Best Colleges in Colorado

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Colorado’s colleges and universities attract some of the brightest minds in the world. With nearly 100 schools and a variety of programs and degree types, the state’s institutions of higher education offer something for everybody. Amidst all of those choices, it’s important that students can evaluate and differentiate programs, and find the right school for their educational needs and interests. Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Colorado, including the top four-year and two-year schools.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Many of the four-year colleges and universities in Colorado are nationally renowned for their competitive programs and diverse program offerings. Students in the state attend some of the world’s prestigious research universities and selective liberal arts colleges. New students can expect rigorous classes, quality programs and an education that prepares them for the professional world: according to Higher Ed Info, degree holders in Colorado make over $10,000 per year more on average than those with a high school diploma. Recent initiatives have made attending school more affordable than before and now is an ideal time to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Read on to learn more about the top four-year colleges in Colorado.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Colorado College

 5/586.36%Colorado Springs, CO


Lying in the foothills of the Rockies, Colorado College is home to just over 2,000 students. The school disseminates instruction using a unique block plan: students take one course at a time, completing all instruction in a particular subject over four weeks before moving to their next class. Traditionally, students take four blocks per semester, and eight per year.

During their first three years of school, undergrads are required to live on campus. Students can pursue 42 majors and 33 minors. All classes are taught by professors.

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Colorado State University – Fort Collins

 3/565.25%Fort Collins, CO


The flagship of the Colorado State University system, CSU is a public research university with a campus that sprawls across Fort Collins. With more than 30,000 students and 1,500 faculty members, eight colleges, and 55 academic departments, it is the second biggest college in Colorado. CSU boasts strong veterinary medicine and agricultural studies programs; other innovative offerings include bachelor’s degrees in animal science and biomedical engineering. The school boasts a long list of famous alumni, including several professional athletes, astronauts, governors, along with Maurice Albertson, who co-founded the Peace Corps.

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University of Colorado – Denver

 2/539.96%Denver, CO


CU Denver administrators like to say that the city is its campus. Denver’s oldest street cuts through the middle of campus, which lies near the city’s business district. One of the biggest research colleges in Colorado, the school offers a variety of graduate programs; more than 35 percent of the school’s 18,000 students are in grad programs. Medicine, pharmacology, business, engineering, and education are among the school’s most popular programs. CUD is also the only Colorado college to offer a comprehensive education in architecture and urban planning program.

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University of Denver

 5/576.48%Denver, CO


Located seven miles south of downtown, Denver is the only college in Colorado to have its campus designated as an arboretum. Founded in 1864, it is also the oldest college in the Rocky Mountain region. Approximately 11,000 students attend UD, about half of whom are undergraduates. Students can enroll in dozens of majors, and are encouraged to pursue dual-degree opportunities; they can also minor in a variety of subjects and disciplinary subfields.

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University of Colorado – Boulder

 3/569.82%Boulder, CO


With over 32,000 students, UCB is the largest college in Colorado. The school offers programs in 150 fields, including nationally renowned programs in aerospace engineering, ceramics, environmental law, geology, physical chemistry, and quantum physics. Colorado also has a burgeoning online footprint, offering several programs (including five engineering subjects) through its distance education platform.

Outside of class, students can participate in one of UCB’s clubs (there are over 300), enjoy the outdoor recreation opportunities that Boulder affords, and watch the school’s competitive sports teams. The Buffaloes have won 28 national sports championships – 20 of them in skiing.

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Regis University

 5/559.05%Denver, CO

Founded by several priests in Las Vegas, NM, the only Jesuit college in Colorado has operated since 1887. Located in Denver, RU offers programs across its five schools, which include colleges of professional studies, health, business, information sciences, and a college hosting traditional undergraduate majors. Regis has over 14,000 enrollees, but the school prioritizes small class sizes, and maintains an 8:1 student/faculty ratio.

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University of Northern Colorado

 2/546.35%Greeley, CO

UNC started as a teaching college, and still features one of the nation’s premier education programs for prospective teachers. Other popular programs on campus include psychology, business, sports science, physics, visual and performing arts, and nursing. UNC is home to about 12,000 students, about 75% of whom hail from Colorado. Undergraduates can choose from among 106 programs, and regardless of what they study, they’ll enjoy small class sizes – 60 percent of classes have fewer than 30 students. UNC’s University Orchestra has been named the top college orchestra in the nation seven times in the past decade, and guitarist Bill Frizzell is a grad. Novelist James Michener is also a Northern Colorado alum.

