In 2013, there are 262 catholic institutions of higher education in America, 245 of which offer associate’s degree programs or higher. Eighty-eight of these schools have courses that award professional research doctorate or professional doctoral degrees. There are 913,000 students attending catholic colleges in the United States. The first catholic college in the US was opened in 1789 in Washington DC and is still in operation today. This is Georgetown University. While there are plenty catholic colleges in America, worldwide the United States only accounts for 12% of the catholic high education institutions overall. Catholic colleges are highly regarded for offering excellent education, hiring professional and well- respected faculty, and graduating students out into the workforce who go on to have successful careers. For prospective students considering attending a Catholic college, it’s important to hold these colleges to the same rigorous expectations of any other college. Here’s what to look for in a Catholic college.

Academics

First and foremost, attending college is about the academics. Prospective students should have an idea of which career field they wish to get into and then find a college which offers a reputable degree in this field. Additionally, students should consider which kind of degree they wish to graduate with (anassociate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or higher) and find an institution which can meet their needs.

Faculty

Prospective students should read about the faculty at the college’s that they’re considering attending. This will include not only researching what type of work experience, education, and publications these teachers have – but also their catholic beliefs and values. Students who attend catholic school often do so because they find it easier for them to grow in their faith and their education in an environment which fosters both equally.

Faith

While most colleges – faith-based or not – offer clubs and sometimes even on-campus meet-up spaces for different religions, catholic colleges will most likely offer mass and other church services for students. Prospective students could learn a lot about the colleges they are interested in by attending one of these services and speaking with the faith professionals before enrolling.

Below is a ranking of the best catholic colleges in the country. These rankings are based on a wide range of criteria that blends the powers of education and academics along with faith. Surveys were administered to students at a variety of programs to access their satisfaction with classes, professors, and the inclusion of faith practices in their studies. Additionally, experts in the field were interviewed to determine the reputation of the different programs.

The Best Catholic Colleges:

  1. Briar Cliff University

    Briar Cliff University ranked as one of U.S. News & World Report’s best colleges in the Midwest region in 2013. A Franciscan institution, Briar Cliff is especially known for its research and internship opportunities that give students practical experience in their fields. It offers a popular Business Administration and Management program, as well as a Nursing major.

  2. Our Lady of the Elms College

    Our Lady of the Elms College ranked as one of U.S. News & World Report’s best colleges in the Northern region in 2013. It is affiliated with several hospitals, as its most popular major is Nursing. Its popular Business Administration program was accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

  3. Alvernia University

    Alvernia University offers over 50 majors in the arts and sciences and in its career-focused professional programs. Healthcare fields are popular at Alvernia, and with the university’s Franciscan origins classes in these fields especially emphasize ethics. Criminal justice is another popular major, and Alvernia students have the option of attending the Reading Police Academy during their senior year.

  4. Manhattan College

    Manhattan College has a Lasallian heritage, meaning that it follows the principles of St. John the Baptist de La Salle. Located in the Riverdale neighborhood of New York City, Manhattan College boasts numerous students in its civil engineering program. One notable alumni is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

  5. Georgian Court University

    Georgian Court University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1908. With 90 percent female students, the university pays special consideration to women’s issues. Georgian Court students mostly major in Education and Psychology and attend small classes with a student-teacher ratio of 13:1.

  6. Regis College

    Regis College follows the principles of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Fifty percent of Regis students pursue healthcare careers. Students are highly encouraged to participate in community service initiatives, including those located both locally and internationally.

  7. Mount St Vincent

    The College of Mount St. Vincent offers a popular Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse major. Mount St. Vincent students participate in over 600 internship opportunities located in the New York area, and often present research at national professional conferences through the college’s Center for Undergraduate Research.

  8. Saint Benedict College

    St. Benedict College, a women’s institution, is affiliated with St. John’s University, a men’s institution, and students can take classes on both campuses. A majority of students major in Rhetoric, with Biology closely following as the second popular major. The colleges feature a Career Network of over 8,100 graduates who have volunteered to help students obtain internships and pursue careers.

  9. Dominican University

    Dominican University ranks in the top 20 colleges in the Midwest according to U.S. News & World Report, and is also rated as a Best Value pick. Most Dominican University students pursue Business Administration and Management careers. The university also has a Graduate School of Library & Information Science and a Graduate School of Social Work and offers eight professional and pre-professional programs, such as Pre-Law.

