Best Colleges & Universities Colorado

People go to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for their world-class skiing resorts, hiking trails, and camping locations. Within its borders alone, Colorado hosts 11 national forests, 41 designated wilderness areas, and countless breathtaking landscapes.


To the average college student, these beautiful surroundings are not only beneficial in an academic sense but a mental and emotional one, as well.

The state hosts more than 100 colleges and universities, meaning there is plenty to choose from.

Colorado is most known for its universities' research and engineering programs, which afford students the highest measure of comprehensive education and career preparedness.

The town of Colorado Springs even hosts one of America’s five highly prestigious military institutions, The United States Air Force Academy.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

The state of Colorado encourages college attendance through its Pathway Program, which assists students entering and re-entering college, and streamlines the process of transferring credits to and between schools. The program even facilitates tests for students with no previous credits, which allows them to test out of and receive credits for certain classes.

If you want to pursue your education in a picturesque setting that facilitates both personal and professional growth, Colorado is the place for you.


EDsmart assesses colleges in Colorado based on data that covers four main areas:

  • Cost (average net price)
  • Academic quality (graduation rate)
  • Student satisfaction (retention rate)
  • Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)

All data was gathered from the US Dept of Education websites College Scorecard and College Navigator.

Each data point is ranked with equal weight. Schools received a weighted overall ranking score for each individual point mentioned above–100 being the highest score possible.

In the case of a tie in scoring, the average net price was the determining factor for which school received the higher rank–the lower the net price, the higher the ranking.

This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top colleges in Colorado so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.

Best Colleges & Universities Colorado for 2024

1. Colorado School of Mines

  • Average Net Price: $25,211
  • Graduation Rate: 80.94%
  • Retention Rate: 91.42%
  • Median Earnings: $95,887

Colorado School of Mines: A Premier STEM University

  • Public research university located in Golden, Colorado, established in 1874 (one of the oldest STEM universities in the US).
  • Focus:
    • Engineering, science, and mathematics, with a strong emphasis on energy and the environment.
    • Offers online programs (bachelor's, master's, MBA, business, and nursing).
  • Known for:
    • Collaboration: Students work closely with professors, researchers, and industry professionals to solve real-world challenges.
    • Location: Situated in Golden, Colorado, near the Rocky Mountains.
    • Campus: Clean, well-maintained, with ample parking and wheelchair accessibility.
    • Rigorous academics: Acceptance rate of 57%, attracting intellectually curious and ambitious students.
    • High graduation rate: 81%.
    • Financial aid: Average annual in-state cost significantly reduces from $39,529 to $25,211 after aid.


  • Founded after the Gold Rush, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2024.
  • Renowned for its expertise in addressing Earth, energy, and environmental challenges.
  • Features a beautiful campus with unique geological resources.

2. Colorado College

  • Average Net Price: $26,705
  • Graduation Rate: 86.31%
  • Retention Rate: 91.15%
  • Median Earnings: $61,590

Colorado College: A Prestigious Liberal Arts College

  • Private liberal arts college located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, founded in 1874.
  • Focus: Broad liberal arts education with various academic options:
    • 42 majors
    • 33 minors
    • Small class sizes for personalized attention
  • Known for:
    • Unique academic calendar: Block Plan allows intensive focus on one subject at a time.
    • Rigorous academics: Acceptance rate of 14%, attracting high-achieving students.
    • High graduation rate: 86%.
    • Financial aid: Average annual cost significantly reduces from $83,228 to $26,705 after aid.
    • Beautiful 90-acre campus.
    • Notable alumni: Including Lynne Cheney, Liz Cheney, Peggy Fleming, and Ken Salazar.


  • Founded in memory of Thomas Nelson Haskell's daughter.
  • Strong emphasis on faculty-student interaction and critical thinking.
  • Located in Colorado Springs, offering access to urban amenities and outdoor activities.

3. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

  • Average Net Price: $19,016
  • Graduation Rate: 71.67%
  • Retention Rate: 85.28%
  • Median Earnings: $58,388

Colorado State University-Fort Collins (CSU): A Premier Land-Grant University

  • Public land-grant research university located in Fort Collins, Colorado, established in 1870 as Colorado Agricultural College (flagship university of the CSU System).
  • Focus: Diverse academic programs with strong research emphasis, especially in:
    • Business administration
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Engineering
    • Kinesiology
    • Sustainability and environmental research
  • Known for:
    • High research activity: Ranked among the nation's leaders, with annual investment exceeding $308 million.
    • Spacious campus: Sprawling 4,773 acres near the Rocky Mountains.
    • Vibrant student life: Strong sense of community, diverse extracurricular activities, and access to Fort Collins' charm.
    • Rigorous academics: Average GPA requirement of 3.7 for incoming students, with an average graduation rate of 72%.
    • Affordable: Offers various financial aid options to make high-quality education accessible.
    • Mascot: CAM the Ram.


  • Offers 79 bachelor's degrees and various graduate programs.
  • Student-faculty ratio of 17:1 for personalized attention.
  • Located in Fort Collins, known for its microbreweries, bicycles, and sustainability.

4. University of Colorado Boulder

  • Average Net Price: $21,771
  • Graduation Rate: 69.55%
  • Retention Rate: 86.11%
  • Median Earnings: $65,273

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder): A Hub for Innovation and Discovery

  • Public research university located in Boulder, Colorado, established in 1876 (flagship of the CU system).
  • Focus: Diverse academic programs with strong research focus, particularly in:
    • Engineering
    • Earth and space sciences
    • Over 150 academic programs offered through nine colleges and schools.
  • Known for:
    • Selective admissions: Acceptance rate of around 86%.
    • Beautiful campus: 600-acre setting nestled against the Rocky Mountains.
    • Vibrant student life: Diverse extracurricular activities, cultural events, and outdoor recreation opportunities.
    • Affordable: In-state tuition of $13,106 for the 2022-2023 academic year.
    • Mascot: Ralphie the Buffalo.
    • Colors: Black, gold, and silver.


  • Home to a diverse student body of over 31,000 undergraduates.
  • Strong commitment to academic excellence and research.
  • Encourages taking challenging coursework for admission (average GPA requirement of 3.68).
  • Offers early acceptance option with a higher acceptance rate (93.7%).

5. University of Denver

  • Average Net Price: $32,618
  • Graduation Rate: 75.15%
  • Retention Rate: 84.10%
  • Median Earnings: $68,764

The University of Denver (DU): A Private Gem in Denver

  • Private research university located just outside downtown Denver, Colorado, established in 1864 (oldest independent university in the Rocky Mountains).
  • Focus: A wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs across various disciplines.
  • Known for:
    • Selective admissions: Acceptance rate around 60%.
    • Rigorous academics: High GPA and standardized test score requirements.
    • Beautiful tree-lined campus: 125 acres close to Denver.
    • Vibrant university district: Offers diverse housing, dining, and entertainment options (breweries, coffee shops, arts center, museum).
    • Supportive environment: Promotes academic and personal growth for a diverse student body.


  • Offers opportunities for research and collaboration.
  • Ranked among the top colleges in the nation (U.S. News & World Report).

6. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

  • Average Net Price: $13,322
  • Graduation Rate: 51.69%
  • Retention Rate: 73.75%
  • Median Earnings: $60,077

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus: A Leader in Healthcare Education and Research

  • Academic health sciences campus located in Aurora, Colorado, established in 2006 (part of the University of Colorado system).
  • Focus: Health sciences education and research across six schools and colleges:
    • School of Medicine
    • College of Nursing
    • Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
    • School of Dental Medicine
    • Colorado School of Public Health
    • The Graduate School
    • Offers over 40 degree programs.
  • Known for:
    • Largest academic health center in the Rocky Mountain region.
    • Cutting-edge research: $704 million in research awards in 2023.
    • Significant economic impact: $11.5 billion on Colorado.
    • Interdisciplinary learning: Fosters collaboration and innovation.
    • Exceptional patient care.