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University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

 2/547.35%Colorado Springs, CO

Set beneath Austin Bluffs, UCCS has one of the prettiest campuses among all colleges in Colorado. The school has 11,000 students, and they can choose from 39 bachelor’s programs; prospective grad students can enroll in one of 20 master’s, and five doctoral programs. At the undergraduate level, UCCS’s business, nursing, and public affairs programs are particularly renowned. UCCS maintains close ties to the defense industry, boasting a National Institute for Space, Science, and Security. The school has also produced 25 US Olympic athletes.

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Metropolitan State University of Denver

 2/524.14%Denver, CO

Sharing a downtown Denver campus with the UCD and Colorado Community College, Metro State is home to more than 21,000 students. Despite the school’s size—Metro State maintains additional campuses in Northglenn and Greenwood Village—classes are kept small, and have an average of 22 students.

Undergraduates can enroll in 58 majors; the school has especially strong programs in education, criminal justice, aviation, and business. Metro State celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Notable alumni include actress Pam Grier and novelist David Ball.

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Naropa University

 4/539.29%Boulder, CO

Naropa has a reputation as a Buddhist school, but the small liberal arts institution in Boulder describes itself as nonsectarian college inspired by Buddhism. The school is one of the few accredited colleges in the nation to integrate Eastern wisdom studies with a traditional Western education. Undergraduate degrees include peace studies, environmental studies, early childhood education, psychology, and religious studies.

Attended by nearly 1,000 students, Naropa was founded by Tibetan Buddhist scholar Chögyam Trungpa in the 1970s. Instead of the traditional pastimes and Greek life found on many college campuses, Naropa undergrads participate in different activities, such as conscious partner dancing.

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Fort Lewis College

 2/538.39%Durango, CO

Set on a mesa 6,800 feet above historic Durango, Fort Lewis bills itself as the crossroads between education and adventure. With distinctive architecture inspired by the local Puebloan culture, the site was originally built as a military fortification, before becoming a boarding school for native children. Today, Fort Lewis offers 30 bachelor’s degrees through its four academic units, and still offers free tuition to native learners. Students can join one of the school’s more than 60 organizations, which includes the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and a campus-run radio station.

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Western State Colorado University

 2/535.6%Gunnison, CO

Known as “Western” by its 2,500 undergraduates, WSCU is located in the hills of Gunnison. The school prides itself in offering a private college experience at an affordable price. WSCU features 67 bachelor’s and three graduate degree programs. Popular offerings include biology, business, sports science, psychology, and, fitting for a school deep in the Rockies, outdoor recreation. Western also has a diverse lineup of “extended studies” programs, including Outward Bound, NOLS, and the Colorado Wilderness Emergency Medicine Institute.

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Colorado Christian University

 2/542.26%Lakewood, CO

Founded in 1914 as a one-room school with two pupils, CCU is now a fully accredited institution with 6,000 students and six learning centers spread across the state. The Lakewood-based college is officially interdenominational, and offers more than 100 degree programs, including several Christian-themed degrees. It is one of largest Christian colleges in Colorado.

Students who attend CCU must sign the Lifestyle Covenant, pledging to live life to a higher standard and to commit themselves to Christ. Study abroad opportunities are provided through the Council for Christian College’s Best Semester Program, Focus on the Family’s Leadership Institute, and an affiliation with Jerusalem University College.

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Adams State University


Founded in 1921 as a teacher’s college, Adams State is a fully-accredited, private university. With 3,000 students and a 90-acre campus, Adams State offers students a typical liberal arts college experience, complete with dozens of clubs and a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Teaching remains the most popular major at Adams State, but the school is also renowned for its fine arts, business and nursing, and counseling programs. ASU was the first post-secondary college in Colorado to be federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institute.

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Colorado Mesa University

 2/533.13%Grand Junction, CO

Formerly known as Mesa State College, CMU offers vocational certificates, along with associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs across its three campuses. The main branch is in Grand Junction, set between the desert canyons of the south and the Rocky Mountains to the north. Roughly 2,000 students live on campus; the rest commute or take classes online. CMU offers four bachelor’s and one associate degree entirely online. The school counts several professional athletes, many politicians, and actor Ricky Schroder among its distinguished alumni.

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Colorado State University – Pueblo

 3/531.84%Pueblo, CO

CSU-P offers 29 baccalaureate and six master’s degree programs. Students can pursue degrees in more than 70 fields on a 275-acre campus known for its “Modern Aztec” architecture. Popular programs include nursing, criminology, and economics (which features an emphasis in finance). The school also has a budding online program, and currently offers a bachelor’s degree in construction management and a variety of distance courses entirely online.

