Best Public Colleges in Washington 2023

Best Public Colleges in Washington 2023

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Washington provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Colleges and Universities in Washington

Of the 40 public options, the University of Washington in Seattle is the largest. Roughly 40,000 students attend classes in fields like nursing, education, biology, and computer science. This public research institution is also affordable, charging about $11,000 for tuition. In fact, none of the public schools in Washington exceed $12,000 in price. This includes community colleges, technical colleges, and four-year universities, making Washington a uniquely affordable place to earn your associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Washington also has 24 private institutions. Of those, nine are religious. The most widely known of these, Catholic university Gonzaga enrolls roughly 7,000 students, at a cost of $40,000, in areas such as religious studies, engineering, and law. Central Washington University (CWU) is a smaller public school, serving just over 12,000 students, and has a tuition of $8,000. With 15% of its population being Hispanic, CWU is now recognized as an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution. Washington health professions also have the opportunity to receive funding for loan repayment through Washington’s Health Professional Loan Repayment Program.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, Washington offers ocean beaches and lush forests. In fact, over half the state is covered in forests, earning Washington its nickname as The Evergreen State. Viewers atop the Space Needle in Seattle can take in the sights of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and both the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges. In addition, prospective students can choose from over 60 higher education institutions in the state.

Check out the top higher education programs and find an affordable degree in Washington.


What are Washington’s Colleges & Universities?

Washington’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

Washington's Best Public Colleges Badge
Download Badge

This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 32 public universities in Washington. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Washington, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

Back to Top

Best Public Colleges in Washington 2022

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1326/30

  2. #7

    Bellevue College

    Bellevue , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    11K

    What is Bellevue College known for?

    Bellevue College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    What is University of Washington Tacoma known for?

    University of Washington Tacoma’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/23

    What is University of Washington Bothell known for?

    University of Washington Bothell’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    5K

  6. #11

    Peninsula College

    Port Angeles , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Peninsula College known for?

    Peninsula College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Seattle Central College known for?

    Seattle Central College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #13

    Wenatchee Valley College

    Wenatchee , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Wenatchee Valley College known for?

    Wenatchee Valley College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #14

    Highline College

    Des Moines , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Highline College known for?

    Highline College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Spokane Community College known for?

    Spokane Community College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Lake Washington Institute of Technology known for?

    Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  12. Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Spokane Falls Community College known for?

    Spokane Falls Community College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #18

    Skagit Valley College

    Mount Vernon , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Skagit Valley College known for?

    Skagit Valley College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #19

    Olympic College

    Bremerton , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Olympic College known for?

    Olympic College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #20

    Centralia College

    Centralia , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Centralia College known for?

    Centralia College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #21

    Green River College

    Auburn , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    38%

    Student body

    7K

    What is Green River College known for?

    Green River College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #22

    Edmonds College

    Lynnwood , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $4K

    Graduation

    35%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Edmonds College known for?

    Edmonds College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #23

    North Seattle College

    Seattle , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    40%

    Student body

    3K

    What is North Seattle College known for?

    North Seattle College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  19. #24

    Whatcom Community College

    Bellingham , WA

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    34%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Whatcom Community College known for?

    Whatcom Community College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

  20. Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    5K

    What is Tacoma Community College known for?

    Tacoma Community College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

Back to Top

Washington’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utilized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of Washington
  2. Evergreen State College
  3. Washington State University
  4. Western Washington University
  5. University of Washington Bothell
  6. University of Washington Tacoma
  7. Eastern Washington University
  8. Central Washington University

Check out our directory of public colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top public colleges in every state.