The Best Colleges in Colorado

Colorado’s best colleges come in all shapes and sizes, some of which specialize in the liberal arts while others pursue innovations in science and engineering through on-campus research centers and testing facilities. Most of these schools can be found in the center of the state where several of the nation’s top-ranked college towns and cities reside, including the metropolitan hubs of Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver.

After reviewing dozens of colleges we have identified the best in Colorado to help you find the college that is right for you. We considered factors such as academic prowess, student life, and overall value to choose our top picks, and then we detailed the rest of our favorite colleges in Colorado to give you an overview of the state’s finest academic institutions.

Top Pick
Colorado College

High graduation rates, small class sizes, and a well-rounded student life are hallmarks of Colorado College.

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After combing through all of Colorado’s colleges, we’ve chosen Colorado College as our top pick. The campus is diverse and scenic, the education is top-notch, and graduates report higher-than-average employment and income in the years after receiving their diploma.

The 5 Top-Rated Colleges in Colorado

Editor's PicksCollegeRating
Best OverallColorado College3.9
Runner UpColorado School of Mines3.9
Best ValueRegis University3.8
Best for AcademicsUnited States Air Force Academy3.8
Best for Student LifeUniversity of Colorado-Boulder3.7

*Ratings are from Niche.com at the time of publication and can change.

Our Top Pick: Colorado College

Colorado College is among the best liberal arts schools in the nation and takes a unique approach to education. Instead of the more common semester or quarter class scheduling layout, Colorado College uses block scheduling in which students take only one class at a time during a three-and-a-half week “block”. Classes are kept small and often run long as they have no designated end times. In this system, students usually take eight classes over the academic year.

Another uncommon trait of Colorado College’s education plan is that professors and other faculty are encouraged to fraternize with students after class. The interesting “Breaking Bread” program at Colorado College reimburses professors when they host students at their homes.

The results of these unusual practices are shown in the college’s excellent student retention and graduation rates. Students here are able to focus on individual classes more intensely than they could in a divided schedule, and they’re taught by passionate professors whom they’ve developed close relations with.

A variety of athletic pursuits and on-campus activities round out the student experience at Colorado College. The most popular academic programs at this college are economics, political science, and environmental science.

Colorado College Key Features:

  • 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • NCAA Division III athletic status
  • 100% of freshmen live on campus
  • Block scheduling

Our Runner Up Pick: Colorado School of Mines

Runner Up
Colorado School of Mines

The Colorado School of Mines is well-regarded as one of America’s top universities for engineering and applied sciences.

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Equal in academic achievement but opposite in educational strategy to our top overall pick, the Colorado School of Mines is a nationally-ranked public university that focuses on engineering and applied sciences. The university sticks to the traditional semester system and houses 14 different academic departments underneath its collegiate umbrella.

Engineering is the primary focus of the school, and most graduates earn their degrees in either mechanical, chemical, petroleum, electrical, civil, or bio-engineering. Computer science and mathematical statistics are also popular programs. STEM courses rule the roost here.

Research is the name of the game at the Colorado School of Mines where the Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and the Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute partner with global corporations and local governments to propel energy engineering into the next generation. Engineering students will gain much from being a part of this industrious institution.

Colorado School of Mines Key Features:

  • 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Features two research institutes and 14 academic departments
  • Graduate income is more than double the national average
  • NCAA Division II athletic status

Best Value: Regis University

Best Value
Regis University

Regis University ranks well across the board for its overall value, online learning experience, and exemplary nursing program.

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Regis University is a private Catholic institution that features a highly respected nursing program and one of the best online learning programs in the nation. Other popular courses of study at the university include business, accounting, communications, and computer science.

At first glance, Regis University may appear to be out of reach for budget-conscience students. With costs averaging $12,500 per semester, this certainly isn’t a cheap school, but its value comes from its financial aid opportunities. 97% of students attending Regis University receive financial aid, and the average aid awarded is approximately three times larger than the national average, enough to potentially cover all costs of attending this university.

The education at Regis University is on par with our other top picks, and its spectacular value is almost too good to be true. As this is a Catholic university, however, you may want to look at our other value picks below to find another school that provides a great value and more aligns with your personal principles.