  10. Lourdes University

    Lourdes University, named by the Princeton Review as a Top Midwestern College, features a popular Nursing program. It is a Franciscan institution and provides a number of community outreach programs. Lourdes University collaborates with a number of other colleges, allowing students to pursue coursework in Health Sciences, Education, Engineering and Occupational Therapy.

  11. College of Notre Dame of Maryland

    Notre Dame of Maryland University was the first Catholic women’s college in the U.S. to award a 4-year baccalaureate degree. Many students at Notre Dame of Maryland pursue healthcare careers. The most popular major is Nursing, and as of 2009 Notre Dame boasts the first Pharmacy program at a women’s college. Notre Dame also features a number of service-learning courses, including some conducted abroad.

  12. Ave Maria University 

    Ave Maria University offers studies in the classical liberal arts, as well as in the sciences and social sciences. It features Catholic Studies, an interdisciplinary major focusing on doctrinal and moral topics. Ave Maria University also has an Honors Program for highly-motivated and high-achieving students.

  13. Boston College

    Boston College ranks in the highest tier of National Universities in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges. Students there compete in NCAA Division I varsity sports, and the school has eight colleges that offer over 50 majors. In the past decade, Boston College students have been awarded many prestigious scholarships, including Rhodes Scholarships, Marshalls, Goldwaters and Fulbright grants.

  14. Cabrini College

    Cabrini College’s most popular majors are Business and other related fields such as Marketing. Committed to “learning by doing,” the college offers a number of internship opportunities. The college also emphasizes community service and was the one of the first colleges to have service-learning as a prerequisite for graduation.

  15. University of Detroit Mercy

    University of Detroit Mercy offers over 100 programs of study, the most popular being Nursing, which almost 50 percent of its students pursue. It has a co-op program that is the third oldest continuous program in the nation, and 89 percent of University of Detroit Mercy graduates find full-time employment in their field of study within six months of graduation.

  16. University of Saint Francis

    University of St. Francis ranks in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges.” Its most popular fields of study are Nursing and Elementary Education. A Franciscan institution, University of St. Francis emphasizes service-learning and hosts frequent mission trips to Bolivia. Its student Mock Trial Team boasts a national placement.

  17. Belmont Abbey College

    Belmont Abbey College has a First-Year Symposium, which all freshmen take to learn about the Benedictine tradition. The college also shares common summer readings and other whole-class activities. Over 50 percent of Belmont Abbey College’s students major in either Business or Elementary Education. It hosts an Honors Institute in which high-achieving students read and analyze classical, Christian and modern texts.

  18. Dominican College

    Dominican College offers a combined-degree program in Occupational Therapy for those wishing to pursue both a B.S. and an M.S. in the field. Thirty percent of students at Dominican College major in this or other healthcare-related majors such as Nursing. The college is host to the Palisades Institute, an organization seeking to provide community non-profits and businesses with the tools for leadership, quality and ethics.

  19. College of Saint Benedict

    St. John’s University, a men’s school, is affiliated with St. Benedict University, a women’s school. Both are ranked as national Best Colleges in U.S. News & World Report. St. John’s offers 19 international semester-long programs in Australia, Austria, Chile, China, England, France, Greece, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain and South Africa.

  20. Saint Scholastica

    College of St. Scholastica ranks in the first tier of U.S. News & World Report’s Midwest colleges. Offering both traditional residential and online programs, St. Scholastica is well-known for its healthcare-related and Business majors. It also gives students the opportunity to study abroad, with international programs in over a dozen countries.

  21. Mount St Mary’s College

    Mount St. Mary’s University offers over 40 majors, minors and concentrations, and also has a seminary for men looking to join the priesthood. The university has service-learning, study abroad and honors programs, and all freshmen participate in the Veritas Program, a shared liberal arts experience that includes attendance to cultural and enrichment events.

  22. Duquesne University

    Duquesne University is the only Spiritan college in the United States, meaning it was founded by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Duquesne as number 16 of 61 small research universities, demonstrating high productivity among the faculty. At the same time, almost half of Duquesne’s classes have 20 or fewer students.

