Students seeking out schools in the Northwestern United States would do very well to peruse this list of Hidden Gems within that region. These colleges and universities offer magnificent and highly supportive undergraduate and graduate programs that are supported by prominent faculty members. The campuses provide exciting student life activities that will make any and every individual’s experience the time of their lives.
- All information is cited from the unbiased, independent NCES.gov’s College Navigator
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Colleges on this list were chosen according to their small student enrollment, thriving campus and student life, depth of coursework, and access to academic resources.
UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA SOUTHEAST – Juneau, AK
The University of Alaska Southeast operates 3 campuses throughout the state in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka. Each school offers both online and on-campus classes that provide stupendous and challenging coursework that engages students in real-world experiences. The Juneau campus is houses the main administration of UAS and offers exciting students activities and clubs, an outstanding recreation center, and impressive residential halls and apartments; Ketchikan is home to the UAS Maritime Training Center; and Sitka has incomparable programs in nursing, fisheries, and construction. The university itself takes advantage of the gorgeous Tongass National Forest landscape for both humanities and scientific undertakings, as well as outdoor activities. There are 75 degrees and certification programs available at UAS, and the campuses are bordered by the ocean, making it a perfect location for marine sciences.
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ALASKA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY – Anchorage, AK
Surrounded by forestland and miles of Anchorage’s trail system lies the 175-acre Alaska Pacific University campus. This school seeks to honor “the state’s indigenous heritage, exemplify excellence, and prepare paths,” and provides world-class educational experiences for students in each of its undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and certificate programs. The framework of each curriculum is built on five key competencies interwoven through each degree: wisdom, respect, reciprocity, relevance, and responsibility. There are excellent resources and facilities available to APU students, such as the educational center on a 900-acre private farm! The school fosters a dedicated, friendly, and nurturing community of learners and teachers. Core classes are designed so that freshman students are kept together in an effort to for close ties that are held throughout their college experiences. Classes are widely varied in each major, and students leave their alma mater with a strong foundation of knowledge and skill upon which to start their professional lives.
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BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY HAWAII – Laie, HI
Brigham Young University has one of the most superbly gorgeous campuses of any school in the United States—superbly designed, beautiful buildings, and in the midst of the Hawaiian ecosystem. This school seeks to actively integrate spiritual and secular learning while preparing students as leaders in their communities while nurturing the kingdom of God. Founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, BYU Hawaii seeks to promote peace and righteousness throughout the world, while enhancing students’ abilities inquire, analyze, and communicate thoroughly. Past and current students are incredibly grateful to be a part of such a vibrant academic community, all of whom contribute to the welcoming and diverse atmosphere that the campus extends to all. Faculty members are deeply involved in their fields and provide students with extensive support throughout their majors. Due to the small class sizes, each individual has the opportunity to accomplish highly beneficial academic feats with immediate access to resources, advisors, and professors.
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UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT HILO – Hilo, HI
Of the 10 campuses within the University of Hawaii system, Hilo is most definitely the shiniest hidden gem of the bunch. UH Hilo is highly ranked for both ethnic diversity and “the low percentage of students with debt at graduation” according to U.S. News and World Report, and is also the only place in the United States where students can earn graduate degrees in indigenous language studies! Located on the Big Island, the region provides a “natural laboratory for the study of volcanoes, astronomy, agriculture, and marine sciences.” The academic environment and campus life is calm and relaxed, and is perfect for students who are looking for a quiet and dedicated learning space, yet there are always events and activities for students in their off-time. Popular majors at UH Hilo include Psychology, Pharmacy Studies, and Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
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CHAMINADE UNIVERSITY OF HONOLULU – Honolulu, HI
Chaminade University is the only Catholic institution of higher education and is also only 1 of 3 Marianist schools in the United States. As such, the university is founded on the principles of reason and faith “in the pursuit of truth.” Both critical thinking and creative problem-solving are highly emphasized throughout each and every degree program at this school. Located in West O’ahu, the stunningly beautiful campus is well-known for its diversity, with students from all over the mainland US, the Pacific Region, and across the globe. There are 25 unique majors at Chaminade, and some of the most popular include Criminal Justice and Safety Studies, Psychology, and Business Administration and Management. There is a typical enrollment of about 1,300 students each year, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. Students feel very strongly about their school and fall madly in love with the campus and everything that it has to offer.
