are nationally known, while visual and performing arts are also popular areas of study. Students can get involved in more than 180 campus clubs and have access to a state-of-the-art recreational facility. Humboldt has a long-standing commitment to social and environmental responsibility and some other recent rankings include: ThePrinceton Review—”Green College”; PETA—”A Top Vegan-Friendly School”; Campus Pride—”A Top LGBT-Friendly School.”

Academic reputation score: 37
Average financial aid: $9,707
Average net price: $12,809
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
48
University of Texas—​Tyler
UT-Tyler

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Located in the beautiful East Texas lake country near Dallas, Tyler is a thriving city of 100,000. UT Tyler’s 259-acre campus is nestled along a lake and surrounded by thick pine and oak forests, providing a picturesque location for study and recreation. Founded in 1971, UT Tyler today enrolls more than 8,000 students and consists of seven colleges. Fourteen percent of the students live in college housing while 86 percent of students live off campus. UT Tyler is recognized across the state of Texas for its nursing, engineering, and education students who excel in state licensure exams. Three out of five of Tyler graduates have job offers before they graduate and the average starting salary for graduates is $46,800. The University of Texas—Tyler has 30.5 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students and an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 64.5 percent. UT Tyler is one of the fastest-growing universities within the University of Texas System with fall enrollment up 7 percent.

Academic reputation score: 31
Average financial aid: $7,362
Average net price: $10,974
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
47
Walla Walla University
Walla Walla University

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Walla Walla University is a private institution founded in 1892. Located on a 55-acre campus in College Place, Washington, WWU also operates a School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon, a marine laboratory on the Puget Sound near Anacortes, Washington, and a graduate social work program offered in Missoula and Billings, Montana. The school is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with around 75 percent of the students identifying at Seventh-day Adventistism. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,686 with the largest undergraduate programs being nursing, engineering, business, biology, and education. Walla Walla has a freshmen retention rate of 77 percent and the student/faculty ratio is 13:1, with 62 percent of the faculty holding doctoral degrees or other terminal degrees. Walla Walla Univerity athletic teams are nicknamed the Wolves. Men’s sports include basketball and soccer; while women’s sports include basketball, softball, and volleyball. Walla Walla University’s tuition and fees are $25,866, though 67.5 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid, and the average financial aid package is $11,875.

Academic reputation score: 43
Average financial aid: $11,875
Average net price: $21,911
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
46
University of Alaska—​Anchorage
University of Alaska Anchorage

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University of Alaska Anchorage is nestled among an extensive green belt, close to scenic Goose Lake Park, just four miles southeast of downtown Anchorage, and is connected to a city-wide trail system perfect for students’ active lifestyles. It enrolls 16,577 undergraduate students and offers 150 majors. The most popular majors are nursing, education, business administration, human services, accounting, psychology, and aviation technology. UAA conducts a vast range of speciality research, training, public service and other activities related to the state’s vast resources and unique challenges. These institutes and centers that sponsor research address concerns of Anchorage and Alaska communities as well as issues of national and international interest. There is a 12:1 student/teacher ratio and 53.1 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. The UAA Seawolves compete in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The total out-of-state cost of attendance is $28,679 ($14,682 in-state), and 27 percent of students have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 29
Average financial aid: $4,825
Average net price: $8,943
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
45
California State University—​Northridge
California State University_Northridge

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California State University, Northridge is a diverse academic community of 38,310 students and more than 4,000 faculty and staff. It is located on a 356-acre campus in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. Cal State Northridge offers more than 60 undergraduate programs but if you are wondering how you will get involved in something outside of class, CSUN has more than 300 clubs and organizations and over 45 fraternities and sororities. Whether you’re into salsa dancing and Chicano culture, or sailing and Buddhism, you’ll find a club or organization that suits your interests. Students also take advantage of the Student Recreation Center which has been recognized not only for its beautiful architectural design, but has also received LEED Gold certification. The student/teacher ratio is 27:1 and the classroom sizes average 30 students, 11 percent of which have fewer than 20 students. Total in-state cost of attendance is $18,700, and 74 percent receive some form of financial assistance.

Academic reputation score: 34
Average financial aid: $10,539
Average net price: $10,458
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
44
Hardin-​Simmons University
Hardin-Simmons-University_crop

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Hardin-Simmons University is a private university located in Abilene, Texas, affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and focused on the liberal arts. HSU’s 220-acre campus is home to 1,790 undergraduate students. It offers 63 majors and 7 degrees to its undergraduates, the most popular of which are Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies; Education; Business, Management, Marketing; Health Professions; and Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Hardin-Simmons boasts a 12:1 student/teacher ratio and 70.6 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Forty-five percent of the students live in college housing. The total cost to attend Hardin-Simmons University is $29,312, and 22 percent had their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 42
Average financial aid: $11,411
Average net price: $21,227
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
43
Texas State University
Old main and Flowers siting in a tree.

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Located on 455 acres of hilly land along San Marcos River you will find Texas State University. Texas State originally opened as the Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1903 with a focus to educate students to become teachers. It is now comprised of ten colleges and about 50 schools and departments across multiple disciplines, offering 97 bachelor’s degrees to its 31,005 undergraduate students. There is a 20:1 student/teacher ratio, 26 percent classes have fewer than 20 students, and 78 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year. TSU is quite ethnically diverse, as 42 percent of Texas State students are ethnic minorities. Nineteen percent of students elect to live on campus, and all Texas State students can choose to participate the over 300 student organizations on campus. The Texas State Bobcats compete within the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference. The total cost to attend Texas State is $17,128, and 27 percent have their financial needs met in full

Academic reputation score: 38
Average financial aid: $8,287
Average net price: $10,505
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
42
University of Colorado—​Colorado Springs
University of Colorado—Colorado Springs

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University of Colorado—​Colorado Springs sits upon 502 acres at one of the highest parts of Colorado Springs. Among the fastest growing universities in the state and nation, UC Colorado Springs offers 37 bachelor degree majors to its 10,598 undergraduate students. With over 300 days of sunshine a year the UCCS Greenhouse and Garden easily provide high quality, organically-grown produce to UCCS’s food service outlets as well as to educate the campus community about new gardening methods and sustainable growing solutions. Ranked fifth nationally for public undergraduate engineering by U.S. News and World Report, UCCS has a student/teacher ratio of 17:1 and 37.2 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Eighty Seven percent of students live off campus and 69 percent of UCCS freshman return for their sophomore year. The cost of tuition is $16,212 for in-state and $21,522 for out-of-state students, and 71 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some form of need-based financial aid. In addition, 32 percent of current undergraduate students at UCCS receive Pell Grants.

