Best Colleges in Washington

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With 86 post-secondary institutions available to those seeking an education in Washington, it is an understandably daunting process to choose just one. Prospective students must decide between a two-year or four-year school, but the decision making does not end there; other important factors to consider include retention rates, tuition cost and financial aid availability.

To assist you in your search, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Washington, including the top four-year and two-year schools. Using our comprehensive algorithm, each institution has been ranked according to essential factors and scores, giving you a head start in this important process.

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

Washington is home to some of the nation’s most acclaimed four-year institutions. Although the state does not have an official university system, the University of Washington is considered a public ivy, and was ranked #12 in the country by Forbes in 2015. Among its 20 private and public bachelor-granting institutions, several of these are considered the most competitive in the nation, according to a recent NY Times article. However, students who do gain admission to a four-year school can be assured of reasonable tuition rates; the Washington state Senate recently passed a bill to reduce public university costs to a lower percentage of the state’s average wage.

Additionally, the state has extensive resources in place to help attendees secure scholarships and financial aid, such as the College Bound program, which assists lower-income undergraduates with books and tuition. We have compiled the list below to help guide you through the decision making process.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

University of Washington

 3/583.73%Seattle, WA


The central of the three-campus public university, UW-Seattle's campus is home of one of the most renowned medical schools in the country. UW is known for its cutting-edge research, and the school has received the most annual federal funding for research of any public college since 1974. It's easy for undergraduates to get involved, and many go on to present their work at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

UW is also home to the Huskies athletic program, which competes in the NCAA Division 1. Greek life is big at the school, and it has over 50 sororities and fraternities. UW recently launched a new race and equality initiative to combat racism and bolster diversity.

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Whitman College

 5/587.28%Walla Walla, WA


Whitman College is a private liberal-arts institution with a extensive visual and performing arts department, which offers specialities in music theory, music history, jazz studies, and more. Among the school's unique features are its 45 language houses, where native speakers of Spanish, Japanese, French, or German can live.

Whitman has a vibrant athletic community, with nearly 70% of all students participating in an intramural sport, and extensive outdoor recreation courses like kayaking and glacier mountaineering. The school also offers an annual "Semester in the West" program, in which students travel through the region in a converted horse trailer.

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Gonzaga University

 5/583.15%Spokane, WA


This private liberal arts university offers a Catholic education with renowned programs in business and engineering. However, the university also offers a wide range of studies, including a master's program in communication & leadership studies and a bachelor's program in entrepreneurship & innovation.

Gonzaga is a famously veteran-friendly institution, offering scholarships to every member of its vibrant ROTC community and army nursing programs. In addition, it boasts an active student body; a NCAA Division I school, Gonzaga is home to impressive women's and men's basketball teams. In addition, nearly half of all Gonzaga students take advantage of the school's study abroad programs, and it is one of the top institutions for graduating alumni into the Peace Corps.

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Whitworth University

 5/575.23%Spokane, WA


Whitworth is a private, liberal arts institution that gives students a Presbyterian education and spiritually focused on-campus life. Residence hall staff include cultural diversity advocates, who ensure that students practice cross-cultural respect, and small-group coordinators, who arrange intimate prayer circles.

The university's broad undergraduate programs range from a rich theology program, offering specialties in environmental studies and gender studies; a substantial pre-med program; and an innovative computer program, with majors like human-computer interaction and visual design in computing. Whitworth is known for producing students who receive Fulbright Awards. In addition, Whitworth has a successful athletic program, with impressive football, basketball, and track teams.

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Seattle Pacific University

 5/575.14%Seattle, WA


SPU is a Christian university, with an active community of religious services, faith-based volunteering, and theological discourse. The Seattle-based university is best known for its impressive health-related programs, such as nursing. Over the past decade, over 90% of SPU pre-med students have been accepted into medical schools.

SPU also boasts substantial science resources, including two island campus locations where students can conduct field research in biology. SPU offers a unique bachelor's program for honors students that centers education around a "great books" curriculum and culminates with an impressive senior dissertation. The on-campus community famously conducts a weeks-long Christmas celebration.

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University of Washington – Bothell

 3/567.41%Bothell, WA

This rapidly growing four-year public university is in a constant state of innovation. Over half of 45 academic majors at UW Bothell are less than five years old. Students can study a wide range of fields, including conservation and restoration ecology, community psychology, mathematical thinking, and visualization and consciousness.