Regis University Key Features:

  • 13 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • NCAA Division II
  • Private Catholic university

Best for Academics: United States Air Force Academy

Best for Academics
United States Air Force Academy

U.S. News & World Report ranks the United States Air Force Academy the thrid-best American public university in 2019.

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The United States Air Force Academy is a small school that pushes its students, also known as “cadets”, to the limits of both their body and mind. A long list of top-tier academic programs is available at the academy including economics, aerospace engineering, political science, and civil engineering.

In joining the academy, you are also committing yourself to the United States Air Force. In exchange for that commitment, your cost of attendance is fully covered, making this another top “value” school when seen in a certain light. This also means that you will be fully employed and gain real-world work experience as an officer immediately after graduation.

The combination of small class sizes, rigid curriculum, and guaranteed work experience make this a complete education program that is a step above what a typical university will provide. The academy values its education at a worth of over $416,000, making it one of the most valuable educations around.

United States Air Force Academy Key Features:

  • 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Free Attendance
  • Required five years of service in the U.S. Air Force after graduation

Best for Student Life: University of Colorado-Boulder

Best for Student Life
University of Colorado-Boulder

Set in a vibrant community and loaded with athletic opportunities, outdoor programs, and on-campus extracurriculars, the University of Colorado-Boulder is where students want to be.

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Set in the energetic, outdoorsy town of Boulder, the University of Colorado-Boulder is rife with entertainment and adventurous opportunities. Niche.com has ranked the college a top 50 school in multiple campus life categories, bestowing these high-ranking honors because of its beautiful campus, robust party scene, rich Greek life, and tasty campus food.

Though student life is where the University of Colorado-Boulder shines, it’s no slouch in the academic department either. There are over 80 bachelor degree programs to choose from, and the university is part of an elite research university coalition called the Association of American Universities.

The graduate programs at this college have also been the recipient of acclaim, particularly the School of Education and College of Engineering and Applied Science.

University of Colorado-Boulder Key Features:

  • 18 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Maintains one of the nation’s largest sport club programs
  • NCAA Division I-FBS

Who Should Attend College in Colorado

The Centennial State is home to the Rocky Mountains, the Mile High City, and a number of excellent colleges. Whether you’re studying liberal arts, science, or business, there’s a standout Colorado school that’ll provide you with a solid education and an accredited degree.

The state’s natural beauty and adventurous people are a strong sell in and of themselves. Denver and Boulder are trendy cities, both highly rated for students in comparison to other college towns, and their unique atmospheres reverberate throughout the rest of the state into the smaller college campuses dotted across its dramatic topography.

Value is another great reason to attend college in Colorado. Many of the schools in the state cost much less than the national average, and some don’t have any extra costs for out of state students.

If you’re moving to a college town, then you won’t want to miss Life At College: 5 Keys To Finding Your Perfect College Town Apartment.

Top Pick
Colorado College

High graduation rates, small class sizes, and a well-rounded student life are hallmarks of Colorado College.

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Important Features to Consider

The college of your choice should fit your current needs and future goals. Here’s what to consider before applying to a college in Colorado.

  • Location. Colorado has some of the best college towns in America. Consider whether you want to go to school in a big city like Denver, or if smaller communities like Colorado Springs and Pueblo are a better fit for you.
  • Your academic and career goals. While there are a number of great colleges to choose from, each one, more often than not, has a specialty which it caters to. Some schools focus on the liberal arts, while others are all about engineering and applied sciences. Even if you don’t know what exact degree you want by the time you’re applying to colleges, it’d be best to have a feel for the general area of study that you want to pursue.
  • Cost and value. Two of our top picks, Regis University and the United States Air Force Academy, offer unique educations which are also of unique value, though they’re not options that are suitable for everyone. Investigate the costs of the schools you’re interested in, then see what scholarships and other financial aid opportunities exist that can help you keep your education costs low.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many colleges are in Colorado?

As of this article’s publication, there are 50 four-year universities and colleges in Colorado. Of those, 20 are public schools and 30 are private.

Does Colorado have good colleges?

Colorado has great colleges! The state is home to a number of quality schools that excel nationally in liberal arts, engineering, applied sciences, and athletics.

What is the hardest college to get into in Colorado?

The United States Air Force Academy is the toughest college to get into in Colorado with an acceptance rate of only 12% of applicants.