Academic reputation score: 41
Average financial aid: $4,761
Average net price: $13,266
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
41
California State University—​Sacramento
California State University—Sacramento

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Sacramento State is located on 300 beautiful acres that contain over 3,000 trees, so many trees that the Arbor Day Foundation officially declared the university “Tree Campus USA” in 2012. Its 26,012 ungraduates can choose from among 58 majors, the most popular of which include nursing, criminal justice, and psychology. Sac State offers a 28:1 student/teacher ratio and 9.7 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students. There are more than 300 student clubs and organizations to join, including more than 20 fraternities and sororities, and students can take in many of the school’s events, such as concerts, comedy acts, and movie nights, all of which are usually free. Students can also join the roughly 20 green and gold Sacramento State Hornets varsity sports teams, which compete in the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference. The total cost of attending Sacramento State is $34,369, and 70 percent receive need-based financial aid.

Academic reputation score: 31
Average financial aid: $10,491
Average net price: $8,859
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
40
University of Texas—​Pan American
UT-Pan-America_crop

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The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) has 56 bachelor’s, 56 master’s, three doctoral, and two cooperative doctoral degree programs, so there is plenty of options for its over 19,000 students to find a program that is right for them. The most popular majors at Pan American are Health Professions and Business, Management, and Marketing. Located in Edinburg in the middle of Rio Grande Valley (one of the fastest growing areas in the nation) approximately 10 miles north of the US/Mexico border and 75 miles northwest of South Padre Island, UTPA has proven to be a great place to study. The University of Texas–Pan American competes in NCAA Division I, in the Western Athletic Conference. According to The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education 2014, UTPA is second in the nation in the number of bachelor’s degrees and fifth in the number of master’s degrees awarded to Hispanics. In addition, UTPA educates the most Mexican American students in the nation. Its in-state tuition and fees are $6,134 and the out-of-state tuition and fees are $17,132 for the 2014–15 school year and the average financial aid package is $8,984.

Academic reputation score: 28
Average financial aid: $8,984
Average net price: $2,394
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
39
Eastern Washington University
Eastern-Washington-University_crop

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Located in Cheney, Washington, Eastern’s 300-acre campus lies 17 miles west of Washington’s second largest city, Spokane. It is also located within minutes to 20 lakes, beautiful mountains, and the Turnbull National Wildlife refuge, all of which offer fishing, hiking, biking, boating, and wildlife watching. EWU’s 11,678 students can choose from 128 different academic programs. The school has a 75 percent freshman retention rate, a 21:1 student/teacher ratio, and 36.5 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. Eastern’s most popular majors are Business, Management, Marketing; Health Professions; Psychology; Social Sciences; and Education. The Eastern Washington Eagles compete in the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference. The total cost to attend EWU is $17,610, and 20 percent of students had their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 34
Average financial aid: $29,148
Average net price: $26,470
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
38
Mills College
Mills Hall, Mills College, Oakland, CA

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An historically women only school of liberal arts, Mills College is located in the foothills of Oakland, California. The Mills campus is heavily accented with Mediterranean-style buildings, and the college was ranked as one of the top “green” schools by The Princeton Review. Mills’ 997 undergraduate students enjoy an intimate learning environment with an average class size of 16 and a student/teacher ratio of 10:1. Mills College offers 47 different academic majors and 33 minors. Fifty-eight percent of Mills’ students live on campus where they can elect to participate in some of the more than 50 student organizations. The Mills College Art Museum has the largest permanent collection of any West Coast liberal arts college with over 10,000 works of art. The total cost to attend Mills College is $56,812, and 85 percent of students receive need-based financial aid.

Academic reputation score: 86
Average financial aid: $23,571
Average net price: $29,552
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
37
California State University—​Stanislaus
California State University—Stanislaus

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California State University—Stanislaus opened in 1957 in the agricultural Central Valley, which allows students easy access to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierras. This proximity allows for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, surfing, and other outdoor sports and activities. At CSU Stanislaus, academic programs are divided into four colleges, offering over 100 majors, minors, concentrations, and teaching credentials, the most popular include business administration, teacher education, and nursing. Stanislaus has a total undergraduate enrollment of 7,754, who enjoy the acres of lawns, bridges, waterfalls, and ponds on the CSU Stanislaus campus. Its in-state tuition and fees are $6,491 (2014–15); out-of-state tuition and fees are $17,651 (2014–15), and students graduate with a debt load substantially below the national average, due in part to more than $51 million in grants and scholarships awarded to students annually. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities recognized CSU Stanislaus as one of 12 public universities nationwide that demonstrate exceptional performance in improving retention and graduation rates.

Academic reputation score: 35
Average financial aid: $9,597
Average net price: $7,286
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
36
Woodbury University
Woodbury University

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Woodbury University of Burbank and San Diego, California is a private, non-profit institution that was founded in 1884 as Woodbury’s Business College by its namesake, F. C. Woodbury. It the second oldest institution of higher learning in Los Angeles and one of the oldest business schools west of Chicago. Today the university has grown to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees from four schools: Architecture; Business; Media, Culture & Design; and Transdisciplinarity. The student/faculty ratio at Woodbury University is 10:1, and the school has 80.3 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Its tuition and fees are $35,048 (2014–15), and 86.7 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid with an average financial aid of $17,620. The undergraduate enrollment of 1,357, can also get involved on campus by exploring more than a dozen organizations, fraternities and sororities, and student government.