UW Bothell is committed to diversity. Nearly half of its population is comprised of minority students, 51% of whom are the first in their family to go to college. To further support students, UW Bothell offers on-campus ESL classes. In addition, the campus boasts 58 acres of wetlands where students engage in field research and study.

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University of Washington – Tacoma

 3/555%Tacoma, WA

UW Tacoma is a branch campus of the larger University of Washington institution. More than 80% of students at UW Tacoma transfer there from community colleges. At Tacoma, students learn in small classroom environments with research-focused courses. Unique majors include sustainable urban development and ethnic, gender, and labor studies.

UW Tacoma is home to the unique Center for Urban Waters, a resource facility where scientists, engineers, and policymakers research solutions to urban waterway restoration. Community service is a pillarstone of UW Tacoma, and the school maintains ongoing outreach programs at local public schools and nonprofits, such as the YMCA.

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Seattle University

 5/577.64%Seattle, WA

Seattle University is a private Jesuit institution with a large student population. The school is known for its excellent legal writing program and its macroeconomics department. Seattle also has specialty departments in sport administration and leadership.

The school's engineering department recently added an innovative master in structural engineering program. The school also boasts an impressive project center where students can use their computer science, mechanical, engineering, or international business skills to create ideas and designs for real-world companies and nonprofits. The campus ministry organizes weekly events and several camping retreats throughout the year.

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Western Washington University

 2/571.5%Bellingham, WA

This public institution Western Washington University maintains a large student population on its bayside campus. Washington offers bachelor's degree programs in philosophy, politics, and economics, all modeled around the famous University of Oxford. Western also has a widely acclaimed vehicle research institute, where students can study design and fabrication, transmissions, and more.

Western is also known for its Huxley College of the Environment, which operates several research institutes on topics like toxicology. Notable alumni include Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, and TJ Martin, an Oscar winner of Best Feature Documentary.

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Pacific Lutheran University


This private, Evangelical Lutheran institute is nestled in the suburbs of Tacoma. PLU offers liberal arts and professional programs ranging from Chinese studies to classics, with many unique concentration programs like printmaking and conflict & global peacebuilding.

The school has a renowned holocaust studies programs, and acclaimed undergraduate and graduate education programs. PLU operate on a semester basis, and during the J-Term each January, students focus on one intensive course. PLUS also has an acclaimed study-away program, and was the first to offer classes on all seven continents.

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University of Puget Sound


Affiliated with the United Methodist Church, University of Puget Sound offers a traditional four-year core liberal arts curriculum. The school has more than 50 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and education. Graduate students have access to state-of-the-art off-campus outpatient clinics and laboratories.

Puget Sound was one of 40 schools listed in the famous "Colleges that Change Lives" ranking for its focus on small class sizes and goal to foster student-teacher mentorships. Over 90% of students at Puget Sound receive financial aid. The school has a vibrant campus life, with a tradition of Greek life, environmental activism, and a unique “midnight breakfast".

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Washington State University

 3/567.24%Pullman, WA

WSU has several campus locations across the state. The school is known for its programs in chemical engineering, agriculture, neuroscience, and food science, and has been acclaimed for its vital clean technology research. WSU recently created a unique bachelor's degree program in construction engineering, designed with the help of several Fortune 500 companies.

WSU has an active campus life, with more than 60 fraternity and sorority chapters. The school has also been ranked among the most supportive colleges for LGBTQ students. The popular center for civic engagement helps student participate in thousands of hours of community service each year.

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Central Washington University

 2/553.41%Ellensburg, WA

Central Washington University is located in the rural setting of Ellensburg and is particularly renowned for its music, geology, paramedicine, physics, and education programs. With an emphasis on undergraduate research, CWU provides numerous grants for students wishing to conduct research or present their research at conferences. Students have access to unique facilities such as the on-campus Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array, one of the country's central earthquake and tsunami detection centers.

With a dozen "living learning communities", CWU groups students in on-campus residences based on academic interests. Students can also join one of the 130 campus-recognized organizations, including nationally ranked physics clubs.