  • Approximately 4,500 students and 1,100 faculty members.
  • Facilities include the Fitzsimons Building and the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.
  • Led by Chancellor Don Elliman and President Todd Saliman.
  • Motto: "Let Your Light Shine".

7. Regis University

  • Average Net Price: $23,916
  • Graduation Rate: 57.73%
  • Retention Rate: 76.09%
  • Median Earnings: $67,164

Regis University: A Jesuit University in Denver

  • Private Jesuit Catholic university located in Denver, Colorado, founded in 1877.
  • Focus: Comprehensive education rooted in the Jesuit tradition, emphasizing:
    • Academic excellence
    • Service to others
    • Development of the whole person
  • Known for:
    • Over 120 degrees offered through five colleges, including:
      • Education
      • Liberal Arts
      • Business
      • Nursing
      • Technology
    • Holistic education: Prepares students to become ethical leaders.
    • Vibrant campus life: Clubs, organizations, community service, and athletics.
    • Accessibility and affordability: Financial aid options and average cost after aid lower than national average.
    • Distinguished alumni: Edwin Feulner, Tom White, Bill Murray, and Campbell Brown.
  • Campus: 90 acres with fully furnished residential options.


  • Selective admissions with an 76% acceptance rate.
  • Regionally and specialized accredited.
  • Popular majors include health professions, business, computer science, psychology, and biological sciences.

8. University of Northern Colorado

  • Average Net Price: $16,075
  • Graduation Rate: 54.78%
  • Retention Rate: 69.72%
  • Median Earnings: $48,942

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC): A Legacy in Education

  • Public university in Greeley, Colorado, established in 1889 (originally State Normal School of Colorado).
  • Focus: Diverse academic programs with historical strengths in:
    • Teacher education (nationally recognized)
    • Health programs (nationally recognized)
    • Over 100 undergraduate and 113 graduate degree programs.
  • Known for:
    • Accessible and affordable: 91% acceptance rate, good return on investment (average graduate salary of $48,942).
    • Personalized learning: 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
    • Vibrant campus life: 33% of students live in on-campus housing, various clubs and activities.
    • Mascot: Klawz.
    • Colors: Blue, navy blue, and gold.


  • Offers rolling admissions and early action.
  • In-state tuition of $11,332 (2022-2023).
  • Notable alumni include Tom Tancredo, Chesley Sullenberger, Dirk Johnson, and Reed Doughty.

9. Western Colorado University

  • Average Net Price: $17,437
  • Graduation Rate: 52.87%
  • Retention Rate: 70.30%
  • Median Earnings: $46,955

Western Colorado University: Where Adventure Meets Education

  • Public university in Gunnison, Colorado, established in 1901.
  • Setting: 125-acre campus nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Focus:
    • Liberal arts education
    • Career preparation: Engineering, computer science, and other sciences.
    • Immersive learning experiences and outdoor exploration opportunities.
  • Known for:
    • Selective admissions (91% acceptance rate).
    • Affordable: In-state tuition of $10,813 (2022-2023).
    • Captivating professors and interesting classes.
    • Vibrant campus life: 350 student-athletes competing in 13 NCAA Division II sports.
    • Mascot: Mountaineers.


  • Approximately 3,000 students (2,600 undergraduate and 400 graduate).
  • Offers undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Boasts a strong athletic department and successful sports teams.