Academic reputation score: 40
Average financial aid: $17,620
Average net price: $23,374
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
35
Sonoma State University
Sonoma State University

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As the name would suggest, Sonoma State University (SSU) is located in the heart of California wine country, just 50 miles north of San Francisco and 10 miles south of Santa Rosa in Rohnert Park , with many recreational opportunities nearby. Thirty four percent of the student body lives on campus, which makes SSU one of the most residential campuses within the California State University system. Campus housing accommodates students in both apartment and residential suite style facilities and notably The Princeton Review ranked SSU as having the best state university housing in the country. SSU is the only California university invited to join the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, the prestigious group of 25 universities and colleges across the nation committed to superior liberal arts and sciences education. The School of Business and Economics at SSU offers the nation’s only program that focuses exclusively on the wine industry’s business side, with courses in Wine Business Strategies and Wine Production, Operations, and Distribution. SSU’s total undergraduate enrollment of 8,351, pays in-state tuition and fees of $7,276 and out-of-state tuition and fees of $18,436 for the 2014–15 school year. Approximately 45 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid with the average financial aid package being $9,111.

Academic reputation score: 41
Average financial aid: $9,111
Average net price: $14,143
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
34
San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University

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San Francisco State University is known as a “college with a conscience,” meaning its students are particularly dedicated to social responsibility and community service. Nearly 300 courses combine academic study with community involvement, and the university’s location in a center of business, technology, and culture provides a laboratory for community-service projects, work-study opportunities, and internships. SF State awards bachelor’s degrees in 126 areas. At San Francisco State University, 64.4 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid that assists in paying the university’s in-state tuition and fees of $6,468 (2014–15); out-of-state tuition and fees are $17,628 (2014–15). In 1968, after what was then the longest student strike in the nation’s history, SFSU establishment the College of Ethnic Studies and increased recruiting and admissions of students of color. Today SF State enrolls one of the largest numbers of international students at any comprehensive university in the U.S., and ranks second among U.S. universities for the number of students who study abroad for an academic year.

Academic reputation score: 36
Average financial aid: $10,090
Average net price: $11,246
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
33
California State University—​San Bernardino
California-State-University-San-Bernardino

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California State University—San Bernardino has a total undergraduate enrollment of 16,083, with a gender distribution of 39 percent male students and 61 percent female. Though 92 percent of students live off campus, this commuter-school’s students enjoy modern facilities and get connected through CSUSB’s 118 extracurricular activities. Its tuition and fees are $6,549 (in-state) and $17,709 (out-of-state). CSUSB students are awarded an average 13 percent of California State University system scholarships, despite representing only 4 percent of the CSU’s overall enrollment. About 80 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid with 12 percent getting their need fully met. CSUSB has highly respected programs in computer science, geographic information, and decision sciences, psychology, health and public administration, accounting and finance, nursing, and a nationally acclaimed writing program. More than 70 percent of CSUSB students are the first generation of their families to attend college. California State University—San Bernardino is part of the NCAA II athletic conference. CSUSB’s sports teams are known as the Coyotes, the nickname was inspired by the coyotes that inhabit the area around the campus, which lies on the foothills of San Bernardino Mountains.

Academic reputation score: 35
Average financial aid: $10,544
Average net price: $7,113
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
32
The Evergreen State College
The Evergreen State University

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The Evergreen State College was formed in 1967 to be an experimental and non-traditional liberal arts college. Rather than issuing grades, the faculty at Evergreen provide “narrative evaluations” of students work. The 4,087 undergraduate students can select one 16 credit programs, which entails a quarter’s worth of work from up to three disciplines, taught by three faculty members. There are no “majors”; students have the freedom to choose what program to enroll in each quarter for the entire duration of their undergraduate education and are never required to follow a specific set of programs. The Evergreen State College has 1,000 acres of land that is mostly second growth forest. The entire campus serves as a natural laboratory for scientific field research and provides inspiration for creative work. The Evergreen Organic Farm annual crop bed space is slightly less than 1 acre, and produces apples and other perennial food crops, and tends to a flock of hens. Evergreen has an acceptance rate of 97.1 percent, a freshman retention rate of 73 percent, and 80 percent of students live off campus. In state tuition and room and board totals only $18,174. In addition to being a leader in green education, the school values strong academic achievements that betters the world, both environmentally and socially.

Academic reputation score: 51
Average financial aid: $6,480
Average net price: $12,736
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
31
Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City University

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Oklahoma City University is located on 104 “park-like” acres in the heart of Oklahoma City. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, OCU is home to 2,300 undergraduate students. Students at OCU can choose from over 70 undergraduate majors and enjoy an intimate 11:1 student/faculty ratio—where 78 percent of professors have terminal degrees—and an average class size of 16 for freshmen and 12 for upperclassmen. OCU offers unique learning initiatives including the University Honors Program; OCULEADS, a scholarship and leadership program; the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film and Literature; the Washington Semester Program; and study abroad program. There are more than 60 student organizations to choose from while attending Oklahama City University, and over half of students choose to live on campus during their undergraduate career. Total cost of attending Oklahoma City University is $40,260 and of the 69 percent of students who applied for need-based aid, an impressive 84 percent have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 55
Average financial aid: $17,001
Average net price: $25,289
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
30
California State University—​Chico
California State-Chico

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California State University in Chico is the second-oldest campus in the California State University system. The main campus is situated on 119 acres in downtown Chico, but the school owns and manages a 1,050–acre farm and five acres of off-campus dorms about one mile from the main campus. The University also manages 3,950–acre Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve and the 300–acre Butte Creek Ecological Reserve. Student athletes can play at the intramural, club, and on the intercollegiate varsity teams, the wildcats compete in 12 sports and are members of the NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association. The student recycling program, which started in 1996, was the first of its kind in the CSU System and is one of the best programs among state campuses. For 2015, CSU, Chico received high scores from U.S. News and World Report in several areas, including peer assessment, acceptance rate, percent of classes with fewer than 20 students and retention rate. The undergraduate enrollment of 15,292 pay in-state tuition and fees of $8,472 (2014–15) or out-of-state tuition and fees of $19,632 (2014–15).

