Many students prefer attending institutions that share their values. This guide to the top conservative colleges in America may appeal to students who hold specific social, political, and/or religious beliefs. It includes an analysis of conservative values in American higher education, covers advantages and drawbacks of studying at a conservative college, and features a soft ranking of the colleges and universities that embrace conservative viewpoints at the administrative and pedagogical levels.
In compiling the rankings, we considered each school's stated values, along with survey data on student political leanings and social values. This ranking contains a mix of public, private, larger, and smaller schools, as well as institutions from various geographic regions of the United States.
Most Conservative Colleges in America
Established in 1971 by megachurch founder Jerry Falwell, Liberty was founded to train "champions for Christ" in the evangelist tradition.
In addition to a strong evangelical Christian focus, Liberty also distinctly leans toward social and political conservatism. It hosts one of the most committed College Republicans chapters in the United States, and the school's atmosphere encourages political engagement. Additionally, all on-campus students must meet chapel attendance requirements by participating in religious services at least three times per week.
As of the 2020-21 school year, Liberty offers more than 700 academic programs. Its student body exceeds 100,000 learners, including approximately 30,000 from military backgrounds.
Brigham Young University-Provo
Bearing the name of early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) leader Brigham Young, this institution maintains campus locations in Provo, Utah, and Rexburg, Idaho. Known for its high standards of academic excellence, BYU also ranks among the largest religious and private universities in the United States.
The university's strong socially conservative leanings manifest through many policies: alcohol is strictly forbidden on campus, and all enrolled students must adhere to a code of conduct rooted in LDS values and doctrines. A modesty-oriented dress and personal grooming code applies to all campus-based learners.
Politically, BYU also leans toward conservatism. Until recently, its College Republicans chapter received institutional funding. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is one of the school's best-known alumni.
Cedarville has maintained a formal alliance with the Reformed Presbyterian Church since its founding in 1887. The university integrates biblical viewpoints into every class and automatically builds a Bible studies minor into its undergraduate programs.
The school's conservative profile remains closely tied to its Christian values. Faculty, staff, and students convene daily for worship services, developing a strong campus community spirit. Cedarville also requires all faculty members to endorse a religious doctrinal statement as a precondition for their employment, ensuring the consistency of the school's Christian values.
Academically, Cedarville offers more than 150 degree programs. The school enjoys a positive reputation for its academics and boasts excellent placement rates, with 98.5% of undergraduates finding jobs or enrolling in graduate school within six months.
Bob Jones University
Based in Greenville, South Carolina, BJU combines a Christian worldview with a liberal arts profile. The school's mission statement emphasizes intellectual and spiritual growth and encourages learners to apply the teachings of Christ to every aspect of their lives.
These values inform a distinctly conservative social atmosphere, which includes daily worship opportunities and many ways for students to deepen their involvement in religious extracurricular activities. The school also hosts an annual Bible conference during the spring semester, during which the campus pauses regular classes to engage in themed religious learning.
BJU holds regional accreditation and features small class sizes, with a schoolwide 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. It offers dozens of degree programs, with popular paths in business administration, elementary education, health sciences, pre-med, and biblical studies.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
This Ohio-based Catholic university embraces the principles of Franciscan higher education, which reflect the values and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. Modern iterations of Franciscan higher education advance intellectually and socially conservative values.
Through its academic programs, Franciscan also emphasizes the foundational values of Western society, especially in its philosophy, history, and social science study paths. Students can participate in extracurriculars that champion conservative viewpoints regarding public policy.
For the 2020-21 school year, Franciscan offers 71 programs leading to certificates or associate, bachelor's, or master's degrees. The school extends its religious and conservative values to campus-based and online learning opportunities.
Michigan-based Hillsdale displays one of the strongest commitments to secular conservatism of any accredited university in the United States. The school enrolls about 1,500 studuents annually -- both on campus and online.
Hillsdale champions the constitutional values of the U.S., and students in all majors must complete required courses in American constitutional law and American and Western civilization. The school also maintains the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., where students engage in internships with high-profile government institutions, including Congress and the White House.
Hillsdale boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1 and the average class size contains 15 students. Learners can choose from dozens of majors, including politics, rhetoric, and religion.
Colorado Christian University
CCU enjoys a reputation for strong academics and is a heritage member of the Council of Christian Universities. This nondenominational Christian institution advances religious and secular conservative values through campus institutions like the Lee Strobel Center for Applied Apologetics and the Centennial Institute of Public Policy.
Evolving from the Denver Bible Institute (established in 1914), CCU continues to imbue faith-based perspectives into its academic programs. The university boasts impressive student retention rates, returning 92% or more of its first-year students each year since 2014.
As of the 2019-20 school year, about 8,400 students attended CCU, including about 5,600 adult undergraduates. The average high school GPA of an incoming first-year student was 3.81 in 2019.
|La Mirada, CA||
Southern California's Biola earns its strongly conservative reputation from its commitment to Christian values and a strong endorsement of political conservatism. Its College Republicans chapter is the only politically oriented student group to hold official status within the university.
All undergraduate programs at Biola include the equivalent of at least 10 theology classes, ensuring that every student who graduates with a bachelor's degree qualifies for a biblical studies minor.
Regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, several individual programs at Biola also hold specialized programmatic endorsement from organizations like the American Psychological Association, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Utah State University
As a major public university, USU does not maintain any formal religious affiliations. However, the school's pronounced leanings toward secular conservatism place it on the list of the most conservative colleges in the United States.
A recent student poll revealed strong support for political conservatism. Among students who indicated an interest in politics, more than 80% identified as Republicans or independent voters.
As of the 2019 fall semester, USU had a total enrollment of more than 22,000 students. Its academic options include more than 160 undergraduate majors, 120 undergraduate minors, and 130 graduate programs.
