25 Best Western Regional Colleges

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Updated: August 1, 2017

Regional colleges can often fly under the radar when prospective undergraduates are looking for their ideal landing spot. Most college rankings tend to focus on nationally known universities, even though regional colleges offer similarly meaningful and substantive educations, but with benefits that make them far more appealing, academically and financially, for many students.

Regional colleges tend to focus more on undergraduate and master’s programs, whereas national universities will also have students pursuing doctoral work. Their smaller scope helps to provide more individual attention to students and to emphasize the importance of local communities. Their strong connections with local businesses and residents help provide avenues for students to become interns and employees during their education, which allows them to hit the ground running the moment they graduate.

But despite this local focus, regional colleges have a large scope for students that wish to explore new areas of professional and academic life, and in the West there is a limitless expanse of space to grow and explore.

In fact, the close-knit community that grows out of each school creates a broader culture of camaraderie amongst Western regional schools. With national universities, students get in-state tuition only in their one, home state, but regional universities provide similarly reduced tuition for students of their entire, local area. For Western regional colleges specifically, the Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students from fifteen states throughout the West to receive a reduced tuition rate comparable to in-state tuition at public universities. And the Western Regional Graduate Program means that these benefits can extend through to graduate studies, for students who wish to pursue academia even further. Even private colleges, thanks to their small size, tend to have high grant and scholarship awards, which helps make many regional colleges highly affordable.

Regional colleges provide students with the strong support and attention that comes from a focus on local business and homegrown talent, but they also work together to ensure that students’ options still give them the choices and the freedom to make their education unique and well-suited to their own, personal needs.

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What are the best regional colleges in the West?

Best Regional Colleges in the West Badge

College Choice uses a grouping of factors covering institutional excellence, student satisfaction, and return on investment to develop rankings. Institutional excellence looks at stats such as graduation rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and endowment sizes to judge each school’s ability to follow through on providing an excellent education for each student. Student satisfaction measures how satisfied current and former students felt with the services and programs offered at each school. And finally return on investment looks at the financial benefits students are likely to receive from the school’s education, weighed against the costs of attendance. In the end, we believe these 25 schools represent the best options of one of the best-kept secrets in the Wild West: regional colleges.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Carroll College
    Location

    Helena, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1909, Carroll College is a small, Catholic liberal arts college located in Helena, Montana. The school has an undergraduate population of nearly 1,500 students, around 2/3 of whom are Montana residents. Carroll is often ranked near or at the top of Western Regional rankings for overall quality, for veterans and for economic value.

    Program Features

    The school offers more than 40-degree programs, including pre-professional degrees in:

    • Law
    • Nursing
    • Pharmacy
    • Seminary
    • Veterinary Science
    • Dentistry

    Students also have a far higher than average acceptance into medical and dental programs, almost doubling the national average at 85 percent. They also offered the first ever degree program in Anthrozoology, which looks at the interactions between humans and animals.

    Notables

    While the school has a Roman Catholic affiliation, only around half of the student body is made up of practicing Catholics. However, the school does require students to take at least two theology classes as a part of their CORE requirements, along with things like mathematics, science, etc. They also have a successful football team that has won six NAIA National Football Championships, nicknamed “The Fighting Saints.”

  2. Oregon Institute of Technology
    Location

    Klamath Falls, OR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The Oregon Institute of Technology is a public polytechnic institute, which has two locations: a residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban campus in Wilsonville. The school was founded in 1947 and services a student body of nearly 5,000 undergraduates. In 2012, the school rebranded itself to its current name of “Oregon Tech”, which also coincided with the consolidation of its four campuses around Portland into one, main campus in Wilsonville.

    Program Features

    The school focuses on STEM majors, including popular majors such as:

    • Engineering
    • Electronics Engineering Technologies
    • Biology
    • Radiologic Studies

    There are also eight graduate programs, which further emphasize the STEM focus of the school’s academics, including:

    • Master of Science in Allied Health
    • Master of Science Civil Engineering
    • Master of Science in Engineering
    • Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering

    Notables

    OIT had the nation’s first undergraduate program in renewable energy engineering. They also have the OIT Outdoor Program, which helps students to enjoy the natural beauty of Oregon through activities such as Skiing, Camping, White-water rafting and skydiving.

  3. Montana Tech of the University of Montana
    Location

    Butte, MT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Originally founded as the Montana State School of Mines offering two degrees from within one building, Montana Tech has now grown into a public university serving 3,000 students and offering more than 70 undergraduate degrees. The school is located in Butte, MT and has been affiliated with the University of Montana since 1994.

    Program Features

    The school’s mining roots have led to a focus on STEM majors and programs, some of the most popular of which are:

    • Petroleum Engineering
    • Engineering- General
    • Business/Commerce- General
    • Mining Engineering

    They also offer 13 graduate degrees, which continue to develop students in STEM-related fields:

    • Masters in Petroleum Engineering
    • Masters in Mining Engineering
    • Masters in General Engineering
      • Civil Option
      • Mechanical Option
      • Welding Option

    Notables

    The emphasis on mining can also extend to extra-curricular clubs at Montana State, as a team from the school recently placed 7th at a NASA Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In 2015, ground was broken for a new Natural Resources Research Center that will provide laboratory space for natural resources and energy undergraduate and graduate education and research on campus.

  4. Texas Lutheran University
    Location

    Seguin, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Texas Lutheran University is a private, liberal arts university located in Seguin, Texas. The school has an affiliation with The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and has an undergraduate population of 1,400. Texas Lutheran has been well ranked for Western Regional Colleges by publications such as the U.S. News & World Report.