Academic reputation score: 41
Average financial aid: $9,799
Average net price: $12,287
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
29
California State University—​Fullerton
California State University-Fullerton

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Cal State Fullerton’s tuition and fees are $6,316 (in-state) and $17,476 (out-of-state), and graduates have an average starting salary of $41,100. With a total undergraduate enrollment of 33,116, Cal State Fullerton is one of five colleges and universities to be honored with the 2014 Higher Education Civic Engagement Awards, an annual recognition of higher education institutions for their leadership and innovation in civic engagement. Diverse Issues in Higher Education has ranked CSUF 11th in the nation in terms of baccalaureate degrees awarded to minority students, based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. The Fullerton Arboretum, developed in cooperation with the city of Fullerton is open to the public along with with a historical museum, Heritage House. The choice of the elephant as the university’s mascot, dubbed Tuffy Titan, dates to the early 1960s when the campus hosted “The First Intercollegiate Elephant Race in Human History.” The May 11 event attracted 10,000 spectators, 15 racing pachyderms and worldwide news coverage.

Academic reputation score: 45
Average financial aid: $9,544
Average net price: $7,125
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
28
George Fox University
George Fox University

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George Fox University was established in 1885 in Newberg, Oregon, as the Friends Pacific Academy by Quaker pioneers and was later renamed after the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox. The undergraduate enrollment of 2,383 students enjoy the suburban setting and its 108 acres campus with close proximity to Portland, the Pacific Ocean, and other attractions of the Pacific Northwest. George Fox’s tuition and fees are $31,866 (2014–15) and it is ranked among the top 50 schools in the country in percentage of students who study abroad by U.S. News & World Report. George Fox ranked first among Christian colleges on the West Coast in Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck” ranking—a list of the colleges in America that do the best job of helping lower-income students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. Students sign a lifestyle agreement, attend required chapel/current-event gatherings, and participate in service projects. No statement of faith or religious preference are required to attend, although the majority of the student body identifys with the Christian religion.

Academic reputation score: 55
Average financial aid: $17,071
Average net price: $23,934
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
27
San José State University
San-José-State-University

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San José State University’s 154-acre campus encompasses 19 city blocks in downtown San José, midway between San Francisco and the Monterey/Carmel area at the sunny southern end of San Francisco Bay. SJSU is home to an undergraduate enrollment of 25,862. It is the founding school of California State University (CSU) system, and holds the distinction of being the oldest public institution of higher education on the West Coast. Founded to train teachers, SJSU has matured into a metropolitan university offering more than 134 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 110 degree fields, the university is also home to strong programs in education, art, music, journalism, healthcare, and social work. The university is also home to a few unique centers: the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. San José’s student population is one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation, with large Asian, Hispanic, and foreign student enrollments and is proud of its distinction as a national leader in graduating minority students. Its in-state tuition and fees are $9,496 (2014–15); out-of-state tuition and fees are $13,172 (2014–15) and the average financial aid offered to SJSU students is $9,278.

Academic reputation score: 44
Average financial aid: $9,278
Average net price: $14,393
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
26
California State University—​Fresno
California State University—​Fresno

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California State University—​Fresno began as a teachers college before eventually becoming “Fresno State.” Its campus lies on 363 acres in northern Fresno and is home to 20,295 undergraduate students. The student/faculty ratio at CSUF is 22:1, and the school has 16.5 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Although the school now offers more than 60 areas of study, Fresno State remains the fourth largest producer of teachers and administrators among California State Universities. CSUF is home to the famous Fullerton Arboretum, and became the first university in the country to operate a fully licensed winery, where student-produce wines and have won hundreds of awards in tasting competitions. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are nearby, and it only takes about an hour to drive to Yosemite National Park. Students can choose from over 200 organizations and many play for the Fresno State Bulldogs varsity sports teams, which compete in the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference. The total in-state cost of attendance at Fresno State is $16,902 and after taking into account financial aid it is the 2nd least expensive university to attend on our list with an average net price of only $5,894.

Academic reputation score: 44
Average financial aid: $10,584
Average net price: $5,894
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
25
Abilene Christian University
Abilene Christian University

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Abilene Christian University’s 3,727 undergraduate students can choose from 71 baccalaureate majors that include more than 125 areas of study. ACU has 47.5 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Graduates are accepted into medical schools at a rate more than twice the national average and accepted into law schools at a rate of more than 90 percent. ACU’s Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on the school’s 240 acre campus, where they’ll find about 100 student clubs and organizations. Seventy-five percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year. All full-time undergraduate students at ACU are provided an iPhone or iPod touch as part of ACU’s award-winning mobile-learning initiative. The total cost of attendance at Abilene Christian University is $41,800 and the average financial aid package is $12,492.

Academic reputation score: 61
Average financial aid: $12,492
Average net price: $25,758
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
24
Point Loma Nazarene University
Point-Loma_Crop

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Point Loma Nazarene University is a Christian liberal arts college located on the Point Loma ocean front in San Diego, California. Its 90-acre campus is home to 2,556 undergraduate students, the majority of which are female (63 percent). Thirty-three percent of Point Loma students live off of campus, but 84.5 percent of the freshman class return for their sophomore year. Point Loma offers more than 60 areas of scholarship as Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, and since 2004, over 90 percent of students who have applied to medical, dental, optometry, pharmacy, and veterinary schools have been admitted. With a total cost of attendance of $41,006, Point Loma was rated one of the top 100 Best Value Schools by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Academic reputation score: 64
Average financial aid: $14,186
Average net price: $27,297
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
23
California Lutheran University
California Lutheran University

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California Lutheran University is a small-sized private, liberal arts university founded in 1959 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The 225-acre campus is located midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, nestled against the hills in Thousand Oaks, just nine miles inland from Malibu. Thousand Oaks, home to 128,000 people, is rated one of the safest cities of its size in America, according to FBI statistics. Off-campus centers are conveniently located in Oxnard, Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, and Santa Maria. In 2014 Cal Lutheran merged with Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary located in Berkeley. Cal Lutheran is home to liberal arts and science programs, with more than 2,700 undergraduate and 1,400 graduate students with their undergraduate programs offering 36 majors, 34 minors, and 7 pre-professional programs. California Lutheran University ranks 15th in the U.S. News and World Report 2015 edition of Best Colleges is Regional Universities—West. Its tuition and fees are $37,140 (2014–15), but 68 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average financial aid is $17,361.