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Northwest University

 4/553.03%Kirkland, WA

Northwest University is a Christian University that sits just off Lake Washington. The campus is located near some of Washington's biggest corporation headquarters, including Google and Amazon, where students frequently intern during the school year. NU is renowned for its biblical studies and ministry majors, as well as its nursing and education programs.

The school offers dozens of majors in subjects ranging from music industry business to exercise science. NU emphasizes the importance of incorporating faith-based service into academic pursuits. For example, seniors in the nursing program take a month-long trip to work in hospitals and clinics in places like Taiwan and Africa.

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Centralia College

 1/533.85%Centralia, WA

Centralia College is the oldest community college in Washington, and only recently began offering four-year degree programs. Students at the school can now pursue bachelor's degrees in applied sciences, information technology, and diesel technology.

Centralia offers courses year-round at less than half the price of a typical Washington state four-year college.The programs operate on a flexible schedule, with hybrid courses that use online learning and evening classes to accommodate working adults. The school also offers certificate programs in topics such as early childhood education, crime scene investigation, and welding.

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Saint Martin’s University

 5/547.72%Lacey, WA

Saint Martin's University is a Catholic, liberal arts institution with an operating Benedictine monastery located on campus. The school is acclaimed for its civil & mechanical engineering, education, and business administration programs. The school also maintains an English as a second language (ESL) intensive program and graduate programs in engineering management, counseling psychology, and more.

With an ingrained commitment to Benedictine values, Saint Martin has a strong liberal arts core academic system. The school maintains a commitment to diversity; 36% of students are people of color. St. Martin's has a large military population enrolled in courses at extension campuses.

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Eastern Washington University

 2/545.77%Cheney, WA

Eastern Washington University is a public university with a large student population taking courses at several campus locations through the state. Eastern offers 135 fields of study, including Chicano education, American Indian studies, aging studies, and urban & regional planning.

The school's impressive athletic program participates in the NCAA Division 1 Big Sky Conference athletics. On-campus community is fostered through Eastern's robust Greek-life program, as well clubs like EPIC Adventures, which offers outdoor trips for kayaking, ice climbing, and more. Eastern is the nation's only college to operate a research facility location in a national wildlife refuge.

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Walla Walla University

 4/555.81%College Place, WA

Walla Walla University is a small suburban school affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Walla Walla U offers liberal arts, professional, and technical programs, including a robust selection of associate degrees. Some unique areas of study available include programs in automotive technology, French studies, health promotion, and respiratory therapy.

The on-campus spiritual community offers students a number of weekly services, as well as the opportunity to take on a role in campus ministries leadership. Additionally, the community program offers weekly opportunities for campus-wide activities including Week of Worship and an MLK Jr. Day celebration. Walla Walla U also is home to the impressive Rosario Beach marine Laboratory, where students and professors conduct marine biology research.

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Evergreen State College

 2/556.23%Olympia, WA

Students at Evergreen receive a page-long assessment of their work in each course, rather than a traditional letter grade. In addition, students enroll in one thematically-based program each quarter, rather than multiple classes. Evergreen does not have any majors, and it instead focuses on fostering a progressive student community of learning.

Evergreen's graduate programs, which include master's degrees in environmental studies and teaching, require a more structured approach and mandates certain coursework. Unique institutions on campus include an environmental reserve, a student-operated organic farm, and the Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, which provides an environment to bridge understanding between the student body and the neighboring tribes of Northwest Indigenous Nations.

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City University of Seattle

 3/5N/ASeattle, WA

City University of Seattle is a private institution with multiple campuses and a dense online curriculum. The school aims specifically to help working adults earn degrees, and offers programs with the built-in flexibility of evening and online courses. Most CityU students attend school on a part-time basis. The school is particularly welcoming to veterans, with reduced tuition, special scholarships, and partnerships with veteran support groups.

The school offers more than 60 degree programs, including a nationally-renowned graduate business program, an MBA program, and an education program. Degrees range in level from an associate degree in general studies to a doctorate of education degree in leadership.