10. Colorado State University Pueblo

  • Average Net Price: $13,999
  • Graduation Rate: 40.40%
  • Retention Rate: 65.56%
  • Median Earnings: $48,674

CSU Pueblo: A University Focused on Opportunity and Accessibility

  • Public university in Pueblo, Colorado, established in 1933 (part of the Colorado State University System).
  • Focus: Providing social, educational, and cultural opportunities for a diverse student body.
  • Known for:
    • Highly accessible: 99.17% acceptance rate and affordable tuition (in-state: $9,245 for 2022-2023).
    • Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).
    • Strong programs in: Nursing, Business, Psychology, Sociology, Kinesiology, Liberal Arts, Biology, and Social Work.
    • Emphasis on student well-being: Alcohol prohibition in residence halls and student organization functions.
    • Successful alumni: Dana Perino, Ryan Jensen, Dan DeRose, and Mike Pennel.


  • 279-acre campus with an undergraduate enrollment of 4,772.
  • Offers 22 NCAA Division II sports.
  • Provides various financial aid options (grants, scholarships) to make education accessible.

11. Metropolitan State University of Denver

  • Average Net Price: $13,806
  • Graduation Rate: 36.86%
  • Retention Rate: 61.83%
  • Median Earnings: $49,932

Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver): Fostering Success in an Urban Setting

  • Public university in Denver, Colorado, established in 1963 (located on the Auraria Campus with other institutions).
  • Focus: Quality education and career readiness in an urban environment.
  • Known for:
    • Selective admissions (89% acceptance rate).
    • Focus on diversity: Over 53% students of color, Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).
    • Affordable: In-state tuition of $10,260 (2022-2023).
    • Personalized learning: 19:1 student-faculty ratio and average class size of 19.
    • 16 NCAA Division II athletic teams (Roadrunners).
    • Successful alumni: Pam Grier, Hayden Smith, Hugo Teufel III, and David Barlow.


  • 127-acre campus with an undergraduate enrollment of 15,848.
  • Offers various extracurricular activities.
  • First-year students can qualify for automatic admission with a GPA of 2.75 or a specified GED score.

12. Colorado Mesa University

  • Average Net Price: $15,898
  • Graduation Rate: 38.04%
  • Retention Rate: 73.57%
  • Median Earnings: $43,389

Colorado Mesa University (CMU): A Comprehensive University in Grand Junction

  • Public university in Grand Junction, Colorado, established in 1925 (with additional campuses).
  • Focus: Comprehensive education offering liberal arts, professional, and technical programs at various levels (bachelor's, associate, certificate, and master's).
  • Known for:
    • Moderate acceptance rate (64%).
    • Affordable: In-state tuition of $9,297 (2022-2023).
    • Rolling admissions with quick processing times.
    • Strong athletic tradition (NCAA Division II).
    • Ranked #20 in Best Colleges for Regional Colleges West by U.S. News & World Report (2024).


  • 86-acre campus with an undergraduate enrollment of 8,681.
  • Offers various resources and opportunities for student success.
  • Has additional campuses: Bishop Campus and a regional campus in Montrose.

13. Colorado Christian University

  • Average Net Price: $25,681
  • Graduation Rate: 31.17%
  • Retention Rate: 82.33%
  • Median Earnings: $48,890

Colorado Christian University (CCU): A Christian University with a Focus on Faith and Learning

  • Private Christian university in Lakewood, Colorado, established in 1914 (formerly the Denver Bible Institute).
  • Focus: Integrating faith and learning in a Christian framework.
  • Known for:
    • Selective admissions (100% acceptance rate).
    • 50 bachelor's degrees offered.
    • Average graduation rate of 58%.
    • Small student-faculty ratio of 15:1.
    • Supportive campus environment and strong sense of community.
    • Tuition and fees of $37,432 (2022-2023).


  • Offers accelerated courses and online programs.
  • Seeks highly motivated and talented students who value faith-based education.