Academic reputation score: 63
Average financial aid: $17,361
Average net price: $29,347
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
22
California State University—​Long Beach
California State University—Long Beach

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The California State University—Long Beach, also known as CSULB or Long Beach State, overlooks the Pacific Ocean and offers its 31,053 undergraduate students a mix of academic and outdoor life. With 55,896 applicants getting into CSULB is a Selective process with an acceptance rate of 35 percent with most of the student body being from California. The university offers 137 different Bachelor’s degrees and is home to the largest publicly funded art school west of the Mississippi. The school’s sports teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big West Conference and are especially competitive in women’s volleyball with notable alum, two-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor. Long Beach State is regularly in the West Coast’s top 10 universities in student body racial diversity. In the most recent listing of the “Top 100 Degree Producers” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, CSULB is ranked ninth in the nation in conferring baccalaureate degrees to minority students and is among the top 10 universities nationally in both the number of master’s degrees and the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics. With an average net price to attend being only $8,466, it is no wonder that CSULB has been recognized repeatedly as one of “America’s Best Value Colleges” by The Princeton Review.

Academic reputation score: 48
Average financial aid: $9,725
Average net price: $8,466
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
21
Western Washington University
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Western Washington University’s scenic location in Bellingham, overlooks Bellingham Bay and many of Puget Sound’s 172 San Juan Islands. The university is 90 miles north of Seattle, and 55 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia. When WWU was established in 1886 it was initially training women for teaching. Today, Western Washington University operates as one of six state funded, four-year universities in Washington with a total cost of $20,920 (in state) or $31,809 (out of state) and a average graduate indebtedness of $20,473. Sustainability is an important aspect of life at WWU. The Huxley College of the Environment has been operating since 1969 and is one of the nation’s oldest environmental science colleges. Other initiatives by Western Washington University include purchasing 100% renewable energy since 2004, LEED gold certification for the renovation of Miller Hall, and developing a new state-of-the-art energy degree in association with the Institute for Energy Studies. Additionally, the school received nearly a million dollars in grants to continue solar research. Also for the last 2 years The Peace Corps has ranked Western Washington University first among medium-sized schools, with 65 alumni currently volunteering worldwide.

Academic reputation score: 57
Average financial aid: $6,659
Average net price: $13,920
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
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St. Mary’s University of San Antonio
St. Mary University

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St. Mary’s University, a Catholic Marianist University, tries to foster the formation of people in faith and educate leaders for the common good through community, integrated liberal arts and professional education, and academic excellence. Recognized by The Carnegie Foundation for institutional focus on service and civic engagement, St. Mary’s strives to be a vital partner in the ongoing effort to enhance quality of life through neighborhood revitalization, promoting the health and wellness, education, and safety. Ranked fifth in the West region for best value and quality by U.S. News & World Report, the university’s tuition and fees at $25,126 are below the national average for four-year private institutions. St. Mary’s offers learning laboratories, one of which includes a trading room where students in the AACSB-accredited Bill Greehey School of Business manage a more than $1.5 million investment portfolio. The student-faculty ratio at St. Mary’s University of San Antonio is 12:1, and the school has 53.1 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students.

Academic reputation score: 51
Average financial aid: $18,078
Average net price: $17,076
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
19
LeTourneau University
LeTourneau University

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LeTourneau University was founded by Mr and Mrs. LeTourneau as LeTourneau Technical Institute, a school to serve the many GIs returning from the war in 1946, at a vacated Army hospital consisting of over two hundred frame buildings. Today this interdenominational Christian university has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,305, with around 1,300 residential students who study at its main campus in Longview, Texas, a progressive hub city nestled among the beautiful pine-forested hills and lakes of East Texas. LeTourneau also offers a robust online program that serves 1,251 students. The university’s flagship programs are engineering, aeronautical science, education and business, and today also offers arts and Science programs. LETU offers more than 90 graduate and undergraduate academic programs with an average class size of 15. An interesting fact about LETU is that 26 percent of the residential students were homeschooled. About 96 percent of LETU students receive some form of financial aid with the average package being $13,089.

Academic reputation score: 51
Average financial aid: $13,089
Average net price: $22,565
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
18
California State Polytechnic University—​Pomona
Cal Poly-Pamona

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California State Polytechnic University in Pomona’s total undergraduate enrollment of 20,952 students enjoy the expansive 1,438-acre campus that was originally the winter ranch home of cereal entrepreneur W.K. Kellogg. The university has preserved many aspects of the horse ranch such as its mansion, rose gardens, and the award-winning Kellogg Arabian horses. The university offers more than 60 majors and degree programs in eight academic colleges. Cal Poly Pomona has one of the top ranked engineering programs in the nation and graduates roughly 1 of every 14 engineers in the state of California. As a “green” university CPP is powered by two large solar panels, the 16-acre John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies is fully carbon neutral, and the university aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2030. U.S. News & World Report ranks Cal Poly Pomona 4th in ethnic diversity and 45th in economic diversity. The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 90 percent. According to PayScale Cal Poly Pomona ranks 74th out of 1312 colleges for overall college “Return on Investment” due to low cost to attend ($9,707) and high average salary of graduates.