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Two-year institutions in Washington provide services, degrees and transfer pathways to over 400,000 students each year across 34 campuses in the state. An associate’s degree can be a great platform for transitioning to a four-year university, or provide a skill-based career jumpstart; regardless of your end goal, Washington is a great place to pursue one. A 2016 budget plan includes expansion of community college MESA (Math, Engineering, and Science Achievement) departments to help supplement the state’s rapidly-growing technology workforce. Additionally, the state boasts a stellar transfer rate: nearly 40% of all Washington baccalaureate grads start at a two-year institution. Below is a collection of the top colleges to assist you in your search.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Renton Technical College

 1/562.67%Renton, WA


Renton Technical College offers 60 associate degrees and career training programs ranging from band instrument repair technology to kitchen major appliance technology. Renton's community offers a technology resource center, computer labs, a child care center for students with children, and restaurant dining services prepared by students in the culinary arts program.

With 60% of its student population comprised of people of color, the school is committed to diversity. Additionally, Renton established a Women in Trades and Technology program to support female students pursuing careers in overwhelmingly male-dominated fields, like industrial engineering and welding.

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North Seattle College

 1/528.93%Seattle, WA


North Seattle College is a large community college located in the Washington wetlands. North is known for its stellar engineering, technology, and science departments, which offer cutting-edge career training programs in topics like nanotechnology and sustainable & conventional energy. The school is also home to the unique Watch Technology Institute, where students can master the art of Swiss watchmaking.

The majority of North students eventually transfer to the University of Washington to pursue their bachelor's degrees. North has a diverse population of international students, and supports a wide variety of cultural events. The school maintains an annual, award-winning literary magazine, Licton Springs.

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Green River Community College

 1/530.53%Auburn, WA


Green River College is a community college in the suburbs of Auburn that offers more than 40 technical and professional programs. Green River is known for its aviation technology program, which prepares students for careers ranging from air traffic controller to airline dispatch. The school also maintains a strong natural resources program, offering degrees in park management, water quality, and more.

Green River has one of the largest international student populations of any community college in the country, many of whom live with nearby host families or in the school's student apartments. The school has an intensive ESOL classes designed for adult immigrants and refugees.

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Seattle Central College

 1/524.56%Seattle, WA


Seattle Central College offers associate and bachelor's degrees and certificates in 48 fields ranging from sign language interpretation to respiratory care therapy. Popular programs include culinary arts and social and human services. In addition to SCC's main campus, the school maintains a Seattle Maritime Academy, which prepares students for the marines, and a wood construction center, where students can study carpentry, marine carpentry, and cabinet-making.

SCC has a diverse student body, and a remarkably high international student population. Notable alumni include martial artist and action film star Bruce Lee and the musician Macklemore.

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Bellingham Technical College

 1/555%Bellingham, WA


Bellingham Technical College offers more than 50 associate degrees and certificate programs in fields ranging from electro-mechanical technology to fisheries and aquaculture. The school is known for offering students a hands-on, real world experience in professional fields like nursing and welding.

As a member institution of national nonprofit Achieving the Dream, BTC is committed to helping low-income students and students of color complete their degrees. BTC also established an LGBTQ initiative to design better programming surrounding gender expression and sexual orientation.

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South Seattle College

 1/526.11%Seattle, WA

Seattle Community College South Campus is one of the three colleges in the Seattle Community College District. Students can choose from more than 100 degrees and certificates in topics ranging from horticulture to winemaking. They also have the opportunity to pursue a range of bachelor's degree.

The college's Georgetown Campus hosts a number of apprenticeship programs, where students can train to be ironworkers, retail meat cutters, and more. The campus is also home to the South Seattle College arboretum, which consists of a sequoia garden, botanical garden, and more. South Seattle College's WorkSource Career Center assists students with their career search, offering resume workshops, networking, and more.

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Highline Community College

 1/528.38%Des Moines, WA

Highline Community College offers more than 50 professional and technical programs where students can train to become personal fitness trainers, private security officers, and more. Highline's main campus is located in the woodlands of Des Moines, and the school offers additional courses at the nearby Marine Science and Technology Center, where students can learn to monitor water quality or track weather data.

Highline has received national awards for its commitment to diversity, including recognition for its service to Asian-American students. As a member of the Working Families Success Network, Highline works to bolster community amongst students with children.

