Western State Colorado University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Western State Colorado University
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Western State Colorado university offers a private college experience at a public university cost....
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Mars Rover at Great Sand Dunes
Ammon and Colburn use a Pebble Count Board
Testing at HAPLab
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Zoe Smith climbs up Mountaineer Field House climbing wall

Western State Colorado University

Gunnison, Colorado

The Western experience includes personalized attention from faculty, lifelong friendships with classmates and academic programs enhanced by the natural laboratory that surrounds the university.  With an average class size of just 16 students, professors handcraft Western’s education to fit their students’ interests and prepare them for a career.

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
1,951 undergraduate students
76% of undergrad students are full time
60% male 40% female
32% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
117 full-time faculty
47 part-time faculty
16 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2015
89% of first year students live on campus
45% of all students live on campus

School Location

Western is located in Gunnison, Colo., deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Western is a modern, intimate campus, surrounded by acres of mountains, streams and trails. Gunnison is just 30 miles from Crested Butte Mountain Resort, a four-hour drive from Denver and has its own airport with daily flights to Denver during busy seasons.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences X
Learning Communities X
Writing-Intensive Courses  
Collaborative Assignments and Projects X
Undergraduate Research X
Diversity/Global Learning X
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning X
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X

Retention Fall 2015

68.97% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full time, first time freshmen)

6 Year Graduation Rate 2015

42% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 0%
Hispanic/Latino 10%
Black or African American 3%
White 75%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Asian 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 4%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 6%


NCAA Division II and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

11 Varsity Sports.

Men — Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Track & Field, Wrestling.
Women —Basketball, Cross Country, Soccer, Swimming & Diving, Track & Field, Volleyball

Mountain Sports includes competitive teams in alpine ski racing, big mountain freeriding, snowboarding, cross country skiing, mountain biking and trail running.

Mascot is the Mountaineer.

Colors are Crimson and Slate.

Academic Programs

Business, Resort Management, Energy Management, Petroleum Geology, Teacher Education, Exercise & Sport Science, High Altitude Exercise Physiology, Latin American Business, Music, Theatre and Performing Arts, Environmental Studies, Environmental Management, Recreation & Outdoor Education, Pre-Medicine, and many more.

More Distinctions

  • Honored as one of the Top 100 Colleges in the West by Forbes Magazine.

  • Ranked top 5 schools in the U.S. advocating Environment & Sustainability by EnvironmentalScience.org.

  • Named one of the Top Green Colleges in the U.S. by the Princeton Review.

  • Ranked as top 5 school in the U.S. for access to physical wellness programs by American College of Sports Medicine.

  • Recognized as a Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas by Best Value Schools.

Hands-On Learning

From their first year on campus, Western delivers an academic adventure to Mountaineers. Whether students are strapping on waders to study stream ecology, researching the effects of Western’s 7,700-foot elevation on athletes in the High Altitude Performance Lab, or building a business plan for a local ski area, Western emphasizes hands-on learning. With classes averaging just 16 students and professors who are experts in their areas of study, students can tailor their education to their interests. 

Undergraduate Research

At Western, it is understood that active participation in original scholarship is essential for a high quality undergraduate education. Western excels at this with a dynamic faculty actively engaged in scholarly work. From the laboratory to the field, the concert hall to the studio, Western professors pursue novel questions and explore creative expression.

Western sustains many different kinds of opportunity for research, including faculty-led projects, student-led, and collaborative projects. These are showcased each semester by the university’s Celebration of Scholarship presentations, where students present their research and creative works in either oral presentations or poster presentations.

Biology students can participate in the Thornton Biology Undergraduate Research Program, where students and faculty collaborate to build a better understanding of science as a process and method of inquiry.

Students can receive funding for their research endeavors through the Western Fund for Scholarly Opportunities, Undergraduate Research, and Creative Expression—the purpose of which is to encourage research, scholarly inquiry, and creative activity.

Study Abroad

Whether they’re journeying to Egypt to study emerging democracies in conflict zones or taking advantage of Western’s relationship with Harlaxton University in England — the No. 1 ranked study-abroad program for Americans — Mountaineers take their travels seriously. Western’s Master in Environmental Management program has also partnered with the Peace Corps Master’s International Program to help Western students earn their master’s degrees while serving overseas.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band X
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band  
Model UN X
Music ensembles X
Musical theater  
Pep band X
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society X
Symphony orchestra X
Television station X

Western’s committed faculty provide an outstanding academic experience to every student on campus. With classes averaging just 16 students and 80 percent of full-time faculty holding the highest degrees in their fields of study, the Western experience compares to what students might find at a private college. Western’s largest classroom has just 65 chairs, so students don’t get lost in large lecture halls.

With more than 75 areas of study, Mountaineers frequently major in two subjects and prepare for a flexible future. Western’s coordinated double major between Business and Environment & Sustainability, for example, equips students to work in green business. Others choose Petroleum Geology, Resort Management, or Exercise & Sport Science. And in the tight-knit, student-centered environment that is Western, they can easily change majors or collaborate with faculty to create a program that meets their interests and goals.

