Idaho has over a dozen colleges and universities, offering both two-year and four-year programs in a variety of disciplines. The diversity in programs and learning platforms attracts a range of students to Idaho's schools. To distinguish between schools, prospective students typically compare a few defining features, including location, affordability and the length of programs at each college they consider.
Fortunately, we have applied our rigorous methodology to the latest education data to rank the best colleges in Idaho, including the top four-year and two-year schools. Below, you will find Idaho's top colleges.
Best Colleges in Idaho
Idaho is home to four public universities offering baccalaureate degrees. The state also has a few private Christian or LDS schools with four-year programs. Some of these schools are nationally recognized for their research departments, while others offer small programs in ministry or the liberal arts.
Idahoans with a four-year college degree earn a higher salary than non-degree holders. Graduates from four-year institutions in Idaho typically earn significantly more than those who never finished college, with post-college salaries exceeding the average national income. Though there aren't many colleges in Idaho, the state is home to a variety of programs that accommodate students from all backgrounds. If you're interested in browsing what these schools have to offer, our list of the top colleges in Idaho can help you begin your research.
Brigham Young University-Idaho
|Rexburg, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Brigham Young-Idaho, the largest private university in Idaho, enrolls around 18,000 students per semester. The school offers degrees from seven colleges and 33 programs, including the Department of Design and Construction Management and the College of Language and Letters. The school is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; their core curriculum reflects the teachings of that religious affiliation.
Classes offered on campus at BYUI use a teaching approach called the Learning Model. This education strategy encourages engagement among students, making it one of the best colleges in Idaho. Classes are discussion-based. Courses are taught in 14-week semesters in the fall, winter, and spring. Students also have the option to take classes during Brigham Young University’s 7-week summer session. Famous alumni include Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner, Canadian football player Ben Cahoon, and college basketball coach Stew Morrill.
University of Idaho
|Moscow, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
IU, one of the best colleges in Idaho, has campuses across the state: a main campus in Moscow and satellite campuses in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho Falls, and Boise. Across these four campuses, the school enrolls 11,000 students each year. Students choose degree programs through the school’s ten colleges.
Idaho’s College of Natural Resources offers many popular programs, including ecology and conservation biology, environmental science, and wildlife resources. Students interested in the forestry degree are encouraged to minor in forest operations. The curriculum offered through the College of Natural Resources often involves biofuels research — an area that the university invests in. Students utilize the Twin Falls Research and Extension Center to gain field experience and conduct experiments that focus on agricultural science and ecology. Famous alumni include former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, former Senator James A. McClure, and sportscaster Mark Schlereth.
Boise State University
|Boise, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Boise State, known for their blue turf stadium, offers academic programs that involve undergraduate research. Students from various subject areas are encouraged to conduct research projects in economics, choreography, art history, and alternative energy. Undergraduate degrees include marketing, education, civil engineering, and political science. Boise State has a Graduate College offering master’s degrees and certificates.
Boise State is known for their School of Nursing, which has the largest undergraduate nursing program across all colleges in Idaho. The school offers the Finish in Four degree completion programs. Students in the program are assigned an academic advisor who helps them develop a four-year academic plan. They regularly check in with their advisors, get assistance with course registration, and receive personalized career development advice. If students in this program have followed all procedures and do not graduate in four-years, then Boise State pays the tuition for any remaining courses.
The College of Idaho
|Caldwell, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
COI is one of the smallest colleges in Idaho, enrolling 1,100 students. The school’s academic offerings include programs in anthropology, education, and business. Students at the college have achieved scholarly success: seven graduates are Rhodes Scholars, and 14 others have received distinction as Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater scholars.
College of Idaho differentiates itself from other Idaho colleges is their approach to education. The school offers an undergraduate program called PEAK (professional, ethical, articulate, and knowledgeable). The program allows students to specialize in four academic areas: the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and a professional field. If students follow this program, they can graduate with a major and three minors in four years. Famous alumni include Idaho Governor Butch Otter, research scientist Mary Shaw Shorb, and German diplomat Klaus Scharioth. The school’s athletic program is part of the Cascade Collegiate Conference and includes a men’s and women’s skiing team.