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Walla Walla Community College

 1/532.72%Walla Walla, WA

Walla Walla Community College is made up of three campuses spread across southeast Washington, with a satellite campus in Washington State Penitentiary. The school offers 45 associate degree programs, as well as certificate programs ranging from professional golf management to collision repair technology. The school recently added innovative programs in wind energy, solar energy, biofuels, and water resources

Walla Walla is a multiple-time winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Its enological and viticulture programs are widely acclaimed, and have trained many of the community's winery owners. Walla Walla has an active theatre department, with programming including a 24-hour playwriting competition.

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Whatcom Community College

 1/531%Bellingham, WA

Whatcom Community College offers transfer degrees and professional and technical training programs. The school was one of the first community colleges to be named a National Center of Academic Excellence by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security for its information assurance/cyber defense programs, and has also been honored for its online student advising technology, which allows students to plan their degrees and career roadmaps online.

Whatcom is committed to supporting all demographics of students, and has established an LGBTQ student success initiative, an intercultural center, and a 50+ encore program for students over the age of 50. Nearly half of Whatcom's student body are first-generation college students.

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Pierce College – Puyallup

 1/529.56%Puyallup, WA

Pierce College Puyallup is the newest of the three campuses in the Pierce College District, and offers associate degree programs for transfer students studying arts or sciences. The school also provides professional training in topics like digital design and homeland security emergency management.

The Puyallup campus also provides unemployed workers special opportunity grants to cover tuition costs for certain professional and technical programs. Pierce has been recognized for its veteran-friendly resources, including a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success, where veterans can find tutoring, support groups, and more. Pierce is also one of about 125 schools to offer college credit for military-based skills developed during service.

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Edmonds Community College

 1/527.95%Lynnwood, WA

Edmonds Community College has a 50-acre campus in Lynnwood, Washington, and a satellite center at Central Washington University. Edmonds offers 64 associate degrees and 62 professional certificates in fields ranging from landscaping and groundskeeping to crisis/emergency/disaster management. Popular programs include paralegal training and culinary arts.

With an on-campus residence hall and child care center, Edmonds accommodates students with varying needs. The school also hosts a Veterans Resource Center, which offers special counseling services and financial advising for veterans and active duty students. Nearly half of the student population enroll in the school’s flexible online or hybrid programs.

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Grays Harbor College

 1/537.11%Aberdeen, WA

Grays Harbor College is a rural community college with a robust distance learning program and satellite campuses located around the community. The school offers several academic transfer programs in topics such as biological sciences, history, optometry, and speech/theater arts. The school also offers workforce preparation programs in carpentry, diesel technology, early childhood education, and more.

Grays Harbor offers a unique reservation-based bridge program designed to help Native American students earn degrees. Gray Harbor recently added its first bachelor's program in organizational management. The program is tailored toward working adults, and the curriculum consists of evening courses and an internship program.

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Centralia College

 1/533.85%Centralia, WA

Centralia College is located in the forestlands of Centralia and is bordered by mountain ranges. Centralia offers transfer, bachelor’s workforce, and international programs in a wide range of topics. The school maintains partnerships with several colleges and universities, helping students make a seamless transition to a four-year school.

The oldest community college in the state, Centralia offers additional certificate programs training students in crime scene investigation, computer aided drafting, and more. The school maintains a number of partnerships with local businesses, giving them access to professional equipment and hands-on training.

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Pierce College – Ft. Steilacoom

 1/523.75%Lakewood, WA

Pierce College operates two college campuses, as well as academic training on a nearby military base. The college provides two bachelor’s degree programs, and 48 associate degrees ranging from construction management to microbiology. Pierce also operates a PierceWorks! program, which provides seven weeks of career-transition skill-building for recently laid-off workers. Additional community courses include flagging and traffic control training.

The Fort Steilacoom campus operates a 12-hour leadership program, in which students are trained in communication and decision-making skills. On-campus resources include the Science Dome, an enormous planetarium where professors conduct live-astronomy shows.

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Clover Park Technical College

 1/532%Lakewood, WA

Clover Park Technical College operates a main campus in Lakewood and a satellite campus for aviation courses. The school offers associate degrees in 56 fields, with programs covering aerospace & advanced manufacturing; health sciences & human services; science, technology, & engineering; transportation & trades; and business & hospitality.

Clover Park launched its first bachelor's degree program in manufacturing operations, which students can complete within two years. It also offers a variety of certificate programs. Most students are over the age of 25. Transfer credits for nontraditional learning or military experience are accepted.