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NORTHWEST NAZARENE UNIVERSITY – Nampa, ID
Northwest Nazarene University offers both online and on-campus students exemplary programs, of which there are over 60 bachelor’s, 18 master’s, 2 doctoral programs, and a wide variety of continuing education credits. On a 90-acre campus in Nampa, Idaho, 1,100 students find a fitting academic home each year; one that provides Christ-centered coursework that exemplifies Christian ideals and principles. There is a rich campus life and spiritual life at NNU that provides activities, events, and opportunities of all kinds through the Office of Student Life, and the city of Boise is a short drive away. Students engage in exciting mission trips that take them out into the world where they immerse themselves in different cultures and expand their understanding of the human spirit. Community is held in incredibly high regard at this school, and students will find a social and friendly atmosphere where they can connect with a student body, of whom 16% come from different countries across the world.
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LEWIS-CLARK STATE COLLEGE – Lewiston, ID
Located at the convergence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, as well as Lewiston and Clarkson, Lewis-Clark State College provides a culturally diverse institution of higher education that provides academic programs, career and technical education programs, and community programs, of which there are over 130, which is an absolutely tremendous amount. The beautiful campus provides students with a stunning setting at which to learn their profession, and the 7 intramural sports teams, 12 athletic teams, and 60 student clubs are stellar! The tuition rate is one of the lowest in the state, and the Financial Aid Department provides students with lucrative scholarship and grant opportunities. The surrounding environments provide science and humanities majors with excellent arenas to conduct experiments and studies to enhance their understanding of their soon-to-be profession through hands-on experience, as well as prominent venues for outdoor recreation.
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THE COLLEGE OF IDAHO – Caldwell, ID
The College of Idaho is a small, liberal arts school in the Treasure Valley of Caldwell, Idaho. This college supports about 900 students each year, making it one of the smallest private institutions of higher education in the country! Of those 900 students, 10% come from 47 different nations from across the globe, making it incredibly culturally diverse. Academics at C of I include 26 undergraduate degree programs with 58 minor options. The PEAK Curriculum program is an innovate approach to education in which students are pushed to gain foundational understanding and knowledge in four key areas: natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and a professional field. Students can take advantage of the school’s study abroad programs that have exciting and well-established opportunities in countries such as England, France, China, and Australia, as well as Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains! Some incredibly impressive graduates have come from the College of Idaho, including 7 Rhodes Scholars, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and an Academy Award-winning composer.
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ROCKY MOUNTAIN COLLEGE – Billings, MT
Rocky Mountain College has been educating students since 1878 and is the convergence of 2 other colleges from around the state—Montana Collegiate Institute and Wesleyan College. There is an average student enrollment of about 1,000 students, giving the campus an intimate and friendly, which many past and current students profess to be one of their favorite parts about attending RMC. Located in the largest city in Montana, Billings offers exciting things to do throughout the year, as well as excellent opportunities to engage with local businesses and organizations that drastically enhance students’ real-world experiences. The pristine campus spans 60-acres of lush greenery and wildflowers. Rocky Mountain is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church, and there is a strong emphasis on service-learning and community-building. The grounds contain beautiful architecture in which students reside and attend classes, such as the Bair Science Center and the Fortin Education Center, most of which are constructed of the sandstone hewn from the Rimrocks.