What is the oldest college in Colorado?

The University of Denver is Colorado’s oldest college. It was founded in 1864.

Other Colleges We Reviewed

Top Pick
Colorado College

High graduation rates, small class sizes, and a well-rounded student life are hallmarks of Colorado College.

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We looked at 20 other colleges in Colorado. Even though they didn’t make our five best colleges list, they’re still excellent in many ways and may be the right choice for you. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing below. All costs reflect the current per-semester in-state tuition and fees at the time of writing.

Colorado’s Best Academic Colleges

Colorado State University-Pueblo

Colorado State University Pueblo

Colorado State University-Pueblo is a well-rounded college with under 5,000 students set in the small city of Pueblo, Colorado. This university scores high marks for athletics and on-campus diversity. Popular majors include nursing, business, and exercise science.

Key Features:

  • 14 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • 95% acceptance rate
  • NCAA Division II athletic status

Cost: $7,500

Fort Lewis College

Fort Lewis College

A rural liberal arts school, Fort Lewis College is spearheaded by its acclaimed business program, and its human science degrees, such as those in psychology, exercise science, and sociology, showcase the human science focus of the school’s academics.

Key Features:

  • 15 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • G.I. Bill certified and Yellow Ribbon participant
  • Unique Adventure Education program

Cost: $8,500

Johnson and Wales University

Johnson and Wales University

A leading culinary school in Colorado, Johnson and Wales University is a revered institution with campuses in multiple states. Students can learn about all things foodservice, restaurant management, and culinary artistry.

Key Features:

  • 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Top 10 culinary art school according to Niche.com
  • 15 NCAA Division III varsity sports

Cost: $12,500

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Small but focused, the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design has fewer than 1000 students, all of which focus on the visual arts. The small school size and lack of extracurricular activities allow students to hone in on their skills and goals. Graphic design, illustration, and game design are among the most chosen paths at this college.

Key Features:

  • 7 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Acceptance rate of 100%
  • No athletics or on-campus housing

Cost: $11,000

University of Denver

University of Denver

The University of Denver is the oldest institution for higher learning in all of Colorado, and, as a hangover from a previous time, it features a unique women’s-only college that women can optionally enroll in and still receive their degree from the overseeing university. This is a highly-ranked school for its design, international relations, and criminal justice academic programs.

Key Features:

  • 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Quarter-based academic calendar
  • Optional women’s-only college

Cost: $8,000

University of Northern Colorado

University of Northern Colorado

Residing about 50 miles northeast of Denver, the University of Northern Colorado is set in suburbia within the town of Greeley. As a result, the campus has a laid back, quiet atmosphere, but students aren’t too far away from the excitement and conveniences of the big city. A wealth of undergraduate programs are available, as well as over 40 graduate programs.

Key Features:

  • 18 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • NCAA Division I-FCS
  • 40+ graduate programs

Cost: $10,000

Colorado’s Best Student Life Colleges

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University has an inviting campus that’s fitted with excellent housing options and above-average meal plans. Life on campus is well-reviewed by students who believe that campus is safe, beautiful, and easy to get around. A wealth of athletics and fun extracurricular activities keep students busy when they’re not studying.

Key Features:

  • 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Ranked for top 20 dorms in America by Niche.com
  • Evening degree programs available

Cost: $12,000

Colorado Mesa University

Colorado Mesa University

The largest Colorado college west of the Rockies, Colorado Mesa University stands out for its distance from the popular Colorado cities and exceptional outdoor opportunities. Students are only minutes away from a plethora of remote trailheads and national parks. Business, nursing, humanities, and exercise science are the most popular majors here.

Key Features:

  • 21 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Surrounded by national parks and monuments
  • Teaching, business, and nursing graduate options

Cost: $9,000

Colorado State University

Colorado State University

Colorado State University is one of the largest schools in the state and offers a vast array of academic and athletic paths for students to choose from. In 2015, the school was the only college in the nation to receive a STARS Platinum rating for sustainability.

Key Features:

  • 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Over 150 degrees offered across eight colleges
  • NCAA Division I-FBS athletic status

Cost: $8,500

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University

With a variety of technical degrees available across its six different colleges, Colorado Technical University serves as one of the state’s best schools for business, technology, and engineering. Over 90% of students go to school fully online. Many of the school’s degree programs can be completed either fully or partially online.