  23. Saint Xavier University

    St. Xavier University is well-known for its Education, Business and healthcare-related programs, and over 75 percent of its students pursue one of these three fields. With a minority population of 40 percent, St. Xavier prides itself on its diversity and considers itself a microcosm of the current U.S. workforce.

  24. Saint Francis College

    St. Francis College features a popular Communication Arts major, complete with full access to an HDTV studio. St. Francis’s mission since founding has been to provide working-class people with an opportunity they might not otherwise have to pursue a college-level education. In this spirit, those with SAT scores over 1200 receive near-full tuition scholarships, and those with scores between 970 and 1050 also receive grants.

  25. Loyola University Chicago

    Loyola University Chicago is the largest Jesuit institution in the country. Loyola has two campuses in Chicago as well as one in Rome and offers over 100 study abroad opportunities in 55 countries. Loyola has popular law and medical schools, and students are invited to take advantage of 3+3 accelerated programs if they wish to attend these after they complete their undergraduate degree.

  26. University of San Francisco

    University of San Francisco ranks as one of the nation’s Top 50 universities according to Washington Monthly. With 30 percent of its students the first in their families to attend college, the University of San Francisco offers the pursuit of academic achievement for all. The university has received numerous awards, including one from the Sierra Club for sustainability and one from Forbes for being among the “Top 25 Most Entrepreneurial Campuses.”

  27. Providence College

    Providence College is the fourth best college in the North according to U.S. News & World Report. It is the only college in the nation to be operated by the Dominican Friars. Providence College emphasizes collaborative teaching and active learning as demonstrated by collaborative research on cancer receptors, field trips to tropical rain forests in Belize, sociological studies on homelessness and research into presidential elections.

  28. Niagara University

    Niagara University features over 80 majors, six preprofessional programs and two five-year combined master’s programs. Among its colleges is the popular College of Hospitality & Tourism Management. With over 70 courses that have a service-learning component, Niagara University emphasizes community service, and received the Carnegie Classification of Community Engagement in December 2008.

  29. Villanova University

    Villanova University, the only college in the world founded by the Order of Saint Augustine, ranks as the top regional college in the North according to U.S. News & World Report. With over 15 percent of students participating in a fraternity or sorority, it hosts an active Greek community. Villanova is also particularly known for its athletics, especially its NCAA Division I Eastern Conference men’s basketball team. Its popular School of Business hosts the 15th best undergraduate business program according toBloomberg Businessweek.

  30. Siena College

    Siena College, boasting a 12:1 student-faculty ratio and an average class size of 21, emphasizes close relationships between professors and students. It offers 30 majors as well as professional curricula in education, pre-medical, pre-law and social work. Siena College was the third college in the country to be awarded Fair Trade status, meaning that it actively supports fair pay and working conditions for farmers and merchants as well as environmental sustainability.

  31. King’s College

    King’s College was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross from the University of Notre Dame. It was named one of the American Association of Colleges and Universities Greater Expectations initiative’s Leadership Institutions. In addition to its traditional majors, King’s College has several preprofessional programs, including Pre-Chiropractic, Pre-Dental, Pre-Pharmacy, Pre-Law, Pre-Medical, Pre-Optometry and Pre-Vetrinary.

  32. Loyola University

    Loyola University Maryland ranks as the second best regional college in the North according to U.S. News & World Report. In 2009 it was listed in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine as one of the Best Values in Private Universities. Loyola has a strong community service program as well as an Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.

  33. LeMoyne College

    Le Moyne College was the first Jesuit college in the U.S. to open as a co-educational institution. The college hosts First-Year Residential Learning Communities, or groups of students who live, attend class, do community service and participate in events together. Le Moyne hosts a Center for Peace and Global Studies that encourages students to consider issues of global peace and justice.

  34. Our Lady of the Holy Cross College

    Our Lady of the Holy Cross College was founded to educate Marianite teachers. In that tradition it continues to have a popular Education major among its 13 total major choices. Our Lady of the Holy Cross College has several distance learning options, and at $11,822 per year, its tuition is very affordable when compared to other private schools.

  35. Loras College

    Loras College emphasizes “learning by doing” through its many internship and research opportunities for undergraduates. Named to the Presidential Honor Roll for Community Service with Distinction by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Loras College students in 2011-2012 school year logged over 58,000 hours of community service. The college hosts St. Pius X Seminary for men looking to join the priesthood.