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CARROLL COLLEGE – Helena, MT
Carroll College prides itself on establishing a strongly supportive learning environment for all of its students. There is an exciting number of unique degree programs such as Anthrozoology and Health Services Preparatory Studies, that are not your typical college major. Nearly all of the 1,300 enrolled students live on campus and contribute to the atmosphere of friendly, studious togetherness that feels like family. The superbly gorgeous countryside surrounding the school includes over 75 miles of trails for outdoor recreation, and students can take advantage of group outings with the Carroll Adventure Mountaineering Program. US News and World Report has ranked Carroll as one of the top regional colleges for 8 consecutive years, as well as one of the best schools for veterans for 4 consecutive years. Students have achieved some impressive successes in international contests, such as the Mathematical/Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling, wherein the Carroll team came in at the top 1 percent!
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MONTANA TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY – Butte, MT
Once the Montana State School of Mines, this school has since become Montana Technological University and, within its walls, houses four distinctive schools: the School of Mines and Engineering; Highlands College; the College of Letters, Sciences, and Professional Studies; and the Graduate School. What this institution values most includes community, student-faculty interaction, student success, and developing a strong foundation of knowledge in various majors. Some popular degree programs at MTU include Petroleum Engineering and Nursing, however, there are over 30 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate majors from which to choose. Students find that they are well-supported by the administration, academics, and professors, who go out of their way to ensure that each individual has the care and resources they need to succeed in their college experience. MTU maintains an extremely high job placement rate for its graduates at almost 100% and students can feel well-grounded upon exiting their degree programs and entering the job market.
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HELENA COLLEGE – Helena, MT
Helena College provides exceptional trades degrees, professional certifications, and 30 undergraduate programs that exceed the normal standards of any institution of higher education. Partnered with organizations in the community, as well as the University of Montana, students have opportunities across the city of Helena, Montana. During a roundtable event at HC, entrepreneurs, state representatives, and other reputable individuals help to guide the school in a direction that attracts the most opportunities for success, giving it an excellent foundation upon which to start a career in numerous professions. The tuition offers some of the most affordable prices in the state, and the school retains impressive accreditations and approvals from such accrediting bodies as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Montana State Board of Nursing, and the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. The administration is significantly supportive of all students and provides a huge amount of amenities and resources.
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WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY – Salem, OR
Willamette University houses three distinctive schools within its walls—the College of Liberal Arts which offers undergraduate degree programs, the College of Law, and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. This school is strongly focused on cultivating meaningful relationships between classmates and their professors, which nurtures some of the most superb academics that an institution of higher education could offer. Located in Salem, Oregon and just down the street from the state Capitol Building, Willamette students have access to some of the most outstanding opportunities in the community, particularly those in the law school, who can establish prominent networking contacts at the Capitol. This school maintains strong global partnerships and has established relationships with the Tokyo International University of America. In this way, study abroad programs take students all across the world and are located in more than 40 countries. Willamette students are guaranteed to thrive in a welcoming, nurturing community of academics.
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LINFIELD COLLEGE – McMinnville, OR
Formerly McMinnville College and currently Linfield College, this small, liberal arts school operates two campuses in both McMinnville and Portland, Oregon. The main campus is 189 acres of gorgeous grounds and architecturally stunning academic buildings. In Portland, nursing students attend the Linfield-Good Samaritan School of Nursing which holds a well-founded relationship with Good Samaritan Hospital, which offers incredible opportunities for registered nursing students to work in the field. Linfield is nationally recognized for its international focus and impressive faculty members. Some of the most popular programs include Psychology, Finance, and Accounting, as well as the Nursing program which is a transfer-only degree that gives registered nurses the opportunity to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Academics offer 49 undergraduate degrees, including excellent online and continuing education programs that provide distance education students with the same fabulous support and resources as on-campus students.
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CLACKAMAS COMMUNITY COLLEGE – Oregon City, OR
One of the largest takeaways from Clackamas Community College students is that their alma mater is a highly nurturing, friendly, and support-driven school. Located in and around the exciting city of Portland, Oregon, this school operates four unique campuses throughout town, all of which offer thrilling outdoor recreational activities in the surrounding mountains, oceans, and rivers. The first-rate academics are provided at an affordable rate and have gained national recognition, such as the Nursing program, which is housed on the Harmony Campus, and has a 100% pass rate for the NCLEX and is considered the best nursing program in the state of Oregon. The professors are mild-mannered, encouraging, and hard-working, and have established an extremely positive learning environment for students of all majors. Popular majors at CCC include the Liberal Arts and Humanities program, as well as the Business Administration and Management and the Electrical Engineering Technician programs.