Key Features:

  • 28 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Acceptance rate of 100%
  • Fully online degree options available

Cost: $7,500

Naropa University

Naropa University

Naropa University is a small college that blends eastern philosophy into its education programs, encouraging inner contemplation and meditation to help each student grow their minds as well as their souls. This unique approach has been called transformational by students. The most common undergraduate program at Naropa University is psychology.

Key Features:

  • 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Acceptance rate of 100%
  • Philosophy-based education

Cost: $12,000

Pueblo Community College

Pueblo Community College

Pueblo Community College fills a niche in data processing, a trade that is largely absent from most other colleges in the state. Students can also study other trades here such as automotive mechanics and emergency medical treatment for paramedics.

Key Features:

  • 19 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Acceptance rate of 100%
  • Evening degree programs available

Cost: $7,500

University of Colorado-Colorado Springs

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

This mid-sized University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus is a warm and welcoming place where students report feeling safe and accepted. Aspects of university life which can be overwhelming at larger universities, such as greek life and the party scene, are mellowed out in Colorado Springs where the atmosphere is often described as kind and pleasant.

Key Features:

  • 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • NCAA Division II athletic status
  • 48 bachelor’s and 24 master’s degrees available

Cost: $7,500

University of Colorado-Denver

University of Colorado Denver

The most urban of the University of Colorado campuses, this Denver branch is actually home to two campuses with the primary campus situated in the heart of downtown Denver and the Anshutz Medical Campus set a few miles east in the town of Aurora. There are over 130 degree programs at this branch.

Key Features:

  • 17 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Rated in the top 20 campus locations in America according to Niche.com
  • Campus is divided in two: the main campus and a separate medical-focused campus

Cost: $7,500

Western Colorado University

Western Colorado University

Western Colorado University sits at 7,700 feet of elevation, making it one of the highest campuses in the country. The university is home to a unique mountain laboratory and is one of only a few schools in the nation that offers bachelor’s degrees in petroleum geology as well as land and resource management, and a master’s in environmental management.

Key Features:

  • 18 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • NCAA Division II athletic status
  • A high-elevation mountain laboratory

Cost: $8,500

Colorado’s Best Value Colleges

Adams State University

Colorado Mountain College

Adams State University is a small school with a surprisingly wide array of academic and athletic opportunities. With one of the lowest tuition prices on our list, and 98% of students receiving financial aid, this is one of the best values you’ll find, especially if you have a broad range of interests which you want to pursue.

Key Features:

  • 16 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • 99% acceptance rate
  • NCAA Division II athletic status

Cost: $6,000

Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College

Quality education rarely comes cheaper than this. Colorado Mountain College offers over 100 different academic programs and features one of the least expensive tuition costs in the state, if not the entire country. Those seeking the most bang for their buck should give this school a look.

Key Features:

  • 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • 100% acceptance rate
  • Acknowledged as the nation’s third-most-affordable bachelor’s degree college in a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Education

Cost: $3,500

Community College of Denver

Community College of Denver

Go to school in the heart of Denver and save big bucks by attending the Community College of Denver for all of your academic needs. This school does well to prepare people who are wanting to transfer to the large, nearby institutions of higher learning to complete their degrees, but the Community College of Denver also features its own fully fleshed out degree programs in areas of study such as nursing and early childhood education.

Key Features:

  • 22 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Ranked among the best 10 college locations in America by Niche.com
  • 100% acceptance rate

Cost: $4,500

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Metropolitan State University of Denver

The Metropolitan State University of Denver is an urban school with an emphasis on biology, psychology, and criminal justice. The university recently pooled together its criminal justice, computer science, and mathematics resources together in order to create one of the most comprehensive cybersecurity programs in the nation.

Key Features:

  • 17 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • Above-average after graduation earning potential
  • Cybersecurity degree program

Cost: $6,500

Red Rocks Community College

Red Rocks Community College

Coming in at the most budget-friendly price on our entire list, Red Rocks Community College if where you want to go to save money while kickstarting your journey into higher education. This large community college provides many different academic paths, among which the most popular are humanities, business, paramedic training, and accounting.

Key Features:

  • 19 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • 100% acceptance rate
  • Evening degree programs available

Cost: $3,000

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