Washington’s Best Small Colleges & Universities of 2021

Small colleges in Washington are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

Washington’s Best Small Colleges & Universities of 2021

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.

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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


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How do we determine Washington's best small colleges and universities?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Concentrated Influence”. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

The following list of the best small colleges and universities in Washington is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). We’ve identified 26 small colleges in Washington, 10 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best small colleges in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  3. It must be fully accredited.
  4. It must have a student body of 5,000 or fewer students.
  5. It must have a graduation rate greater than 40%.

Best Small Colleges & Universities in Washington

  1. #1

    Whitman College

    #740 institution's historical influence
    #1459 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    54%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1345/30

    Walla Walla, WA

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    What is Whitman College known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Medical
  2. #2

    Evergreen State College

    #1098 institution's historical influence
    #346 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $8K

    Acceptance

    98%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1084/22

    Olympia, WA

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    What is Evergreen State College known for?

    Evergreen State College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of Puget Sound

    #1190 institution's historical influence
    #776 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    3K

    Tacoma, WA

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    What is University of Puget Sound known for?

    University of Puget Sound’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Philosophy
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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  4. #4

    Saint Martin's University

    #5686 institution's historical influence
    #519 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    Lacey, WA

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    What is Saint Martin's University known for?

    Saint Martin's University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Pacific Lutheran University

    #1828 institution's historical influence
    #659 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    Tacoma, WA

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    What is Pacific Lutheran University known for?

    Pacific Lutheran University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Seattle Pacific University

    #1339 institution's historical influence
    #432 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/22

    Seattle, WA

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    What is Seattle Pacific University known for?

    Seattle Pacific University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • History
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  7. #7

    DigiPen Institute of Technology

    #3110 institution's historical influence
    #142 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1264/27

    Redmond, WA

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    What is DigiPen Institute of Technology known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Walla Walla University

    #2199 institution's historical influence
    #848 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    2K

    College Place, WA

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    What is Walla Walla University known for?

    Walla Walla University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Nursing
    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Whitworth University

    #3308 institution's historical influence
    #437 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    Spokane, WA

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    What is Whitworth University known for?

    Whitworth University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Northwest University

    #7838 institution's historical influence
    #1358 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    Kirkland, WA

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    What is Northwest University known for?

    Northwest University ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Social Work
    • Biology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

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