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GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY – Newberg, OR
George Fox University is founded on 4 central principles: excellence in liberal arts, excellence in professional preparation, Christ-centered community, and local and global engagement. This Christian university supports about 4,000 students each year, which includes undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree-completion students. There are superb on-campus and online degree programs that have a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, making class-sizes small and intimate and give each individual a strong stance and voice to develop through top-notch coursework. Newberg is a safe and welcoming city that is about 20 miles south of Portland, which provides students with a small, homey community in which to reside throughout their schooling, as well as an exciting destination city to attend sporting events, shop, see concerts, and more!
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PACIFIC UNIVERSITY – Forest Grove, OR
Pacific University has a unique stance as an institution of higher education, in that many of its 3,937 enrolled students are the first in their families to earn an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree! This puts a distinctive air to the atmosphere of the campus, wherein students are highly dedicated to their studies and are vastly supported by encouraging faculty members. Pacific University has a huge array of nationally recognized degrees in numerous fields, such as education, optometry, and health professions. The latter supports some of the most popular programs in the school, such as Kinesiology and Exercise Science. Considered one of the top regional universities in the northwest by U.S. News and World Report, this school has been making a strong positive reputation for itself since 1849. Class sizes represent an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and student reviews claim that Pacific teachers are easy to contact and form relationships with. This school is highly dedicated to student success and provides individuals with everything that they need, from preparatory materials to academic resources.
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WHITMAN COLLEGE – Walla Walla, WA
Whitman College provides a singularly special learning environment that is both an arboretum and an outdoor museum that, according to their website, has over 1,400 trees within its borders. As for the facilities, the campus provides state-of-the-art resources of which students from any and all disciplines are able to take advantage. Despite the major, there is a huge emphasis put on the development of critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving, as well as community building through civic engagement, internships, and real-world experiences. Academics are provided at affordable tuition rates, which have earned Whitman College a ranking as one of the best college values from Kiplinger. Students are incredibly well-taken-care-of and supplied with the outstandingly fast internet, healthy food options, fabulous athletic facilities, and popular sports of all kinds, as well as a slew of activities and events on the calendar each year.
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WHITWORTH UNIVERSITY – Spokane, WA
A Christian university of around 3,000 students, Whitworth University provides both graduate and undergraduate degrees that number over 60. In the last decade, over $125,000,000 worth of renovations has been executed on the 200-acre campus. Having been educating students for over century-and-a-quarter, the majors at Whitworth have been vastly improved and now offer excellent coursework and outstanding academic opportunities and some of the most well-liked include those in the biological and physical sciences, psychology, and elementary education. The curricula utilize a 4-1-4 structure, which means that students have two 4-month semesters as well as a 1-month January term wherein students take one highly rigorous class, participate in an internship or study abroad program, and more! Whitworth was, in fact, one of the first institutions to implement such an academic calendar. Students seem to ubiquitously agree that the school promotes kindness and education of the whole person, both mind and spirit. That, on top of the strong intramural and athletic teams, making this university a fun and exciting home away from home for every student.
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DIGIPEN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY – Redmond, WA
The DigiPen Institute of Technology offers a fabulous array of exciting workshops, degrees, continuing education programs. Many students come to this school for its magnificent engineering and technical programs, such as Computer Programming, Human Computer Interaction, and Video Graphics and Animation degrees. Professors at Digipet are extremely dedicated to their students and provide them with any and all the resources and attention that they need to succeed in college and in the future. There is a current student enrollment of 1,102 and students come from 50 countries around the world as well as all 50 states, making the beautiful campus highly culturally diverse and mind-opening. Graduates from this fine institution have gone on to work for prominent companies, such as video game production companies: Valve, Bungie, and ArenaNet. While there is no campus living, students still find an incredibly supportive learning environment at this Hidden Gem of the Northwest.
