It's a fact. Washington State is an amazing place to go to college. If you go to college in Seattle, Tacoma or Olympia, you've got easy access to all the big-city concerts, shows, nightlife and more you could want. Western Washington is filled with all kinds of places to enjoy the outdoors, from boating on the Puget Sound to hiking in evergreen forests or exploring Mt. Rainier National Park. And, after you graduate, there are employers in the area ranging from start ups to Fortune 500 companies.
Central and Eastern Washington also have educational hubs around Central Washington University in Ellensburg and Washington State University (UW's main rival) in Spokane.
But beyond the major universities, there are many smaller schools throughout the state also worth considering. To help you narrow down the choices, here's a list of large private and public universities in Washington State, including several state universities near Seattle.
Universities in Seattle
The University of Washington (UW) was founded in 1861 and is a state-supported institution of higher education. Fondly called UW (pronouned yoo-dub), this is the largest school in the state with 54,000 students and two other campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. UW is also an esteemed research university and draws graduate and research students around the world. This is an amazing all-around choice for degree-seeking students who want to live in Seattle, as well as those looking for continuing education opportunities as UW has a great certificate lineup.
Seattle Pacific University (SPU) was founded in 1891 and has a long history in Christian higher education. The school offers 4,100 students a comprehensive education based on the gospel. It is located just minutes from downtown Seattle. The school has 60 undergrad programs, 24 master's degree programs, and 5 doctoral programs.
Seattle University (SU) is one of 28 Jesuit Catholic universities in the United States. With 7,400 students, the school is large enough to have a solid range of programs, but small enough to have approachable class sizes (the average class size is just 19 students), which is a major boon for many students not wanting to go the full state school route. The school has 64 undergrad programs and more than 30 graduate programs.
Universities South of Seattle
Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) was founded in 1890 and is located just south of Tacoma. The university offers a strong liberal arts emphasis and is pleasantly sized with just 3,300 students. Class sizes are small and the school is known for its football team, its diverse student body and its publishing program. PLU offers a range of undergrad degrees, as well as master's programs in nursing, writing, marriage and family therapy, education and business.
University of Puget Sound (UPS) is the rival school to PLU and another solid Tacoma university. With 2,600 students, UPS is small and offers about 50 undergraduate degrees and limited graduate studies, but its size means small class sizes and approachable professors.
Unlike PLU, UPS does have fraternities and sororities and it's also located in North Tacoma, which has many cultural attractions, restaurants and more nearby.
While UWT started as a branch of the University of Washington in Seattle, it has become a fully functional and independent campus (as in, you can earn a full degree without ever needing to go to Seattle). Its campus is still growing and uniquely intertwined with downtown Tacoma's community, as there are independent shops and restaurants located within the campus footprint. The degree offerings continue to grow and include undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as opportunities for professional development.
Evergreen is known for doing things a little differently. Grades are given in the form of narrative evaluations where professors give students thorough feedback rather than a single grade.
There are few specific degree programs and instead students design an area of emphasis. The school also offers master's degrees, such as Masters in Public Administration. Evergreen is located in Olympia, which is about an hour south of Seattle, and is known for being laid back and a little quirky.
Universities North of Seattle
Western Washington University (WWU) is located one hour north of Seattle in picturesque Bellingham. It is known as a smaller public college with an enrollment of 15,000 students. This college is popular with students wanting to major in education. U.S. News and World Report has frequently ranked the school as the “best regional public university in the Pacific Northwest.” Bellingham also has a lot to offer with lots of natural recreation, whale watching and a cute downtown.
Universities in Eastern Washington
The largest school in Eastern Washington (and second only to UW in the state), Washington State University (WSU) provides higher education to a student population of 28,000 statewide. The campus is located four and a half hours east of Seattle with locations in the WSU Spokane campus at Riverpoint, WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver (in Western Washington). The main campus in Spokane is located in Washington's second largest city, which has a much sunnier and snowier climate than Seattle.
Central Washington University (CWU) is two hours east of Seattle in Ellensburg. The university enrolls about 10,000 students and is a popular option for education majors. Central Washington offers a more rural college experience and Ellensburg is a small town not far from Yakima. Ellensburg is not far from the Cascade mountains, though, if you enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Cheney has been around for 125 years. It is a regional, public university located four hours east of Seattle and only 17 miles outside Spokane, so even thought Cheney is a small town, students aren't too far off from city amenities. Programs by EWU are offered in Bellevue, Everett, Kent, Seattle, Shoreline, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and Yakima. The school enrolls about 10,000 students.
Gonzaga University (GU) in Spokane was founded by Sicilian-born Fr. Joseph Cataldo. S.J. in 1881. It is a private, four-year Jesuit Catholic college and enrolls approximately 7,000 students. The university believes in educating the whole person as in mind, body and spirit.
Edited by Kristin Kendle.