Oral Roberts University
Like many other leading conservative colleges, Oral Roberts embraces the Christian faith. The school operates as an evangelical institution of higher learning
Students enjoy many opportunities to explore social, religious, and intellectual conservatism as members of the Oral Roberts community. Student-led prayer services are a daily feature of campus life, and the school champions a long list of local outreach programs that affect the lives of people living near the school's campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Six colleges administer the school's academic programs, including arts and cultural studies, business, education, nursing, science and engineering, and theology and ministry.
Maranatha Baptist University
In its mission statement, Wisconsin-based Maranatha explicitly identifies a commitment to conservatism as a core institutional value. Formally affiliated with the Baptist church, the school mandates that all students engage with learning designed to advance their ability to interpret biblical scripture.
Originally founded as the Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1968, the school earned regional accreditation to grant religious and secular degrees in 1993. Today, all programs include a biblical studies core, and the school states that more than 90% of its learning community regularly attends off-campus religious services.
Though Maranatha is known mostly for its theology programs, it also offers respected secular education programs. For example, 100% of its 2019 School of Nursing graduates passed the NCLEX I licensure examination on their first attempt.
|Front Royal, VA||
Based in Front Royal, Virginia, Christendom College was founded in 1977 by a small consortium of Catholic intellectuals who believed that American higher education had lost its way in the wake of 1960s counterculture. They founded the school to combine adherence to traditional values with academics.
One definitive aspect of the Christendom College experience is related to its atypically emphatic core curriculum. Comprising 86 credits -- or about two-thirds of the total academic requirements -- the core program teaches critical thinking, writing, speaking, and organizational skills, along with strong theological components.
The school also maintains a high-profile, annual activist presence in the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C.
|Grand Rapids, MI||
Operating as an independent Christian university with no denominational affiliation, Michigan's CU oversees more than 60 undergraduate and graduate programs. Its theology school -- Grand Rapids Theological Seminary -- offers six master's programs in subjects including divinity, theology, Christian studies, and counseling.
The institute's reputation as one of the most conservative colleges is largely attributed to its historical roots as a seminary school. However, its conservative leanings also extend to the social and cultural atmosphere on campus. Each fall, faculty and staff gather to affirm their commitment to the school's Community Covenant -- a faith-based statement of traditional Christian values.
CU offers many campus employment opportunities that provide financial assistance to students. More than 500 jobs are exclusively available to the school's base of about 1,250 undergraduates.
Pepperdine -- located in Malibu, California -- functions as a leading private research institution. Pepperdine maintains an affiliation with the Churches of Christ. Its reputation as one of the top conservative colleges in America arises from its secular and religious values.
Unlike some other conservative colleges, Pepperdine does not impose formal chapel or religious service attendance requirements on students. However, it does compel all undergraduates to complete at least three religion and theology courses to qualify for graduation. Several interdenominational chapels and prayer facilities are available to the campus community.
From a secular viewpoint, Pepperdine welcomes students with diverse viewpoints but houses a well-established community of people who identify as politically conservative or libertarian. It embraces American and Western values in its pedagogy, offering hundreds of majors in areas like business, law, education, public policy, and psychology.
Texas A&M University
|College Station, TX||
Texas A&M ranks among the largest and most prominent public higher education systems in Texas. Though it welcomes students from all backgrounds and does not have any religious affiliations, Texas A&M has a reputation for strong social and political conservatism.
Several aspects of campus culture reinforce its position as one of the most conservative colleges in the South. Texas A&M hosts more than 800 politically active student groups, many of which are strongly oriented toward conservatism. The school also features generous military-friendly policies.
Texas A&M also serves as the home of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. Before becoming president, Bush served as vice president under Ronald Reagan -- a leading figure of 1980s-era conservatism.
What Makes a College Conservative?
Reputations for conservatism largely arise from a college's stated values, which can include institutional objectives or mission statements. Many top conservative colleges in the U.S. maintain formal affiliations with Christian churches, which strongly influence campus culture. In other cases, conservatism arises from secular viewpoints.
From a secular perspective, contemporary conceptions of conservatism primarily champion a belief in American exceptionalism and strong support for the traditions and achievements of Western civilization. Schools that prioritize these principles in their curricula and pedagogy tend to earn conservative-leaning standing.
What Are the Benefits of Attending a Conservative College?
A growing number of American colleges have faced accusations of anti-conservative bias in recent years, particularly in the humanities and liberal arts. Attending a conservative college may appeal to students who worry that their social and political views may conflict with those of their instructors and peers.
For students whose faith represents an important aspect of their lives, institutions that maintain formal or informal ties to religions or church groups offer supportive and welcoming communities. Many of the most conservative colleges in the U.S. include Christian affiliations in their charters.
What Are the Disadvantages of Attending a Conservative College?
Many conservative colleges feature religious service attendance requirements. In some cases, faith-based values also carry over to student codes of conduct, which can include dress codes and other types of social restrictions. If these values do not match your own, you may feel alienated and disconnected from the campus community.
Similarly, schools with religious affiliations also commonly include theology, divinity, and Bible studies requirements in their core programs. Some degree-seekers feel these compulsory classes detract from their focus on their majors. Individuals who attend conservative schools may also miss out on being exposed to a diverse student body and different perspectives, which is a big draw for many who decide to attend college.
Who May Want to Attend a Conservative College?
Conservative colleges are a good fit for Christian students who want to maintain their active membership in their spiritual communities during their college years. To maximize this benefit, students fitting this profile should consider schools affiliated with their particular denomination.
In a secular sense, many conservative universities target military students and provide them with a variety of resources. Intellectually, they also tend to work well for students who hold libertarian political views or conservative opinions on social and cultural issues.