Academic reputation score: 47
Average financial aid: $8,956
Average net price: $9,707
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
17
Westminster College
Westminster

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Located in Salt Lake City, Westminster College integrates a strong foundation in liberal education with cutting-edge professional programs. Westminster’s 2,295 students can choose from over 38 majors and 78 academic programs of study. The college is known for its intimate academic setting as 67 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students and there is a 9:1 student/faculty ratio. All freshmen participate in learning communities, service-learning opportunities, and a large percentage of Westminster students participate in internships with local businesses. The school’s setting provides ample opportunity to explore the outdoors and participate in winter sports as Salt Lake City was ranked as a “Best U.S. Hiking City in America” by National Geographic and has two of the top ski resorts in the U.S. according to Forbes. In 2014, Westminster had 23 students compete in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, more than any other college or university in the country. Total cost of attending Westminster College is $38,820, and 21 percent of students have their financial need met in full.

Academic reputation score: 57
Average financial aid: $15,126
Average net price: $24,044
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
16
Pacific University
Pacific University

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Pacific University, a private university dotted with brick buildings, tall trees, and spacious green areas, is located 23 miles west of Portland in Forest Grove, Oregon. Pacific University’s 1,785 undergraduate students can choose from more than 60 fields of study in the arts and sciences, education, and health. Students take advantage of the school’s location, including courses on rock climbing, sea kayaking, and surfing. The Forest Grove Campus features several historic buildings. Most notably, Old College Hall sits at the heart of Pacific’s campus, and is the longest-standing academic building in the western U.S., founded in 1849 as a school for Oregon Trail orphans and Native American children. Total annual cost to attend Pacific is $50,486, but after financial aid is factored in the average net price to attend is $27,118.

Academic reputation score: 58
Average financial aid: $18,292
Average net price: $27,118
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
15
Regis University
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Regis University is one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, which share the Jesuit vision of a values-centered education that shapes intelligent decision-making and strengthens commitment to community service. Regis University is divided into three colleges: Regis College, The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, and the College for Professional Studies. The most popular 2 programs serve 61 percent of the students: Health Professions and Related Programs 35 percent, and Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services 26 percent. At Regis 70.6 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students and the average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 84 percent. Regis University has a total undergraduate enrollment of 5,172, with a gender distribution of 37 percent male students and 63 percent female students. Regis University is proud to support the legacy of R. Woody, a staunch advocate of the poor, hungry, and homeless, through staff and students who work year round on Fr. Woody’s programs that serve Denver’s homeless, elderly, and youth. About 67 percent of graduating students had to borrow to attend in 2013 with the average total indebtedness of 2013 graduating class being $27,617, not bad considering the average starting salary for graduates is $50,600.

Academic reputation score: 51
Average financial aid: $19,363
Average net price: $23,951
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
14
Seattle Pacific University
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Seattle Pacific University is a Christian liberal arts school that offers more than 60 undergraduate programs. The most popular undergraduate programs on campus are psychology, business administration, nursing, physiology, and communication. SPU is located on a 43-acre campus on the northern slope of the residential neighborhood of Queen Anne Hill, close to the artsy Fremont neighborhood and 10 minutes from downtown Seattle. Eighty-five percent of SPU’s freshman return for their sophomore year, and all 3,366 enrolled undergraduates can participate in over 50 clubs and an extensive network of volunteer opportunities through the John Perkins Center. The Falcons play in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The total cost to attend Seattle Pacific is $47,674 and the average financial aid package is $17,148. In addition, 71 percent of freshmen entering in 2012 received a merit scholarship from SPU. According to the university’s annual spring survey, 98 percent of 2011 graduates were employed or in graduate school one year after graduation. Of those working full-time, 90 percent were employed in the same or related field as their major or pursuing another field by choice.

Academic reputation score: 67
Average financial aid: $17,148
Average net price: $26,047
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
13
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
New Mexico Tech

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New Mexico Tech is located an hour south of Albuquerque on 320 rural acres of land within New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley. Sunny Socorro, New Mexico enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year and offers easy access to rock-climbing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and stunning star-gazing. New Mexico Tech offers outstanding preparation in science, engineering, and technology related fields. Its 1,604 students have opportunities to assist professors with research projects or to work at one of the many research divisions. New Mexico Tech also boasts a 13:1 student/faculty ratio and 55 percent of classes have less than 20 students. Tech students have opportunities to participate in several extracurricular activities including student government, intramural sports, and several student clubs and organizations. While only 22 percent of students have their financial needs met in full, the relatively low cost of attendance yields a low average net total price of only $10,670. Graduates of New Mexico Tech also enjoy one of the highest average starting salaries of Colleges and Universities in the West at $50,500, making it a great value. The average salary of New Mexico Tech graduates is ranked in the top 15 percent of more than 599 universities in the nation, according to the most recent data at PayScale.

Academic reputation score: 55
Average financial aid: $6,403
Average net price: $10,670
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
12
Pacific Lutheran University
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Pacific Lutheran University is a private university located in the Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington. PLU students can experience both the city cultural and sporting events as well as the vast wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Pacific Lutheran offers 44 majors and 54 minors, with 46.2 percent of its classes holding fewer than 20 students. Among its more than 100 clubs and student organizations on campus are Habitat for Humanity, the Feminist Student Union and PLU’s school radio station which is an award-winning National Public Radio affiliate broadcasting news and jazz. Pacific Lutheran University has a total undergraduate enrollment of 3,142, which includes 38.3 percent male students and 61.7 percent female students. The Pacific Lutheran Lutes have 19 varsity athletic teams in the Northwest Conference of NCAA Division III. PLU was an honoree on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll having 71 percent of students volunteer in the community during their time at PLU. At Pacific Lutheran University, 75.8 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid which makes the average net price to attend $24,067 for students.

