• Mon. Dec 4th, 2023

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The Best Colleges in the West

Posted by Nick Selbe

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There are many factors that come into play for high school students when deciding where to apply to college. Academic prestige, available fields of study and cost are all primary aspects to consider when weighing options, but perhaps the biggest component in the decision-making process is location.

Some students want to stay close to home, some want to get as far away as possible, and some have specific regions of the country that they’d like to explore. At StartClass, we decided to rank the best schools in each geographic area of the country.

There are eight designated geographic locations—New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Great Plains, the South, the Southwest, the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. For the purpose of this series of geographic rankings, StartClass has combined certain areas to narrow the field down to five regions:

  • The West: incorporates both the Far West and the Rocky Mountain regions.
  • The Northeast: incorporates both New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
  • The Midwest: incorporates both the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.
  • The South and the Southwest are not combined with any other location.

Each region will get its own ranking of top schools, starting with the West. Schools in each region are ranked by our Smart Rating system, which is based on financial affordability, career readiness, admissions selectivity, expert opinion and academic excellence. All data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

The West region has plenty to offer—great weather year-round, virtually limitless outdoor activities and, as this list shows, plenty of options for a top-tier education.

#25. University of Portland

Location: Far West
Total Students: 4,036

Ranked No. 2 among universities in Oregon by our metrics, Portland is the second-largest private school in the state. Popular degrees include registered nursing, biology and mechanical engineering.

#24. Gonzaga University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 7,605

Gonzaga is the largest private school in Washington. The four-year graduation rate is 69 percent, which puts the school in the top 10 percent nationally.

#23. UC Irvine

Location: Far West
Total Students: 28,895

As the first public school on the list, UC Irvine presents a much more affordable option for California residents. Popular degrees include biology and business, and the school’s median post-graduation salary of $48,000 is among the top 20 percent in the country.

#22. Scripps College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,009

By our metrics, Scripps is the No. 47 liberal arts college in the country. Its four-year graduation rate of 83 percent is in the top 10 percent nationally, as is the school’s endowment of $279,771 per student.

#21. Pepperdine University

Location: Far West
Total Students: 7,315

Located in picturesque Malibu, Pepperdine is one of the top private schools in the state. With 77 programs available, it offers a diverse field of study, and popular degrees include business administration, psychology and advertising. The school’s median post-graduation salary of $46,800 is in the top 20 percent nationally.

#20. Claremont McKenna College

Location: Far West
Total Students: 1,328

Ranked as the No. 5 liberal arts college in California by our metrics, Claremont McKenna boasts a very high four-year graduation rate of 85 percent. The school has an endowment of $451,165 per student and has a small student-faculty ration of 9:1, which places it in the top 10 percent nationally.

#19. Soka University of America

Location: Far West
Total Students: 412

This small liberal arts college offers undergraduate degrees in just one field of study—liberal arts—with concentrations in environmental studies, humanities, international studies, and social and behavioral sciences. Soka University of America offers 100 percent undergraduate financial aid and has an average out-of-pocket cost of $14,772.

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