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Big Bend Community College

 1/532%Moses Lake, WA

Big Bend Community College is a two-year institution located in the rural town of Moses, WA. Unique among two-year colleges, the school operates on-campus student dormitories. Big Bend offers 43 associate degrees in fields ranging from aircraft rescue fire & fighting to homeland security.

Through its Multicultural Development Team, Big Bend has launched several diversity initiatives, including a push to increase the number of Hispanic students earning STEM degrees. The STEM center, which provides tutoring and instructional sessions, supplements this goal. Big Bend's "Graduation Project" is a year-long community initiative designed to provide educational support to low-income students.

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Bates Technical College

 2/549.72%Tacoma, WA

Bates Technical College is a public technical college that spans three campuses in Tacoma. The school stresses the importance of workforce-based learning, and courses are typically conducted to simulate a workplace environment. At Bates, students work closely with local industries in their field and graduate prepared to work. Bates's most popular fields of study include practical nurse, early childhood education, and diesel & heavy equipment mechanics.

Nearly half of Bates students work part time, and 56% of students have children. The school operates a number of student-run cooperative preschools where students can send their children, and also offers resources like parent education seminars.

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Cascadia Community College

 1/528.62%Bothell, WA

Cascadia College is a young community college that shares a campus with the University of Washington. Popular fields of study include business and environmental technologies. Cascadia transfers more students to Washington’s four-year colleges than any other community college in the state, and because over 25% of Cascadia’s full-time professors have PhDs, its faculty body is most highly educated among community colleges in the state.

Students have access to UW resources, including its massive seven million-volume library. Students enrolled in science classes can also explore the 58-acre campus wetlands, home to coyote, beavers, and more.

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South Puget Sound Community College

 1/527.35%Olympia, WA

South Puget Sound Community College operates one campus in Olympia and one in Lacey, where it offers associate degrees and certificates programs. SPSCC has a robust computer aided drafting technology program, as well as a wealth of degree opportunities in the field of computer information systems. SPSCC's marketing and PR departments have collected 30 awards for academic excellence from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations.

Many students participate in an SPSCC study-abroad program, which include short-term faculty-led trips that offer a worthwhile, affordable experience. The school's student senate is known for playing a particularly active role in everything from administrative decisions to diversity initiatives.

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Shoreline Community College

 1/529.96%Shoreline, WA

Shoreline Community College is a public institution offering more than 50 associate degree and technical/professional certificate programs. Of note are the multicultural understanding certificate and master of business administration preparation program.

Shoreline offers three associate degrees in music fields, and is one of only 27 colleges in the nation offering a specialized program in alternative fuel vehicles. The school extends a wealth of resources for veterans, including one-on-one mentoring with local corporations and a specialized veteran advisor on-campus. Notable alumni include Bob Hasegawa, a Washington State Senator, and Halvor Hagen, a former NFL player.

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Tacoma Community College

 1/525.36%Tacoma, WA

Tacoma Community College offers 46 state-approved professional/technical programs in everything from aquatic & fishery science to naturopathic medicine. Tacoma students earning professional degrees in fields like human services or networking and cyber security are each assigned a community advisor who works in their chosen career.

Additional resources on-campus include the cooperative learning center, where students can develop their literacy and vocabulary skills, as well as a math advisory center and writing center. Nearly one out of every two Tacoma students transfers to University of Washington Tacoma in pursuit of a bachelor's degree.

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Clark College

 1/524.66%Vancouver, WA

Clark College is a state community college offering degrees and certificates in fields including STEM, business & office, computer technology, healthcare, and arts & social sciences. The school has credit transfer partnerships with over a dozen other colleges and universities to help students complete their degree on flexible terms.

Unlike many two-year colleges, Clark also offers several bachelor’s degree programs in topics such as technology and dental hygiene. It also offers a master’s degree in social work through a partnership with Eastern Washington University. Nearly three out of four people attending Clark are first generation college students. Notable graduates of the school include actor Sam Elliott and Denis Hayes, an environmental activist who coordinated the first Earth Day.

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Lake Washington Institute of Technology

 1/529.02%Kirkland, WA

Lake Washington Institute of Technology is a technical community college offering more than 100 degree programs. Students can earn associate degrees in unique topics ranging from motorcycle, marine & power equipment service technology to culinary arts. LWTech also offers the only funeral service education program in Washington.

