By CVO Staff
The Pacific Northwest, which consists of Oregon and Washington, is a delightful place to live, especially for college students. Characterized by its misty pine forests, eclectic cities like Portland and Seattle, and rocky wildlife-rich coast, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most alluring regions in the United States. But it’s also one of America’s most expensive regions. For those looking to spend four years kayaking in the Pacific, skiing on Mt. Baker, or just enjoying all that this lively place has to offer, we’ve researched and put together a list of the 30 most affordable colleges in the Pacific Northwest.
Our editors started by putting together a list of all of the four-year colleges in Oregon and Washington. We included all non-profit public and private institutions. Finally, we consulted College Data for up-to-date, 2019-2020 tuition costs for each college and university on our list. The top 30 most affordable schools in the Pacific Northwest are profiled below.
1. Central Washington University
Tuition: $7,361 (in-state) or $22,342 (out-of-state)
Approximately 11,800 students — about 11,000 of whom are undergraduates — call Central Washington University (CWU) home. Located in the eastern part of the Evergreen State, CWU offers a number of degree programs in the arts and humanities, business, education, and the sciences. Interestingly, about 15% of CWU’s student population is Hispanic, and the university is considered to be one of the emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
2. Eastern Washington University
Tuition: $7,461 (in-state) or $24,957 (out-of-state)
Though its main campus is located in Cheney, Eastern Washington University has regional locations throughout the state, including in Spokane, Everett, and Vancouver. The university was founded in 1882 and currently offers more than 100 different degree programs. These include 55 grad programs, 10 master’s programs, and seven graduate certificates. Eastern Washington University has thrice been included among the 201 Best Colleges for the Real World, while Consumers Digest ranked it as one of the “Top 50 Best Value” schools in the country.
3. The Evergreen State College
Tuition: $7,674 (in-state) or $26,184 (out-of-state)
Considering The Evergreen State College’s motto is “Let it all hang out” — or Omnia Extares in Latin — it’s probably not so surprising that everything about this public liberal arts college is non-traditional. Founded in 1967 as an experimental college, Evergreen today is home to approximately 4,000 students. Instead of traditional majors and minors, Evergreen encourages students to study several disciplines by offering only a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and a Bachelor of Science. In lieu of grades, students receive a narrative evaluation of their work.
4. Western Washington University
Tuition: $8,132 (in-state) or $23,544 (out-of-state)
Founded in 1893, Western Washington University has enjoyed a long history (and six different names!). Today, it’s one of the Evergreen State’s six public universities, and acts as the educational home to approximately 15,000 students. The university offers myriad undergraduate degree programs in the colleges of business and economics, fine and performing arts, the humanities and social sciences, and sciences and engineering. The school also offers a variety of master’s degree programs. In fact, Western Washington University was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the best school in the Pacific Northwest for master’s degree programs. Uniquely, Western Washington University also ranks as one of the top mid-sized colleges for Peace Corps volunteers.
5. Eastern Oregon University
La Grande, Oregon
Tuition: $8,362 (in-state) or $19,682 (out-of-state)
Founded in 1929, Eastern Oregon University is one of seven four-year public schools in the state. Thanks in part to its location in the heart of the Blue Mountain range, the university is well known for its academic programs associated with the outdoors. These include a one-of-a-kind outdoor leadership program, agricultural science, and military science, to name but a few. Approximately 3,700 students are currently enrolled at Eastern Oregon University, about 3,500 of whom are undergraduates.
6. Portland State University
Tuition: $9,105 (in-state) or $27,060 (out-of-state)
Located in downtown Portland’s University District, Portland State University is Oregon’s only public university to be located in a major city. The university’s approximately 28,000 students have a whopping 240 undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs from which to choose, including those in business administration, education, social work, public affairs, computer science, and liberal arts, among others. Portland State University has been named a “College With a Conscience” by The Princeton Review, and has also been included among the publication’s rankings of the “Best in the West” and the Top 100 MBAs.
7. Western Oregon University
Tuition: $9,540 (in-state) or $26,415 (out-of-state)
Located in the town of Monmouth, Western Oregon University is home to approximately 6,000 students, about 4,600 of whom are undergraduates. A variety of bachelor’s degrees are available, while master’s programs are offered in education, criminal justice, music, rehabilitation counseling, and management and information systems. Western Oregon University has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 77th best university in the West.
8. Southern Oregon University
Tuition: $9,615 (in-state) or $25,545 (out-of-state)
Students interested in a public liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest would do well to look into Southern Oregon University. Founded in 1926, this university offers degree programs in a variety of subjects, including business, criminology, natural and environmental science, theater arts, and even Shakespearean studies. The university has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 100 universities in the West.
9. Oregon State University
Tuition: $11,166 (in-state) or $30,141 (out-of-state)
Students looking for a large state school would do well to consider Oregon State University (OSU). With a total student population of nearly 31,000, OSU offers more than 200 undergraduate degree programs. OSU is considered a “selective” school, and as such, is no stranger to the national and international rankings systems. U.S. News & World Report lists Oregon State as the 143rd best college in the nation, but the 71st best public university. Meanwhile, Times, Forbes, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities also considers OSU to be one of the best universities in the country.