Academic reputation score: 66
Average financial aid: $18,669
Average net price: $24,067
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
11
Whitworth University
Whitworth

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Formerly Whitworth College, Whitworth University is a private Christian college located in Spokane, Washington on a 200-acre campus of red-brick buildings and tall pines. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,358, offering 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. 57.6 percent of Whitworth’s classes have fewer than 20 students. In recent years, Whitworth has enjoyed record levels of student enrollment and retention with an average freshman retention rate of 86 percent. The most popular majors at Whitworth University include: Business Management and Marketing, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, Communications/Journalism, and Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies. U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings has Whitworth No. 9 overall, and No. 3 in “Best Values,” based upon academic quality and average scholarship/financial aid award. About 70 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average federal student-loan debt for 2014 Whitworth graduates is $23,521 (the national average for all U.S. bachelor’s degree recipients is $28,140).

Academic reputation score: 75
Average financial aid: $17,837
Average net price: $25,600
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
10
University of Portland
University of Portland

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The University of Portland is a Catholic university located in the University Park neighborhood on a bluff overlooking downtown Portland and the Willamette River. An adventurer can appreciate the fact that UP is just a short distance from the snow-capped Cascades, the Columbia River Gorge, and the sparkling Oregon Coast. UP has 15 varsity sports teams, nicknamed the Pilots, who compete in the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference. If you don’t make the varsity team there are also 15 club sports teams to join and dozens of organizations with which to get involved. The University is a top producer of Fulbright scholars nationally among “master’s universities,” ranking in the top 3 since 2006 according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Since 2001, students from University of Portland have earned 46 Fulbright grants. University of Portland has been the top Oregon school and ranked all four years since Kiplinger’s began releasing its rankings of the top 100 best value private universities. Kiplinger’s rankings measure academic quality and affordability. The average total indebtedness of 2013 graduating class was $27,182, and the average starting salary of graduates is $47,500.

Academic reputation score: 76
Average financial aid: $17,046
Average net price: $33,384
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
9
University of Redlands
University of Redlands

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Located halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on 160 acres near downtown Redlands, California lies the University of Redlands. Redlands offers its students more than 40 undergraduate majors and 58 percent of its classes have less than 20 students. Students at Redlands can enjoy a wide variety of school-sponsored clubs and activities, including hot air ballooning, sea kayaking, surfing, and quidditch. The University of Redlands prides itself on its diversity, stating that “from learning styles to social class to gender identity, our University community is strengthened by our appreciation for individuals and our ability to find commonalities amongst the differences.” Redlands also boasts several “Green Initiatives” such as a cogeneration and chiller plant that enables the University to produce the majority of its own energy, “Bon Appetit,” which aims to be the premier onsite restaurant company known for its culinary expertise and commitment to socially responsible practices, and The Sustainable University of Redlands Farm (SURF), which is a natural farm and community garden. The University of Redlands Bulldogs have 20 varsity sports teams that compete in the NCAA Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The total cost of attending Redlands is $58,559, and 25 percent have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 69
Average financial aid: $26,121
Average net price: $26,427
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
8
St. Mary’s College of California
St.-Mary's-College-of-California

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St. Mary’s College of California, located in a small suburban community about 10 miles east of Oakland and 20 miles east of San Francisco, is one of the oldest schools in the west. The 420-acre campus and moderate climate allows students to enjoy year-round outdoor recreation with lots of hiking and biking trails and parks around the town of Moraga. St. Mary’s offers a liberal arts college, rooted in the life and work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers whose motto of “enter to learn, leave to serve” guides the campus. Its curriculum focuses on Great Books and Collegiate Seminar, in which undergraduates engage in a series of discussion-based classes examining the world’s great ideas and works. St. Mary’s has total undergraduate enrollment of 3,055 and its tuition and fees are $41,380 (2014–15). Academic programs include the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Science, the School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA), and the School of Education. Although the majority of undergraduate students are in the School of Liberal Arts, the most popular major is Business Administration. St. Mary’s graduates enjoy a large average financial aid package of $21,151 and an average starting salary around $49,100.

Academic reputation score: 72
Average financial aid: $21,151
Average net price: $33,546
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
7
Seattle University
Seattle University

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Seattle University is a Jesuit Catholic university located on 50 acres in the eclectic Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. The Capitol Hill neighborhood—part hip and urban, part wooded and stately—is a community that often feels like a small town in itself. SU has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,666 with 57.7 percent of its classes having fewer than 20 students and an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 87 percent. Seatthe University has shown a dedication to sustainability: solar panels partially power two buildings, an on-campus facility composts over 178,000 pounds each year, and two community gardens allow students and faculty to grown their own food. Its tuition and fees are $38,205 (2014–15) and the average financial aid package is $15,246. Among all colleges nationally, Seattle University graduates, with a degree in either the Liberal Arts or Sciences, are the 10th highest paid in the country according to College Factual. Seattle University makes a strong commitment to community service. Approximately 75 percent of students engage in service, a rate triple the national average, and along with faculty contribute around 200,000 hours each year.

Academic reputation score: 82
Average financial aid: $15,246
Average net price: $31,961
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
6
Chapman University
Chapman-University_crop

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Chapman University’s opening was timed to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration. Founded by the Disciples of Christ, the university admitted students of both sexes and all races at its inception and has continued to demonstrate a commitment to diversity. Chapman partners with the “1939” Club, one of the largest and most active Holocaust survivor organizations in the U.S. to host an annual Holocaust art and writing contest. Tuition and fees to attend are $45,393 (2014–15), but keep in mind that 60 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid and the average net price after factoring in financial aid is $31,400. Undergraduates can choose from about 45 majors, with business administration, and cinematography and film/video production being the most popular programs. Located in the middle of Orange County, California, students can also drive to L.A. in less than an hour, Long Beach in 30 minutes, and Disneyland in 15 minutes. In 1965, Chapman took undergraduate education to the high seas when it began running World Campus Afloat, the program that would eventually become Semester at Sea, a tradition that continues at Chapman through their world-wide study abroad programs.