  36. Holy Cross College

    Holy Cross College was founded by the Brothers of the Holy Cross and is located across the street from Notre Dame University and next to St. Mary’s College in Indiana. Every student at Holy Cross experiences four core events: a service-learning component, a global immersion, a professional internship, and a senior capstone presentation. With only 451 total students, Holy Cross’s small size allows for increased student-faculty interaction.

  37. Notre Dame College of Ohio

    Notre Dame College of Ohio is well-known for its Nursing program, and over 20 percent of undergraduates study this discipline. Other popular majors include Education and History/Political Science. Notre Dame of Ohio also offers an online Master of Arts in Security Policy as well as other online degrees, and has special programs for adult students.

  38. Barry University

    Barry University graduates, according to the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida are the third-highest salary earners among the state’s 28 private colleges and universities. In 2008, a full 92 percent of graduates from Barry’s biomedical sciences program were accepted to medical or dental schools. It was also ranked 16th in Campus Ethnic Diversity by U.S. News & World Report.

  39. Saint Joseph College

    St. Joseph College of Maine boasts an average class size of 17, and classes with only six students are not uncommon. Almost 50 percent of St. Joseph students major in either Business or healthcare-realted fields, however, the college offers many specialized majors such as Writing and Publishing, Sports Management and Marine Sciences. St. Joseph offers study abroad opportunities in 39 countries at 275 schools.

  40. Mount St Mary’s College

    Mount St. Mary’s College is known for its close student-faculty relationships, its range of clubs and organizations as well as its internship and study abroad opportunities. It offers over 45 undergraduate programs, including those in Hispanic Studies, Podiatry and Publishing. It has programs for both traditional high school graduates and adult learners.

  41. Rockhurst University

    Rockhurst University’s Catholic identity includes the values of learning, leadership and service. It is one of the few universities in the country that offers a degree through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Certificate program for those wishing to work in the non-profit sector. Over 90 percent of Rockhurt’s students are involved in community service in the local community.

  42. Mount Mary College

    Mount Mary College provides individualized attention to its students. With a student-faculty ration of 15:1 and 81 percent of classes with 20 students or less, students can form personal relationships with their professors. A women’s college, Mount Mary pays special attention to women’s issues. Healthcare-related fields are Mount Mary’s most popular, and Mount Mary’s programs include Art Therapy and Dietetics.

  43. Ancilla College

    Ancilla College is sponsored by the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. Offering 2-year associate’s degrees, the college has 17 different academic programs including Environmental Technology and Logistics and Inventory Systems. The school also has several active athletic teams, including a men’s golf team.

  44. Benedictine College

    Benedictine College is listed by the Cardinal Newman Society as one of America’s Best Catholic Colleges in their collegiate guide. In addition, First Things magazine nominated the school as one of the top 20 universities in the country. Benedictine College is the only Catholic college in the U.S. to graduate a Nobel Peace Laureate, as Alumnae Wangari Maathaii was awarded the prize in 1964.

  45. Wheeling Jesuit University

    Wheeling Jesuit University boasts a student-faculty ration of 11:1, and almost 75 percent of its classes have 20 or less students. The university encourages students to “get their hands dirty” through its numerous service projects. Wheeling Jesuit offers over 40 fields of study, including eight preprofessional tracks. An Environment & Sustainability major is coming soon to the school.

  46. College of Saint Mary Magdalen

    College of St. Mary Magdalen offers a liberal arts “Great Books” education, meaning that the students read and study hundreds of primary texts over the course of their undergraduate years. Students choose from four concentrations: Theology, Philosophy, Literature and Political Philosophy. The college also hosts a popular Music & Arts program featuring an all-college choir.

  47. College of Saint Mary

    College of St. Mary is the only women’s college in the Midwest. The college features a Mothers Living and Learning residence hall, specially designed to accommodate single mothers and their children. College of St. Mary offers the McAuley Scholarship, which provides full tuition for 15 women who are currently receiving public assistance such as food stamps.

  48. Sacred Heart University

    Sacred Heart University is the second-largest Catholic college in New England. With an impressive 96 percent job and graduate placement rate upon graduation, the university truly prepares its students for the “real world.” It also provides a global education, with international programs in both Luxembourg and Ireland.