In the past three years, the Thunderwolves have won five Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships. The school is known among Colorado colleges as a place where students can enjoy the outdoors.

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Two-year schools offer a quality education for a fraction of the price four year schools charge. Offering associate degrees, vocational training and prerequisites for four-year schools, two-year colleges are an attractive option for students from a variety of backgrounds. Additionally tuition rates at two-year schools in Colorado are lower than the national average, making school even more affordable.

The Colorado Community College System oversees the bulk of two-year programs in the state. Schools in the system awarded more than 17,000 degrees for the 2013-2014 school year, and nearly 12,000 graduates moved on to a four-year college upon finishing their program. Whether you want to save money or spend a bit more time evaluating your career options, a two-year school can build your educational foundation. Below, you can see our ranking of the best two-year programs in the state.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Colorado Mountain College

 1/526.03%Glenwood Springs, CO


Colorado Mountain College has 11 locations spread across 12,000 square miles in the heart of the Rockies. CMC features 54 associate degrees and 77 certificate programs, and was ranked 17th out of nearly 800 community colleges by CNN for successful graduation and transfer rates.

Particularly strong in veterinary, culinary, photography, and resort-management programs among Colorado colleges, CMC also offered the nation’s first ski and snowboard business degree and the only certification in ski lift maintenance. Eight athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics are CMC grads.

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Aims Community College

 3/525.46%Greeley, CO


With four campuses spread around Colorado’s Front Range, more than 160 degree and certificate programs, and both day and evening classes, Aims Community College truly offers a user-friendly experience. The main campus is in Greeley, with satellites in Fort Lupton, Loveland, and Windsor serving the school’s 8,000 students.

Aims is known among Colorado colleges for providing a pathway to students, from its Center for First Year Experience, which helps newbies transition to college life, to its Guaranteed Transfer opportunities, which make it easy to move on to a four-year college. Eighty two percent of the degrees/certificates Aims awards are in career and technical education.

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Front Range Community College

 4/519.53%Westminster, CO


With more than 30,000 students, Front Range is the largest two-year school among Colorado colleges. The school’s four campuses--Boulder, Larimer, Westminster, and Brighton Center, as well as their 27 associate degree programs, attract kids from all over the nation--more than 50 states and 32 countries.

The top programs at Front Range include nursing, computer information systems, emergency medicine, automotive technology, and business administration, and the school has guaranteed transfer credits in many programs. It also has transfer agreements with Colorado School of Mines, Metropolitan State University, Regis University, and the University of Denver, making access to higher education easier than ever.

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Red Rocks Community College

 1/526.23%Lakewood, CO


Based in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver, Red Rocks offers four associate’s degrees – arts, science, general studies, and applied science – along with dozens of certification programs. The fifth-largest two-year school among Colorado’s colleges, the school has 14,000 students a year, who attend either the main Lakewood campus or the school’s Arvada campus, which specializes in health sciences.

Red Rocks is very student oriented and offers an array of amenities designed to make it easier for students to concentrate on their studies. These include a child-care center, free tutoring, a writing center, a language lab, and more.

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Morgan Community College

 1/528.36%Fort Morgan, CO


Set in the small city of Fort Morgan, MCC provides opportunity to residents in the Centennial State’s eastern plains, serving a territory that stretches more than 11,000 square miles - bigger than that served by most Colorado colleges. With a student body of 1,800, the school has centers in Wray, Limon, Burlington, and Bennett, and it serves 28 area high schools, allowing ambitious secondary schoolers to earn transferable college credits while they’re still in high school.

Morgan offers more than 50 academic paths, with a strong emphasis on agriculture. In the last five years, more than 1,100 MCC students transferred to other schools in 45 states and overseas.

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Colorado Northwestern Community College

 1/530.41%Rangely, CO

Founded as Rangely College in 1962, CNCC has two campuses--Rangely and Craig--in the mountains of western Colorado, a photogenic region known for its outdoor recreational opportunities. About 1,000 students attend, making it one of the smaller Colorado colleges.

CNCC takes full advantage of its unique location among the mountains and canyons of the Centennial State. The school is home to a unique ropes course, has a national park ranger training academy, features equine studies and mine safety programs, and even has a rodeo team. But it’s also known for its flight school and a nationally ranked dental hygiene program.