10. University of Washington
Tuition: $11,207 (in-state) or $36,588 (out-of-state)
University of Washington — or U-Dub, as it’s affectionately known — is one of the largest schools on our list of affordable colleges in the Pacific Northwest. Home to nearly 47,000 students, Washington consists of 140 different departments offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. The university is not stranger to national and international rankings. Indeed, the Academic Ranking of World Universities consistently ranks Washington as one of the top 20 universities in the world, while U.S. News & World Report, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and Kiplinger have all included University of Washington on their lists of the best colleges and universities. It’s also worth mentioning that this stellar institution has produced quite an impressive collection of alumni, including 20 Nobel Prize laureates, myriad Pulitzer Prize winners, and dozens of Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholars.
11. Washington State University
Tuition: $11,391 (in-state) or $25,817 (out-of-state)
As the second largest university in Washington, Washington State University enrolls approximately 30,600 students each year. This includes undergraduates, postgraduates, and doctoral students across the university’s main campus, five satellite campuses, and its internet-based Global Campus. More than 200 fields of study are offered, including business, education, communication, various agricultural subjects, engineering, and veterinary science. U.S. News & World Report ranks Washington State University as the 70th best public university in America.
12. University of Oregon
Tuition: $11,898 (in-state) or $35,478 (out-of-state)
Situated along the beautiful Willamette River in Eugene, the University of Oregon (UO) is a large research university with a history stretching back to 1876. UO enrolls approximately 23,000 students per year, all of whom pursue degree programs covering 12 departments and a graduate school. A “selective” university, University of Oregon has been ranked as the 102nd best college in America by U.S. News & World Report. The university has graduated 129 Fulbright Scholars, 58 Guggenheim Fellows, 19 Rhodes Scholars, 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, five Marshall Scholars, and three Nobel Prize laureates.
13. Gutenberg College
Gutenberg College is a private school located in Eugene, Oregon. The college enrolls approximately 14 students at a time, which goes a long way in explaining why the college tends to look more like a fancy British country home than an institution of higher education. It’s also a Great Books college and seeks to educate each student to be “well-read, well-reasoned, articulate, and mature.” Students read the most influential texts of Western Civilization then discuss with their peers and tutors in a round-table setting.
14. Heritage University
Heritage University is a private school situated on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Washington. Heritage’s approximately 1,200 students are able to work towards either an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree on campus. Interestingly, the university enjoys a cooperative agreement with three different Washington community colleges. Students at Big Bend Community College, Columbia Basin College, and Highline Community College are able to take upper-division courses to earn credits towards a four-year degree from Heritage.
15. Warner Pacific College
Warner Pacific College is a great option for prospective students looking for a Christian school in an urban environment. Founded in Portland in 1937, Warner Pacific College is affiliated with the Church of God. It offers 25 majors and seven pre-professional programs, along with 29 different options for minors. Popular majors include accounting, business administration, and education. U.S. News & World Report ranked Warner Pacific College as the 6th best university in the West.
16. Multnomah University
Like Warner Pacific College, Multnomah University is a private Christian school located in Portland. But while Warner Pacific is associated with the Church of God, Multnomah is non-denominational. Multnomah’s approximately 500 students have the option of pursuing a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctorate, professional certificate, or endorsement through the university’s college, seminary, or graduate school. Alumni of Multnomah University include the model Bettie Page, evangelist and author Luis Palau, and Christian fiction author Linda Chaikin.
17. Walla Walla University
College Place, Washington
Located just a few miles from the town of Walla Walla, Walla Walla University is a private school affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It’s known for its excellent liberal arts, technical, and pre-professional programs. The university offers more than 100 degree programs, including the popular programs of nursing, biology, education, business, and engineering. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Walla Walla University as one of its “100 Best Regional Universities” in the West.
18. Northwest Christian University
Another Christian college option in the Pacific Northwest is Northwest Christian University. The university’s approximately 600 students have the option of pursuing degrees in one of two schools: Professional Studies or Liberal Arts & Bible. Popular degree programs of the former include accounting, criminal justice, and teacher education, while popular programs of the latter include Bible and theology, Christian Ministry, history, English, and psychology, to name but a few.
19. Northwest University
For those looking for a private Christian school in Washington, there’s Northwest University. Between the main campus in Kirkland, Washington and a satellite in Salem, Oregon, approximately 1,700 students study at Northwest each year. Associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are all offered, and popular degree programs include business, education, nursing, ministry, and behavioral science, among others. Northwest University has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 17th best college in the western U.S.
20. Corban University
Located in Salem, Oregon, Corban University is a private school that is non-denominationally Christian. About 1,200 students are enrolled at Corban each year, all of whom pursue either undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees. Popular courses of study include Biblical studies, business, education, and ministry. An emphasis on the liberal arts is present across all degree programs. All students are required to complete a minimum of 18 units of Bible-themed classes, and every class is taught from a biblical perspective in an effort to show that “Christ should be integrated in all areas of life.” Corban was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 5th best college in the West.