14. Fort Lewis College

  • Average Net Price: $14,925
  • Graduation Rate: 46.65%
  • Retention Rate: 60.96%
  • Median Earnings: $41,422

Fort Lewis College: A Public Liberal Arts College with a Unique History and Focus on Diversity

  • Public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado, established in 1911.
  • Focus: Quality education in a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • Known for:
    • High acceptance rate (92.75%).
    • Federally designated Native American-Serving Non-Tribal Institution.
    • Affordable: In-state tuition of $9,212 (2024).
    • Variety of undergraduate programs: Business, psychology, kinesiology, biology, environmental studies, and more.
    • DII sports, outdoor activities, and supportive campus life.
    • #23 in US News Best Colleges Regional Colleges West (2024).


  • Awards more bachelor's degrees to Native American students than any other four-year institution in the nation.
  • Offers a picturesque mesa-top location and renowned faculty.
  • According to the U.S. News and World Report, it sits at #13 among Top Public Schools, #157 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, and #171 in National Liberal Arts Colleges.
  • Fort Lewis offers a variety of online courses and is in the process of constructing fully-online degree programs.
  • Over 160 Native American tribes are represented on the Fort Lewis campus.

15. Colorado Mountain College

  • Average Net Price: $6,002
  • Graduation Rate: 30.27%
  • Retention Rate: 42.27%
  • Median Earnings: $40,761

Colorado Mountain College (CMC): Affordable and Accessible Education in the Rocky Mountains

  • Public community college with multiple campuses in western Colorado (established in 1965).
  • Focus: Providing accessible and diverse educational opportunities in a supportive environment.
  • Known for:
    • Affordable tuition: In-state tuition of $4,980 (2022-2023).
    • Associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and career-technical certificates offered.
    • Full transfer agreements with all other 4-year colleges in Colorado.
    • Three residential campuses (Leadville, Steamboat Springs, Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs) - all first-year students required to live on campus.
    • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) with some program-specific accreditations.


  • Enrolls approximately 20,000 students annually in on-campus and online classes.
  • Committed to student success and preparing students for future careers.

16. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

  • Average Net Price: $24,132
  • Graduation Rate: 26.88%
  • Retention Rate: 58.71%
  • Median Earnings: $40,504

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD): Cultivating Creativity and Innovation

  • Private, for-profit art school in Lakewood, Colorado (established in 1963).
  • Focus: Fostering creativity and innovation in art and design disciplines.
  • Known for:
    • Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees offered.
    • Small class sizes (average 11 for in-person, 15 for online).
    • 10:1 student-faculty ratio for personalized attention.
    • Ranked 29th in Best Colleges for Regional Colleges West (2024).
    • Vibrant learning environment encouraging exploration and artistic expression.


  • Open Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.
  • Application fee of $50 for undergraduate programs.

Further Reading: Cheapest Online Colleges Rankings

Best Colleges in Colorado - Insights

  • STEM Excellence: Colorado School of Mines shines in engineering and science, with high graduation rates and earnings.
  • Liberal Arts Focus: Colorado College emphasizes critical thinking with its unique Block Plan and small class sizes.
  • Research Powerhouses: Universities like CU Boulder and CSU Fort Collins are known for their extensive research activities.
  • Accessibility: Institutions like UC Denver and MSU Denver prioritize education for diverse student bodies.
  • Specialized Education: Schools like RMCAD and CU Anschutz cater to niche fields like art and healthcare.
  • Affordability: CSU Pueblo and Colorado Mountain College offer quality education at lower costs, focusing on ROI.
  • Natural Integration: Many schools integrate Colorado's cultural and natural landscapes into the educational experience.
  • The diversity of institutions in Colorado caters to a wide range of academic interests and career aspirations, from STEM and liberal arts to specialized fields like art and healthcare.
  • There is a strong emphasis on research and innovation across Colorado's higher education institutions, positioning the state as a key player in addressing global challenges and advancing knowledge.
  • Colorado's colleges and universities are committed to making education accessible to a diverse student population, reflecting broader trends in higher education towards inclusivity and accessibility.
  • The integration of environmental and cultural elements into the educational experience is a unique feature of Colorado's institutions, enriching students' learning and personal growth.

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