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Trinidad State Junior College

 1/540.4%Trinidad, CO

The first community college in Colorado, Trinidad State is known for many things: it boasts one of the nation’s premier gunsmithing programs, claims the highest completion rate among the two-year contingent of Colorado colleges, and has produced an unusual number of professional athletes (e.g., 4 NFL stars, 2 Major League Baseball players, and an NBA/Olympic star).

The school’s 1,800 students can choose from 49 degree programs and vocational fields at campuses in Trinidad (not the island) and Alamosa. These include some unusual options, like aquaculture, electrical line technology, theatre, and massage, in addition to the more traditional arts and sciences.

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Northeastern Junior College

 1/529.68%Sterling, CO

Situated in the largest city of northeastern Colorado, Northeastern Junior College offers more than 80 programs of study. Many of these are the sorts of arts and sciences that can be found at any of Colorado colleges, but NJC has several unique options as well. Students can study wind energy, turf management, agriculture, and equine management with professional facilities to do so.

The school features its own eighteen-hole golf course, for example, managed by students in its turf management program. It also has a restaurant, the Plainsman Grill, run by the apprentice chefs from the culinary arts curriculum.

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CollegeAmerica – Colorado Springs

 3/539.28%Colorado Springs, CO

One of six non-profit, accredited College America facilities spread across the southwest, CA Colorado Springs offers a full-slate of two-year programs in business, healthcare, technology, and the graphic arts. The course curriculum is conservative, including the disciplines taught at most community Colorado colleges.

Everything at CA is career specific, but ambitious scholars have opportunities to advance their education, earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree onsite. The Colorado Springs corporate campus is a newly remodeled 21,000 square-foot facility featuring 20 classrooms, a medical lab, and a 65-seat theater.

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Otero Junior College

 1/535.53%La Junta, CO

On the southern edge of La Junta, OJC was founded in 1941, bringing higher education and advancement opportunities to area residents. Today, the small Colorado college continues that mission, but has added dorm life and serves 1,400 students from all over.

Otero offers an array of associate’s degree and certificate programs, from business to Homeland Security, nursing to automotive repair, cosmetology to water quality technology. The school’s Phi Theta Kappa society, the honors society for community colleges, has won national awards. OJC is also the home of the Koshare Indian Museum, featuring a collection of native artifacts and a kiva, making it unique among Colorado colleges.

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Johnson & Wales University – Denver

 3/554.5%Denver, CO

Part of the same Johnson & Wales University system that includes the famous culinary school in Providence, Rhode Island, this private nonprofit school is the smallest and most traditional of JMU's four campuses. Its 1,390 students come from 50 states and 8 countries to major in culinary arts, hospitality, and business.

More than half of all students on the leafy, 25-acre Denver campus are enrolled in the culinary arts program. In 2014, the school won top honors not just among Colorado colleges but among schools from across the nation from the National Experiential Education Association for its hands-on approach. It has 274 internship sites spread across 25 states and 4 countries, offering real-world experience.

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Pueblo Community College

 1/519.39%Pueblo, CO

PCC has a strong commitment to its community – evidenced by the fact that in the 2014/15 school year, it served 1,470 area high school students through its Early College Program, allowing them to earn post-secondary credits at little or no cost. With campuses in Pueblo and Fremont and an enrollment of 7,500, PCC has provided a pathway for hundreds of students.

Offering a traditional lineup of associate’s degree and vocational, certificate-based programs, PCC proudly transferred 332 students to four-year Colorado colleges in 2014/15 and entered many more to the work force. The school features a health clinic that provides low-cost healthcare to its students.

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Lamar Community College

 1/532.45%Lamar, CO

The smallest two-year school among Colorado colleges with just 1,000 students, LCC serves a large geographic area from its 115-acre campus in the southeastern city of Lamar. The school offers dozens of fields of study, but is most known for its agriculture/equine, cosmetology, nursing, business, and information technology programs. Unique disciplines include historic building technology, soil science, renewable energy technologies, and barber training.

As part of its community outreach, Lamar hosts an annual golf tournament, a large craft fair, and the Frontier Living Encampment, a living history gathering where visitors can rub shoulders with trappers, buffalo hunters, native tribespeople, Mexican vaqueros, and Mormon pioneers.

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College America – Denver

 1/521.33%Denver, CO

Part of the non-profit, accredited College America system, which includes six community colleges across Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming, CA Denver is housed in a corporate business park in the middle of Colorado’s largest city. The building features a high-tech multimedia center, a medical lab, a networking lab, and a student lounge all designed to deliver maximum career readiness.