21. George Fox University
George Fox University was founded in 1885 as a college for Quakers. Today, this private Christian school is home to approximately 4,100 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. George Fox is no stranger to national rankings. Forbes named it the 58th best on its list of “America’s best colleges,” while Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ranked it in the top four “best value” Christian colleges. Interestingly, George Fox University participates in the Richter Scholars, a unique program which sponsors original research projects for 15-25 students annually.
22. Saint Martin’s University
During their time at Saint Martin’s University, the school’s approximately 1,400 students learn to “think with heart.” The school’s motto encapsulates the fact that it is a Catholic college which embraces the liberal arts and emphasizes Benedictine values. All students, regardless of major, are required to complete a core curriculum which includes college writing, philosophy, religion, literature, and fine arts, among a few others. Interestingly, the university’s Lacey, Washington campus also includes a working monastery, and many members of this monastic community serve as professors and staff.
23. Seattle Pacific University
Since its founding in 1891, Seattle Pacific University (SPU) has been a seminary, college, and now the university it is today. Home to nearly 4,500 students, the university offers degree programs in the arts and sciences, business and economics, education, health sciences, psychology, and theology. Additionally, SPU offers a top-notch honors programs that revolves around the Great Books. Seattle Pacific University has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 151st Best National University — the only private university in the Pacific Northwest to make the list.
24. Pacific Lutheran University
The Pacific Northwest has some great affordable college options for Christian students, including this one. Pacific Lutheran University, located in the Tacoma suburb of Parkland, is a private school known for its strong pre-professional programs and emphasis on the liberal arts. Undergraduate students of Pacific Lutheran University have 44 majors and 54 minors from which to choose. Prospective students interested in studying abroad will be happy to hear that approximately 50% of PLU students study overseas. The university also works closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to give low-income students the opportunity to study abroad during their academic career.
25. Linfield College
Linfield College offers prospective students an affordable and top-notch college experience. U.S. News & World Report ranked Linfield the #1 college in the West for six years in a row, while The Economist declared it the 27th best college in the nation. Linfield’s great reputation is evidenced by the excellence exhibited by its staff and alumni. An impressive 93% of Linfield professors boast the highest degree available in their field, while 36 graduates have been named as Fulbright Scholars.
26. Pacific University
Forest Grove, Oregon
Pacific University was founded in 1849 by the United Church of Christ. Though the school is no longer officially affiliated with the church, it does maintain a close working relationship. Approximately half of Pacific University’s student body are undergraduates, all of whom are pursuing one of more than 50 degree options. These include writing, education, and international business, among others. Pacific University is also one of only 21 schools in the U.S. and Canada to offer a doctorate degree in optometry. Some of Pacific University’s notable alumni include Heart vocalist Nancy Wilson, NFL player Dick Daniels, and author Carol Pott.
27. Whitworth University
More than 3,000 students attend Whitworth University, a private Christian college located in Spokane, Washington. The university is categorized as a liberal arts school, and as such, offers 107 majors in subjects such as the arts and sciences, business, and education. This “more selective” university has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 5th “best value” school in the western U.S., while Kiplinger’s Personal Finance also recognized Whitworth’s value by including it on their list of the “300 Best College Values for 2018.”
28. Gonzaga University
Gonzaga University is the second Catholic university to make our list of the most affordable colleges in the Pacific Northwest. Founded in 1887 by the Society of Jesus, Gonzaga offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the arts and sciences, business administration, education, law, nursing and human physiology, engineering and applied science, and professional studies. U.S. News & World Report ranks Gonzaga as the 4th best university in the West, as well as 112th nationally. The Princeton Review also included Gonzaga on its list of the best 382 colleges, while Forbes named it the 33rd best college overall in the western U.S.
29. Seattle University
Seattle University (SU) is another Catholic option for those interested in attending an affordable religious university. Located in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, the university enrolls approximately 7,500 students each year. These students have 61 bachelor’s degree programs, 31 graduate degrees, and 27 certificate programs from which to choose. One especially popular degree program is Macroeconomics, as evidenced by the fact Bloomberg Businessweek declared SU the #1 school in the nation for the subject. The Wall Street Journal ranked Seattle University has the best private university in the Northwest, while U.S. News & World Report called it the 5th best school in the West.
30. Lewis & Clark College
Students come from all over to attend Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. The college’s student body boasts citizens of more than 50 countries across six continents! This is partly due to the college’s excellent reputation. Lewis & Clark has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the 68th best liberal arts school in the country, while Forbes declared it the 146th best college overall. A variety of degree programs are offered, and popular majors include English, international affairs, political science, anthropology, and rhetoric and media studies, among others. Students are also encouraged to study abroad in one of more than 36 different study abroad programs, and 60% of the total student body take part.
- Colleges for Hikers, Climbers, and Campers
- Affordable Liberal College Towns
- Affordable Conservative College Towns
- College Run Farms
- Best Small College Towns
- Historic College Campuses