The institute stresses job-preparedness, and each program offers hands-on training. Additionally, the school offers several bachelor's degree programs. At LWTech’s special technical academy, students between the ages of 16 and 20 can complete their high school degree and associate degree at the same time.

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Spokane Community College

 1/525.54%Spokane, WA

Spokane Community College operates a large campus on the bank of the Spokane River. SCC also operates an off-site apprenticeship training center and an aviation hangar at a nearby airport. The school provides liberal-arts associate degrees, as well as technical degrees and certificates. After completing their degree, many students go on to transfer to four-year universities.

The school offers unique degree options, including water resources technology and florist degrees. A wide variety of certificates are available to students as well. Spokane is home to the largest healthcare department of any community college in Washington.

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Everett Community College

 1/530.67%Everett, WA

Everett Community College operates seven campus centers around the Seattle metropolitan area. The school offers associate degrees in topics ranging from business technology to diversity studies. It also provides certificate programs in unique topics like healthcare risk management or cosmetology.

Everett offers high-school completion programs, English as a second language (ESL) programs, and professional training. The school hosts a vast array of student clubs such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Iwi Pono Student Society for Hawaiian students. Everett maintains a strong tutoring center, which provides workshops, group tutoring, drop-in tutoring, and practice testing.

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

Washington, commonly called ‘Washington State’ to differentiate it from the nation’s capitol, ranks 13th most populated in the US with over 7 million residents. Although over half of these reside in the western corridor, known as the Puget Sound, the entire state is a wealth of natural beauty and thriving communities, including two major mountain ranges and a primarily untamed coastline. The west boasts a hip, liberal culture and cool, marine weather; to the east, students will experience a bit more ‘country’, with ample farmland, a drier climate and smaller towns.

The cost of living ranges dramatically across the Evergreen State, with metropolitan Seattle being the highest. Students may have difficulty finding affordable housing in this region; the city has countered the problem with a recent building boom of micro-housing, or Apodments, designed for students and urban professionals in need of reasonably priced apartments in the city. As you enter into Central and Eastern Washington, prices drop significantly; those concerned with housing may do better in inland cities such as Spokane or Centralia, which have a much lower overall cost of living. Below we provide an in-depth look at each region so you can know your way around Washington state.


  • Major Cities: Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Bellingham, Olympia
  • Attractions: Olympic National Park, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier, Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Glass
  • Cost of Living: Seattle
  • Popular Schools: University of Washington, Western Washington University, University of Puget Sound, Bastyr University


  • Major Cities: Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee
  • Attractions: Leavenworth, North Cascades Loop Highway, Lake Chelan
  • Cost of Living: Yakima
  • Popular Schools: Central Washington University, Heritage University, Wenatchee Valley College, Big Bend Community College


  • Major Cities: Spokane, Pullman, Walla Walla
  • Attractions: Colville National Forest, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Woodward Canyon Winery, Pioneer Park Aviary
  • Cost of Living: Spokane
  • Popular Schools: Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, Whitworth University, Gonzaga University, Spokane Falls Community College


Considering the high cost of living in certain regions of Washington, as well as significantly higher out-of-state tuition (nearly triple at the state’s flagship institution), students would be well-advised to start the residency process as soon as possible. Individual schools may have additional requirements; take care to check before enrollment.


Residency status depends upon their parent or legal guardian. If a student’s parents are divorced, the student must maintain primary residence with the parent who lives in Washington. Students must provide proof that the residing parent or parents are Washington state residents to be eligible for in-state tuition and residency status.


The criteria below must be met for students over 18 to obtain residency status in Washington for the purpose of in-state tuition:

  • You must prove that you are not in Washington only to pursue an education. During the first year, if you’re taking more than 7 credits per quarter, you must also work outside of campus for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
  • You must also live in the state for 12 months as a legal resident, meaning all ties with your previous state of residence have been relinquished (driver’s license, etc.).
  • You must then establish legal ties to Washington, such as steady employment, state ID or driver’s license, vehicle registration and so on.
  • If you’re under 25, you must also prove financial independence for both the current and previous calendar year.

Additional Resources for Washington College Students