CA offers four fields of study: business, health-care, technology, and graphic arts. Each program is “designed specifically for employment,” according to CA president Eric Juhlin. In other words, CA spoke to employers about their needs and formulated their classes accordingly.

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Arapahoe Community College

 1/518.45%Littleton, CO

The first community college to open in the Denver area, Arapahoe opened its doors in 1965 with 500 students. Today, the Littleton-based institution serves more than 20,000 students annually from its campuses in Littleton, Parker, and Castle Rock. More than 90 associate’s degree, vocational certification, and guaranteed-transfer programs are offered.

Arapahoe has won several honors in the humanities in recent years, distinguishing it among Colorado colleges. It’s one of only six community colleges to be part of the University of Chicago’s prestigious Great Books program, and its literary magazine won the American Scholastic Press Association’s annual magazine competition in 2014 and 2015.

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Community College of Aurora

 1/518.36%Aurora, CO

With day, evening, and weekend classes, classroom and online instruction, and two campuses in Aurora and Denver, Aurora strives to provide its 12,000 students with flexibility in their educational options. More than 95% of the school’s student population comes from Colorado and 80% work while attending school.

Aurora was founded in 1983 by the Colorado legislature and offers a full slate of associate’s degree and certificate programs. The school participates in the gtPathways program, a statewide effort among Colorado colleges that guarantees that credits from certain courses will transfer to any public college or university in the state.

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CollegeAmerica – Fort Collins

 1/539.39%Fort Collins, CO

College America offers six non-profit, accredited branches and programs in healthcare, business, technology, and graphic arts. At the Fort Collins campus, the two-year programs are limited to medical specialties such as nurse and medical assisting, pharmacology, and phlebotomy. The complex here is mostly devoted to bachelor’s-degree programs in business, computing, and healthcare administration.

College America is outcome driven ; it wants to graduate students into the workforce. To that end, it offers more extensive career service and networking opportunities than other Colorado colleges.

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Community College of Denver

 1/510.08%Denver, CO

Nicknamed CCD, this Denver institution focuses on community. Located in the city’s most historic neighborhood, the leafy Auraria campus is self-contained and comfortable, and has a mission of providing access to minority and first-generation students.

The 10,000 students here can choose from 100 different programs, which are designed to be “stackable,” meaning students can pivot one direction or the other from the same classes. They can pursue a vocation or move toward a four-year program at one of several Colorado colleges using the same credits. CCD is the only two-year college in the nation to share a campus with two four-year universities.

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If you’re thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Colorado, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Centennial State.

A Four Corners state, much of Colorado lies atop the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains. The state is an outdoor lover’s paradise: with 42 state parks and a couple dozen elite ski resorts, there is plenty to do outside, no matter the season. Cultural enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either, as museums, modern restaurants and professional sports teams dot the state’s landscape.

The sheer diversity of Colorado, in its attractions and population demographics, makes this a vibrant state to pursue your post-secondary education. The Denver-Boulder region is home to many of Colorado’s schools, though you’ll find plenty of campuses in college towns located throughout the state.


  • Attractions: Denver Art Museum, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Pavilions, Mile High Stadium (Denver Broncos)
  • Cost of Living: Numbeo’s Cost of Living in Denver
  • Popular Schools: University of Denver, University of Colorado at Denver, Westwood College, Johnson & Wales University at Denver,
  • Population: 663,862
  • Unemployment: 4.2%


  • Attractions: Boulder Canyon, Pearl Street Mall
  • Cost of Living: Numbeo’s Cost of Living in Boulder
  • Popular Schools: University of Colorado at Boulder, Naropa University
  • Population: 97,385
  • Unemployment: 3.5%


  • Attractions: Pikes Peak, United States Air Force Academy, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Cost of Living: Numbeo’s Cost of Living in Colorado Springs
  • Popular Schools: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado College
  • Population: 416,427
  • Unemployment: 5.1%


  • Attractions: Star K Ranch, Aurora Fox Theatre and Arts Center, Aurora History Museum
  • Cost of Living: Areavibe’s Cost of Living in Aurora
  • Popular Schools: Community College of Aurora, American Sentinel University
  • Population: 325,078
  • Unemployment: 4.7%


In order to establish residency in Colorado and gain in-state tuition, you must have lived in the state for at least one year. To legally qualify for residency, you must be 22 years old or have emancipation from your parents. If you attended at least one year of secondary schools in Colorado, you are qualified to receive in-state tuition. Adult students over age 23 cannot qualify for state residency through their parents.