    Program Features

    The liberal-arts nature of the school provides for a wide range of degree programs, covering the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, among others. Many students choose courses of study in:

    • Business
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Texas Lutheran is also well regarded for their School of Music, which allows students to pursue professional careers in music, or to simply supplement their liberal arts education further.

    Notables

    The school’s Lutheran connection leads to an undergraduate education that, to quote the school, “is given perspective by the Christian faith.” The school emphasizes an understanding of the Christian faith as part of its graduation goals, and also encourages students to engage in service activities during the school year.

  5. Oklahoma Baptist University
    Location

    Shawnee, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Oklahoma Baptist University is a private, liberal-arts university located in Shawnee, Oklahoma. OBU is associated with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and has just under 2,000 undergraduate students. Oklahoma Baptist has been Oklahoma’s highest rated regional college in U.S. News & World Report for almost two decades.

    Program Features

    OBU offers more than 75 academic programs, as well as graduate degrees in business, nursing, therapy, intercultural studies, and Christian studies. As a liberal arts school, Oklahoma Baptist has a diverse range of offerings, though some common majors are:

    • Education
    • Theology
    • Business
    • Marketing
    • Psychology

    Notables

    Religion plays a large part in the culture of OBU; the school teaches academic subjects through a Christian lens. OBU hosts a Christian Youth Camp called Super Summer every year in the first three weeks of June, bringing together Christian Youth Groups from across the country.

  6. Warner Pacific College
    Location

    Portland, OR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Warner Pacific College is a Christian liberal arts college located in Portland, Oregon with a student population of around 1,300. This private college shares an affiliation with the Church of God, a holiness Christian denomination based out of Anderson, Indiana. The school bills itself as a Christ-centered, urban college designed to serve students from diverse backgrounds: in 2015, 52 percent of incoming freshman were students of color.

    Program Features

    WPC offers 27 majors, including four areas of pre-professional study, as well as 29 minor options. Many students at Warner choose to major in:

    • Business
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Theology and Religious Vocations

    The school also offers a limited number of graduate programs, including Masters in teaching, human services and management.

    Notables

    WPC requires all students enrolled in 12 or more credit hours to participate in the Faith and Service Commitment Program. For resident students this means attending 15 chapels per semester and 10 service hours, while commuter students must complete a total of at least 25 hours, including at least 5 chapels and 5 service hours.

  7. Brigham Young University-Hawaii
    Location

    Laie, HI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    BYU-Hawaii is the Hawaii campus of the Brigham Young University system based out of Provo, Utah. The school is located in Laie, HI; approximately 2,800 attend the undergraduate school. Like the main campus, this private school has an association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Program Features

    BYU-Hawaii’s academic plan divides areas of study into three categories: Arts and Humanities, Math and Sciences, and Professional Studies. Students pick a major from one of these categories, then they select a minor from each of the remaining categories. Some of the most popular majors at BYU-Hawaii include:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Accounting
    • Teaching English as a Second Language
    • Arts
    • Social Work and Youth Services

    Notables

    Ninety-seven percent of the student body is a part of the LDS church; full-time students are required to take at least 14 credits of religious studies classes, including two Book of Mormon classes, one Doctrine and Covenants course, one New Testament course, and a number of electives.

  8. Brigham Young University-Idaho
    Location

    Rexburg, ID

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    BYU-Idaho is the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University: This campus serves just over 17,500 students and is located in Rexburg, Idaho. Like the main campus, this private school has an association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Program Features

    BYU-Idaho offers more than 70 bachelor’s degree programs, and operates on a three-semester system commonly referred to as “tracks.” Following these tracks, many students end up pursuing studies in:

    • Business
    • Nursing
    • Exercise Physiology
    • Communications
    • Public Health
    • Arts
    • Accounting

    Notables

    Almost every student who attends BYU-Idaho is a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, and many students choose to take a break from their studies to go on the requisite, Mormon two-year mission trips. LDS Church tithing funds help to keep tuition rates low, in spite of the college’s private status.

  9. East Texas Baptist University
    Location

    Marshall, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    East Texas Baptist University is a private, Christian university located in Marshall, Texas. The school is associated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and has a student population of around 1,200 students.

    Program Features

    East Texas Baptist offers 38 undergraduate major options, as well as seven graduate majors. ETBU emphasizes real world applications of classes, as students often participate in internships, practicums, and collaborative research; the school also encourages study abroad during spring terms. Popular majors include:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Marketing
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies

    Notables

    Religion plays a key role in campus life, for faculty, staff and students across campus. At the start of each, new fall semester, the school hosts Church Day, where students are introduced to churches in the local area. East Texas Baptist’s mascot is a tiger: the school has a live tiger mascot nicknamed “Sarge”, who is housed off-campus.

  10. Southwestern Christian University
    Location

    Bethany, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Southwestern Christian University was founded in 1946, originally as a bible college; the school has since evolved into a private, liberal arts university with around 850 students. Southwestern Christian is located in Bethany, Oklahoma and is associated with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church

    Program Features

    Southwestern Christian has more than 30 degree programs, and emphasizes the study of academic subjects through a Christian lens. Many students thus go on to study:

    • Business
    • Sports and Fitness Management
    • Theological and Ministerial Services
    • Psychology
    • English
    • Music

    Notables

    The school notes that it strives to serve Christians from multiple denominations, but also that its unique, faith-based contribution comes from the heritage of its sponsoring church. The school offers an SCU Spiritual Life Program, which uses SCU chapels, local churches, Christian service and “All University” functions to help students to capture the spiritual mission and lifestyle of the university.

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