Northwest Nazarene University
|Nampa, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Northwest Nazarene, located in Nampa, is home to 2,000 students. Their academic programs provide educational opportunities to continuing education students and over 2,000 high school students taking college courses for credit. The Christian university offers over 60 different degree programs in undergraduate, graduate, and adult and professional studies. Undergraduate majors include Chinese studies, criminal justice, pastoral ministries, and athletic training. Some programs offer on an accelerated degree timeline.
What stands-out at Northwest Nazarene in comparison to other colleges in Idaho is their veteran support services. The school offers an array of Veteran’s Education Benefits such as the Yellow Ribbon Program, which covers any fees that exceed funding from the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Best Community Colleges in Idaho
Students in Idaho attend a variety of two-year programs through the state's technical and career-training facilities and community colleges. Two-year programs in Idaho provide an accelerated and affordable education to students entering the workforce. The state's community college system has campuses across the state, offering a range of classes and training. Some schools, including Eastern Idaho Technical College and McCall College, offer programs in technology and other trades that can be completed in two years or less.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, graduates from top two-year schools in Idaho can expect to earn more than residents with only a high school diploma. Manufacturing, specifically in electrical and computer components, is the state's top industry and many community colleges and trade schools in Idaho produce qualified labor for the field. Other schools provide students access to introductory courses in traditional disciplines, preparing them to earn a bachelor's degree at a four-year school. To see what each school offers, take a look at our ranking of the top two-year colleges in Idaho.
Eastern Idaho Technical College
|Idaho Falls, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Eastern Idaho is the most career-oriented of all Idaho community colleges. EITC focuses on technical trades in three specific areas: business, office, and technology; health professions; and trades and industry. In those three fields, EITC offers associate’s of applied sciences degrees, in addition to offering workforce training and community education to help the general public obtain new job skills. EITC’s curriculum is modern by design, focusing on skills that will have value in the 21st century. The school offers distance learning programs - hybrid (in part on campus and in part online) and completely online - in addition to online community workforce training in fields like accounting, computer applications, writing, and law. Eastern Idaho also offers fire fighter training.
As EITC sits on the Wyoming border in Idaho Falls, giving students access to a host of outdoor recreation opportunities outside of the classroom.
College of Southern Idaho
|Twin Falls, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
Southern Idaho, primarily serving Idaho’s agricultural Magic Valley region, enrolls a total of 6,247 students — 1,640 full-time and 4,627 part-time — and is one of the best two-year colleges in Idaho. CSI labels itself as a “progressive” campus, offering student support through study skills courses, tutoring, advising, learning centers, and health services. The school offers majors that transfer easily to four year schools, namely Idaho state schools. CSI offers over 132 academic programs, leading to associate’s degrees and technical and postsecondary certifications. CSI’s fields are technical (e.g. air conditioning, auto body technology), trade-oriented (e.g. baking and pastry arts, horse management), and academic (e.g. history, economics). CSI’s social sciences and English courses enroll the most students.
CSI’s basketball team is a local attraction, regularly competing on a national level and selling out most home games. Eddie Sutton, the legendary Oklahoma State coach, got his start in Twin Falls.
College of Western Idaho
|Nampa, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 13%||
Western Idaho serves Treasure Valley with central campuses in Boise and Nampa. The school enrolls 13,766 credit-seeking students, in addition to 10,499 community members pursuing non-credit skill development or basic education. CWI offers a total of 99 programs, which are divided into four different categories: academic transfer, career and technical education, workforce development, and basic skills education.
Academic transfer programs lead to associate of arts and sciences degrees that students can transfer to four-year schools. CWI’s career and technical education programs lead to associate degrees in applied sciences and technical certificates for immediate workforce entry. 46% of CWI’s students take an academic transfer program.
CWI is the largest of the two-year colleges in Idaho. CWI’s stated goal is to eventually serve over 40,000 students. CWI also offers a number of student organizations, with its speech and debate team winning its fourth national title in 2015.
North Idaho College
|Coeur d'Alene, ID||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Located on the panhandle on Lake Coeur D’Alene, North Idaho traces its roots to the Great Depression; it was founded before Idaho’s Junior College Act of 1963. NIC offers a wide variety of course offerings, including on-campus and distance learning programs, which include strictly online and hybrid options.
