6. Multnomah University
Portland, Oregon
Founded 1936
Undergrad enrollment 567
Tuition / Average amount of financial aid $14,100 / $3,258
Applicants / Freshman class size / Sophomore retention rate 377 / 203 / NA
Average SAT / GPA of incoming freshmen 520, 536, 523 / 3.5
Diversity 9 percent
Average time to obtain bachelor’s degree 5 years
Alumni giving rate39 percent

Multnomah University may not be for everyone, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Underscoring its only two degree programs (Bible Studies and General Education) with its motto, “If it’s the Bible you want, then you want Multnomah,” the school is sanctuary to students who prefer to make the Good Book their main college text. In spite of the school’s narrow focus—or maybe because of it—Multnomah pulls in a geographically diverse crowd; almost 50 percent of its students come from out of state. And 39 percent of its adoring alumni (among whom number a few successful Christian authors as well as pinup vixen Bettie Page) have made financial contributions to their alma mater.


7. Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, Washington
Founded 1880
Undergrad enrollment 3,349
Tuition / Average amount of financial aid $25,088 / $11,000
Applicants / Freshman class size / Sophomore retention rate 2,139 / 715 / 73 percent
Average SAT (combined reading and math) / GPA of incoming freshmen 1107 / 3.6
Diversity 28 percent
Average time to obtain bachelor’s degree 4 years
Alumni giving rate 13 percent

Student satisfaction at PLU is split right down the academics/social life line; most current and former students adore the educational climate on campus but don’t find much recreational inspiration in Tacoma’s Parkland neighborhood. Fortunately, the school’s Sojourner program places as many as 400 students in study-abroad courses on all seven continents each year. Professors have a good reputation on campus; one student told us that her communications professor happily contributed to two documentaries she produced. PLU has no Greek system, but dorm residents know how to party; annual school-sanctioned soirees at each dorm, including the traditionally raucous Fossfest, are bright spots for nightlife-starved coeds; however, the school’s administration has been trying to crack down on some of the bigger parties of late.


8. University of Washington
Seattle, Washington
Founded 1861
Undergrad enrollment 28,570
In-state tuition / Out-of-state tuition / Average amount of financial aid $6,385 / $22,131 / $11,200
Applicants / Freshman class size / Sophomore retention rate 20,000 / 5,500 / 95 percent
Average SAT† / GPA of incoming freshmen 530–650, 560–670, 520–630 / 3.7
Diversity 30 percent
Average time to obtain bachelor’s degree 4.4 years
Alumni giving rate 18 percent

Size matters at UW. There’s the undergrad enrollment, which at close to 29,000 is the biggest in both Washington and Oregon. There’s the number of alumni who join the Peace Corps, which has been the highest in the country for two years. The library even has a copy of the world’s biggest book (seven-foot-tall Bhutan). Most impressive, though, is the breadth of the university’s academic offerings, with subjects like speech and hearing sciences, creative writing, biology, information sciences, and psychology topping its diverse array of standout programs. And UW has gone green in a big way, reducing its energy use since 2000, which landed it in Sierra magazine’s recent list of the top 10 green colleges in the country. The school’s rigorous academics have produced their fair share of world-shakers, among whom the school counts several Nobel Laureates and scores of Washington household names (Christine Gregoire, William and Mary Gates, Beverly Cleary, and…Kenny G). Award-winning student groups like the Foundation for International Understanding through Students and the Earth Club are prominent, while the ever-popular Bruce Lee Dedication Group is lately petitioning the school to erect a bronze statue of the martial arts master and onetime UW attendee.


9. Whitworth University
Spokane, Washington
Founded 1890
Undergrad enrollment 2,331
Tuition / Average amount of financial aid $25,382 / $13,665
Applicants / Freshman class size / Sophomore retention rate 5,060 / 537 / 83 percent
Average SAT‡ / GPA of incoming freshmen 550–650, 560–650, 540–640 / 3.7
Diversity 14 percent
Average time to obtain bachelor’s degree 4.2 years
Alumni giving rate 23 percent

Whitworth prides itself on its Presbyterian traditions, championing “the Big Three” (no alcohol or drugs, no cohabitation, no disturbing the peace); students who come here typically share those values. Those who do cut loose often spend time at the Motherland, a “counterculture” off-campus house nicknamed for its willingness to embrace international students accustomed to a younger drinking age. Ultimate frisbee is practically de rigueur at Whitworth, as at a lot of schools in the Northwest, but this college may be the only one that features “Braveheart” ultimate frisbee, in which combatants paint their faces and bodies blue and wear nothing more than a towel. Regardless of what they do outside of class, students enjoy close relationships with profs and administrators, even affectionately calling President Bill Robinson, “B. Rob.” The relaxed milieu apparently didn’t slow down 1969 alum and local journalist Ross H. Anderson, who shared the 1990 Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his Seattle Times article on the Exxon Valdez spill.


10. Seattle University
Seattle, Washington
Founded 1891
Undergrad enrollment 4,253
Tuition / Average amount of financial aid $26,325 / $21,771
Applicants / Freshman class size / Sophomore retention rate 4,923 / 768 / 76 percent
Average SAT / GPA of incoming freshmen *520–640, 530–630, 510–620 / 3.6
Diversity 35 percent
Average time to obtain bachelor’s degree 4 years
Alumni giving rate 14 percent

Seattle U is a Jesuit school and, yes, it upholds the church’s core values of lifelong scholarship, community involvement, and devotion to God, Jesus, and the Sacred Heart. But less than half of the students are Catholic and—come on, the campus is on Capitol Hill—the atmosphere is anything but conservative (notable alum Duff McKagan, former bassist for Guns N’ Roses, withstanding). Although it had operated in UW’s shadow for years, administrators point out that both the school and the surrounding neighborhood are going through considerable transformations, from continuing development along 12th Avenue to increasing awareness of its nursing and software engineering programs. The work may be paying off: U.S. News and World Report ranked Seattle U sixth among MBA and law universities in the west this year. The sports programs are in the process of returning to NCAA Division I status after three decades in Division II.