Academic reputation score: 78
Average financial aid: $23,955
Average net price: $31,400
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
5
Loyola Marymount University
Loyola Marymount University

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Founded in 1911, Loyola Marymount University is the largest Catholic university on the west coast and is rooted in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions. This beautiful and “green” campus consisting of 142 acres along the bluff in West Los Angeles has an enrollment of 6,087 undergraduate, 2,220 graduate, and 1,236 law school students. LMU has the 3rd highest Academic Reputation Score on our list with a 92 and has an undergraduate tuition + fees price tag of $41,372 (2014–15). To offset costs it’s good to know that 58.1 percent of full-time undergraduates receive some kind of need-based financial aid with an average package amount of $17,193. LMU was one of the first campuses in the state to recycle 100% of green waste and in 2013 Sierra Club lists LMU 60th among the nation’s “Coolest Schools” for environmental initiatives and practices. The Loyola Marymount Lions field a number of Division I athletic teams and compete in the West Coast Conference. Club sports at LMU take advantage of the varied outside activities that are accessible for students like surfing and rugby to ski and snowboarding. All undergraduates complete the core curriculum no matter which of the 5 colleges they may belong to at the university. The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 90.3 percent and 46.8 percent of LMU classes have fewer than 20 students.

Academic reputation score: 92
Average financial aid: $17,193
Average net price: $36,687
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
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California Polytechnic State University—​San Luis Obispo
California Polytechnic State University—​San Luis Obispo

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California Polytechnic State University—​San Luis Obispo is a nationally ranked, public university located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on California’s Central Coast. It is a distinctive learning community offering academically focused students a hands-on educational experience that prepares them for today’s scientific and technical world. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is the largest land-holding public university in California with part of the property being Swanton Pacific Ranch, a 3,200-acre ranch that provides educational and research opportunities, encompasses rangeland, livestock, and forestry operations for the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental sciences, and fosters CPSLO’s teaching philosophy of “Learn by Doing” with emphasis on sustainable management of agricultural practices. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has distinct colleges: Bachelor of Arts, Science, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Fine Arts in Art & Design who offer 147 bachelor’s degrees, 49 master’s degrees, and 7 teaching credentials. A Cal Poly degree is highly sought after by employers. Of the students who graduated in 2011–2012, 79 percent are working full-time or attending graduate school. Half of the full-time working graduates had secured their jobs prior to graduation. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has the highest average salary for graduates at $54,000 and the lowest average net price to attend of our list’s top 10 schools.

Academic reputation score: 75
Average financial aid: $6,463
Average net price: $16,024
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
3
Gonzaga University
Gonzaga-University_crop

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Gonzaga University is a private university overlooking the Spokane River one-half mile from the downtown business district of Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga has more than 105 buildings on the 131-acre campus with an undergraduate enrollment of 4,896 students, and 41 percent of classes include fewer than 20 students (2013–14). Gonzaga’s liberal arts tradition offers 92 fields of study with a core curriculum, which integrates philosophy, religious studies, mathematics, literature, natural and social sciences, and extensive writing in each major discipline. Gonzaga’s undergraduate engineering and business programs rank among the nation’s best. Gonzaga joined the national Real Food Challenge, a pledge that 25 percent of food served on campus will be sourced from ecologically sound, fair and humane, and local growers who employ a co-op model to allow small, local farms access to the Zag Dining supply chain. Gonzaga students complete 90,000 hours of community service annually. Gonzaga offers athletic opportunities on many levels: intramural, club, and NCAA Division I, and more than 60 percent of the GU student body participates in some form of intramural activity. The men’s basketball team is a point of pride for the university, winning more than 90 percent of its games. U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings came out recently, and for the 16th consecutive year Gonzaga has been ranked among the West’s top four regional universities additionally ranked 2nd best value, 2nd in the West for average freshman retention and average graduation rates.

Academic reputation score: 87
Average financial aid: $16,734
Average net price: $27,971
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
2
Trinity University
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Trinity University’s relatively small undergraduate population of 2,525 can boast in their college’s perfect academic reputation score of 100 and their 89 percent freshman retention rate. Trinity offers a rigorous yet flexible Common Curriculum enhanced with a wide range of interdisciplinary programs and special opportunities, designed to provide real world experiences, increase international exposure and understanding, and instill the values required for global citizenship and making a difference. Tuition and fees equaling $35,262 combined with an endowment of $1 billion (allows Trinity to provide resources typically associated with much larger colleges and universities) and the average financial aid at $18,219, makes Trinity quite the bang for your buck, especially for being such a high ranking school. Trinity was recognized as a “Best Buy” institution by the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013 for its low-to-moderate prices, high academic rating, and quality of student life. The Trinity campus sits atop a hill in the heart of San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the U.S. that boasts 15 museums, a rich cultural heritage, and a vibrant downtown centered along the famed River Walk. Trinity University has developed several traditions over its 150 year history, from climbing Murchison Tower during new student orientation and graduation, to trading in your jeans for swim trunks for birthday dunks in Miller Fountain, the many Tiger traditions celebrate the spirit of the campus.

Academic reputation score: 100
Average financial aid: $18,219
Average net price: $26,203
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website
1
Santa Clara University
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Known as “The Jesuit School in Silicon Valley,” the University of Santa Clara’s proximity to major tech firms provides its 5,435 students ample opportunity for internships during school and jobs right out of graduation, with an impressive average starting salary of graduates at $53,300. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University is the oldest operating institution of higher learning in California. Santa Clara has 522 full-time and 365 part-time faculty that teach in 45 majors within the school’s three undergraduate schools and colleges: the College of Arts and Science, the School of Engineering, and the Leavey School of Business. Santa Clara’s student to faculty ratio is 12:1, 71 percent of all classes have fewer than 30 students, and 95 percent of freshmen return for their sophomore year, which reflects why the school has earned a 99 percent on academic reputation. There are more than 100 student organizations on campus including the Santa Clara Community Action Program, a volunteer service organization, and the Santa Clara Review, a biannual literary magazine. The Santa Clara Broncos 19 Varsity sports compete in the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference. The total cost to attend Santa Clara is $54,702, and 30 percent of students have their financial needs met in full.

Academic reputation score: 99
Average financial aid: $18,705
Average net price: $36,750
Average starting salary: PayScale.com
Admissions website

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