NIC’s course offerings are divided between transfer, career, technical, and occupational training programs. NIC offers 44 transfer programs in traditional disciplines like biology, education, and English. These programs provide associate degrees that transfer easily to four-year schools, within Idaho and out of state. NIC’s 44 career, technical, and occupational training programs are intended to lead directly to a job. NIC’s Workforce Training and Community Education program is one of the most extensive of its kind among Idaho community colleges. It offers trade and career-oriented opportunities to the community in the form of non-credit, six-week, online courses.
Living in Idaho
If you're thinking about applying to one of the best colleges in Idaho, continuing reading to learn more about living in the Gem State.
Idaho is the 14th largest and 7th least densely populated state in the U.S. Renowned as America's “potato state,” Idaho is also the gem capital of the country, and contains nearly every type of gemstone known to man. A mountainous region bordering the Pacific Northwest, more than half of Idaho's land is forested, and rivers, lakes, canyons and waterfalls abound throughout the state. Idaho recently incorporated science and technology into its commercial economy, expanding on its traditional origins in agriculture and tourism; college programs in the last decade have reflected this economic change, enhancing career training programs that prepare graduates for employment in the tech industry.
Idaho ranked 44th for per-capita income in the U.S. in 2009, with residents earning an average personal income of $33,074 a year. At the time of the last U.S. census, 25.1% of Idahoans 25 and older held a bachelor's degree or higher, slightly under the national average of 28.8%. Nearly 90% of state residents have a high school diploma however, one of the higher percentages in the nation.
Below, we've highlighted two of the larger regions in Idaho:
- Northern Idaho
- Major Cities: Moscow, Coeur d'Alene, Lewiston
- Attractions: Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center, McEuen Park, Nez Perce County Historical Society
- Cost of Living: Coeur d'Alene's Numbeo Cost of Living
- Popular Schools: University of Idaho–Coeur d'Alene, New Saint Andrews College, Lewis-Clark State College
- Southern Idaho
- Major Cities: Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello
- Attractions: Idaho State Historical Museum, Boise Art Museum, Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon Jump
- Cost of Living: Boise's Numbeo Cost of Living
- Popular Schools: Boise State University, Idaho State University, College of Southern Idaho
Establishing residency allows students access to in-state tuition at public colleges in Idaho. Students 18 or older must provide proof of state residency; minors must live with either a parent or legal guardian in Idaho to qualify for reduced tuition.
- For Minors:
If a student is a minor when they enroll, they must prove that their guardians are domiciled in the state to claim residency themselves. To establish Idaho residency, a minor must live with a parent or guardian in a household within state borders. If the parents are divorced or separated, the minor must reside with a parent living in Idaho. Minors must provide evidence that they lived with their parent in Idaho before turning 18 and prove their intention to continue living with that parent until the school year begins.
- For Adults:
Individuals age 18 and older who plan to claim residence must meet specific criteria, including:
- You must physically reside in Idaho for at least one year prior to declaring residence.
- You must prove intent to make Idaho your home.
- You should be able to prove your financial independence. Adults under age 23 may have to formally claim emancipation from their guardian.
Additional Resources for Idaho College Students
Higher Education News
Official State Links
- Best Colleges in Idaho of 2017
Rank School Location 1 Brigham Young University Rexburg, ID 2 University of Idaho Moscow, ID 3 The College of Idaho Caldwell, ID 4 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID 5 Boise State University Boise, ID Best Community Colleges in Idaho 1 College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls, ID 2 North Idaho College Coeur d'Alene, ID 3 Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls, ID 4 College of Western Idaho Nampa, ID
- Best Colleges in Idaho of 2016
Rank School Location 1 College of Idaho Caldwell, ID 2 Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg, ID 3 University of Idaho Moscow, ID 4 Northwest Nazarene University Nampa, ID 5 Boise State University Boise, ID 6 Lewis-Clark State College Lewiston, ID 7 Idaho State University Pocatello, ID Best Community Colleges 1 Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls, ID 2 North Idaho College Coeur d'Alene, ID 3 College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls, ID 4 College of Western Idaho Nampa, ID 5 Stevens-Henager College - Boise Boise, ID 6 CollegeAmerica - Stevens Henager College Idaho Falls, ID