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UNIVERSITY OF PUGET SOUND – Tacoma, WA
An institution highly dedicated to diversity and inclusion, the University of Puget Sound is a stunningly gorgeous campus that brings together students from all backgrounds and walks-of-life, creating a nurturing, multicultural educational environment. The more than 50 programs and 1,200 courses available at UPS are instructed by extraordinary faculty members, 100% of whom hold doctorate-level degrees or an equivalent. Forbes Magazine has listed Puget Sound as one of the Top Most Entrepreneurial Colleges in America, so students can look forward to an exciting array of resources and opportunities of which to take advantage. Many such opportunities are aligned with businesses and organizations in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington, which is only 35 miles north of campus. The school is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, this school also provides a nurturing and supportive platform for inter-religious dialogue and engagement as well as an outlet for social justice.
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WYOMING CATHOLIC COLLEGE – Lander, WY
Wyoming Catholic College provides well-established, “immersion-focused” educational programs that foster the mind, body, and spirit. The academic pathways include eight tracks: Humanities, Fine Arts, Latin, Trivium, Math/Science, Philosophy, Theology, and Leadership. Each of these areas is designed to give students a uniquely broad perspective into higher education. Faculty members bring a huge amount of knowledge and experience to the classroom and develop excellent curricula that are based around fabulous literature and open dialogue. The local town of Lander is an excellent resource and home for WCC students, all of whom are welcoming, open, and form a close-knit and loving community of friends and learners. Throughout the weeks and months, there are is a regular schedule of events that can be taken advantage of, such as long hikes and bike rides, music events, performances, and dancing!
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CASPER COLLEGE – Casper, WY
Casper College sits on an incredible 200-acres that overlook gorgeous mountains and surrounded by lush trees and beautiful sunshine. There are an impressive 140 programs where students can start their undergraduate coursework with associate’s degrees and certifications. There are also 11 institutions of higher education through which students can take advantage of partnership programs to earn advanced degrees. A huge amount of Casper College graduates transfer to the University of Wyoming upon completing their programs, which provide strong foundational knowledge and skills. The nursing programs at CC are quite popular, which particularly thrive from the partnerships and transfer relationships with other schools. The tuition rates are highly affordable, and the median annual salary for graduates is around a comfortable starting wage of about $35,000. Small class sizes and enthusiastic professors make for exciting coursework and a vibrant learning environment for all majors.
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NORTHWEST COLLEGE – Powell, WY
Northwest College is a small, caring, and highly motivational school that offers excellent liberal arts and technical majors of all kinds. Each major and student are supported by an encouraging administration and supportive professors who put a lot of effort into their classes. The residential programs are superb, as are the online learning opportunities which utilize cutting-edge platforms. Some of the most popular programs at Northwest include welding and nursing. The tuition is affordable and there is a litany of financial aid opportunities of which a large percentage of the student body take advantage. The 132 beautiful acres of the campus support 62 buildings and around 1,000 students each year. Class sizes are small and the student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1. Students only have the most wonderful things to say about their alma mater, which mainly include the nurturing quality of the faculty and staff.
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SHERIDAN COLLEGE – Sheridan, WY
Part of the Northern Wyoming Community College District, Sheridan College offers degree programs that provide in-depth, hands-on learning experiences. Students have access to outstanding resources such as the writing and math centers, as well as individualized support services with tutors and counselors. There are excellent community and business partnerships maintained by Sheridan College, where students can complete internships and establish invaluable networking connections. There is a strong spirit of integrity, respect, and open-mindedness at this school, which make the classrooms and majors a safe place to engage in challenging dialogues to expand critical thinking skills. Some of the most popular programs include Diesel Mechanics and Licensed Practical Nursing Training. Facilities and buildings on campus have been recently renovated, some are brand new, yet all are architecturally magnificent. Students find a truly special place at Sheridan College.