First Year Seminars

Freshmen at Western are enrolled in the first year experience seminar, which is integrally tied into and begins meeting during Orientation to provide students with a seamless transition into college. During the seminar, students examine the “place” surrounding Western and the community.

This is a discussion-based seminar that may include convocations, community service projects, workshops and field experiences. Academic themes include an introduction to the liberal arts, community sustainability, and the social, natural and cultural surroundings of the region. Academic support services and other resources for students are also stressed during the seminar.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts X
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages  
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X

Class size breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 188 200 171 84 16 2 1 662

The spectacular Gunnison Valley offers Western students a tight-knit community of passionate mountain dwellers. Connected by a free bus to Crested Butte Mountain Resort, just 30 miles away, Mountaineers take advantage of some of Colorado’s best skiing and mountain biking. And with more than 50 clubs and organizations on campus, Western is an exciting place to live and learn.

At Western, students quickly make friends and build communities both within and outside the classroom. Whether working at campus radio station KWSB, joining the Peak Productions theater troupe, taking advantage of the university’s vibrant Multicultural Center or adventuring with Wilderness Pursuits, Mountaineers find plenty to make their lives rich and exciting.


With 11 NCAA teams, nine Mountain Sports competitive teams and more than a dozen club sports, Western offers plenty of opportunities for student athletes.

Arts and Culture

Western serves as a hub for the arts in the Gunnison Valley. Theater and music ensembles perform throughout the year, entertaining students, valley locals, and visitors. During the summer, students can join internationally renowned performing arts workshops in both Gunnison and Crested Butte.

State-of-the-art Facilities

Western has invested more than $100 million in new buildings and renovations during the past decade. Additionally, the State of Colorado is funding the $25.8 million renovation of Quigley Hall, home to Western’s Art and Music departments.

New residence halls and a new student center replaced older buildings. The Mountaineer Field House, opened in March 2013, has been a significant addition to campus. The new, 65,000-square-foot athletic facility features the highest of all NCAA indoor tracks; a 43-foot-tall, custom-built climbing wall; a new fitness center; fitness classrooms; an athletics weight room; Western’s unique High Altitude Performance Laboratory; coaches’ offices; and classrooms.

Wilderness Pursuits

Wilderness Pursuits provides fun, low-cost and professional outdoor expeditions and resources for students. Mountaineers can rent kayaks, mountain bikes, camping gear, snow sports equipment and more in the university’s massive gear room, or they can join guided trips through the mountains surrounding campus — and beyond. 


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms X
Women’s dorms  
Apartments for married students X
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing X
Wellness housing X
Other housing options  

Western alumni daily change the world. From neurosurgeons and CEOs to Olympians and underwater explorers, Mountaineer grads continue to achieve great things and inspire students to follow in their footsteps.

Western’s Petroleum Geology program is one of just 10 such programs in the U.S., in an industry that boasts an average starting salary of $92,000 per year. Similarly, Western’s Energy Management program is one of only nine undergraduate programs in the country endorsed by the American Association of Land Professionals.

Pre-med students at Western have a 91 percent placement rate in graduate programs, and 93 percent of Education program graduates gain employment in their fields within a year of graduation.

Internships & Career Development

Western is nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, which affords opportunities for Mountaineers to intern for a wide variety of local employers, including the National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and more. And with a tight-knit network of successful Western alumni, students have connections for internships at businesses around the globe.

Western’s School of Business recently opened its own Office of Career Success, which operates to prepare students in the School of Business to graduate with the professional skills and experience necessary to be competitive and competent applicants in the job market. Services include professional development, resume and cover letter creation, mock interviews, career exploration, and internship and job placement. The office hosts workshops, recruiting events and information sessions that expand students’ abilities and enhance job readiness.


Admissions Fall 2015

1,631 Total Applicants
1,592 Total Admissions
467 Total Freshmen Enrollment

97.61% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2016-17 Admission

Rolling Admission? Yes

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Class rank
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores

Application Essay

Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Volunteer work
Work experience

Freshmen Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 460 580
SAT Math 450 560
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 17 23
ACT Math 16 24
ACT English 16 24
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator



  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $5,844 $16,848
Fees $2,607 $2,607
Total $8,451 $19,455
Room and Board (on campus) $9,307 $9,307
Room Only $4,923 $4,923
Board Only $4,384 $4,384
Estimated Total On Campus $17,758 $28,762


Average Financial Aid Packages 2015-2016 estimated

$9,163 First year students
$9,660 All undergrads

Western Undergraduate Exchange States

Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Central Plains states — Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin


These are financial aid awards that do not need to be repaid. Generally, grants are awarded based on demonstrated financial need, cost of education and enrollment status. Apply each year by completing a FAFSA form. If you are eligible, your financial aid package may include a combination of federal, state and institutional grants.


Western State Colorado University awards scholarships based on considerations such as academic excellence, financial need, field of study, school activities, leadership, community service, and exceptional artistic or athletic talent.


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