Western State Colorado University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Western State Colorado University
Western State Colorado University offers a private school experience at a public school cost....

Western State Colorado University

Gunnison, Colorado

Deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Western State Colorado University delivers a full liberal arts curriculum and career preparation to 2,900 intellectually adventurous students. The university’s small size, unique setting, and low cost altogether ensure that students receive personalized attention, gain hands-on experience, and graduate without taking on excessive debt.



Student Profile

Fall 2017 Enrollment
1,899 undergraduate students
95% of undergrad students are full time
59% male — 41% female
30% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2017-2018 Academic Year
122 full-time faculty
47 part-time faculty
18 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2017
89% of first-year students live on campus
37% of all students live on campus

School Location

Western is located in Gunnison, Colorado, a small town deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The campus is modern and intimate, surrounded by acres of mountains, streams, and trails. Gunnison is just 30 miles from Crested Butte Mountain Resort and a little under four-hour drive from Denver.

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 2017

64% of students began in Fall 2016 and returned in Fall 2017 (full-time, first-time freshmen)

6-Year Graduation Rate 2017

41% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 0%
Hispanic/Latino 11%
Black or African American 3%
White 71%
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 8%

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.


From their first year on campus, Western Mountaineers are immersed in academic adventure. Whether students are strapping on waders to study stream ecology, researching the effects of 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 a student-to-faculty ratio of just 18 to 1 and professors who are experts in their areas of study, students are free to tailor their education to their interests.

Undergraduate Research

Western believes that active participation in original scholarship is essential to a high-quality undergraduate education. For this reason, Western faculty are constantly 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.

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

Biology students, as well as those in such related disciplines as Chemistry, can participate in the Thornton Biology Undergraduate Research Program. This field-specific venture has 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 (SOURCE).

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 Prep 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/theatre X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band  
Model UN X
Music ensembles X
Musical theatre  
Pep band X
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society  
Symphony orchestra X
Television station X

Western’s committed faculty provide an outstanding academic experience to every student on campus. With classes averaging just 18 students, the Western experience compares to what students may find at a private college.

With more than 90 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. And in the tight-knit, student-centered environment that is Western, Mountaineers can easily change majors or collaborate with faculty to create a program that meets their interests and goals.

First-Year Seminars

Western freshmen start off their college experience with Headwater 100, the first-year seminar, which is designed to give them a seamless transition into college. At orientation, students meet those in their seminar and explore their new school through service-learning projects, tours of their academic resources, and a variety of field experiences, workshops, and social events.

Throughout the year, the Headwater 100 First-Year Seminar guides students through an examination of the “place” surrounding Western and the community. This discussion-based seminar includes an introduction to the liberal arts, community sustainability, and the social, natural, and cultural surroundings of the region. They are taken on an adventure all while familiarizing themselves with the services that can provide them support in all aspects of college.

Students can start building their peer relationships through the exciting, optional Wilderness-Based Orientation trips. Western offers trips like rock-climbing, whitewater kayaking, and everything in between. These thrilling experiences make camaraderie come naturally as new students explore the amazing recreational opportunities that Western’s location offers.

Western’s support doesn’t end after freshman year. The Second-Year Experience continues to encourage and facilitate student growth.  


On-campus living encourages student involvement as well as personal growth and development. Students who live on campus are more likely to interact with faculty, develop lasting relationships with their peers, and finish their college education. Western values on-campus living and requires freshmen and sophomores who are not commuters to live on campus.


Every student is assigned an advisor at the beginning of their time at Western. These advisors are always there to answer questions, help with class schedules, and aid students in planning and achieving their goals.

If a student is unsure of what they want to major in, they enter Western’s Exploratory Program, which helps them investigate their individual interests and strengths, helping them to map out their career and life goals. Choosing a major is a big choice, but at Western, students don’t have to go it alone. Advisors in the Exploratory Program help students navigate the exploration process without falling behind on credits.

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 174 216 135 94 11 0 0 630

The spectacular Gunnison Valley offers Western students a tight-knit community of passionate mountain dwellers. A free shuttle to the Crested Butte Mountain Resort makes it easy for Mountaineers to take full advantage of Colorado’s best resources for skiing and mountain biking. And with more than 50 student-run clubs and organizations on campus, Western is an exciting place to live and learn.

At Western, students quickly make friends and build communities both in and outside the classroom. Whether they work at campus radio station KWSB, join the Peak Productions theatre troupe, attend diverse programming at the university’s vibrant Multicultural Center, or adventure with Wilderness Pursuits, Mountaineers find that there’s always something going on in Gunnison.


Gunnison and Crested Butte offer active art communities with lively theatre, music, and dance. It is easy to take advantage of community classes, concerts, movies, special events, and galleries that feature breathtaking work from both local and national artists alike. Many annual festivals include the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, Crested Butte Film Festival, Cattleman’s Days, and various music festivals. Western art students can even display their work in the annual Art in the Park event as well as the monthly First Friday Art Walks. All the art galleries in Gunnison have close working relationships with the art program at the university, and the Gunnison Arts Center hosts plenty of other activities for those looking for fun.

Western’s many clubs and organizations also provide opportunities for students to engage with culture. Western’s Multicultural Center, for example, is home to a number of student-run clubs that seek to increase awareness of different cultures. The Amigos club hosts events like Carnaval! and Day of the Dead, and the Native American Student Council hold a Week of Native American Pride with traditional food, speakers, and teepee-building demonstration. Multicultural Center events are not only open to the campus community, but also those in the local area.


Western is just 30 minutes from some of the nation’s best skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort as well as the Monarch Mountain Ski Area. Rafting, kayaking, boating, sailing, windsurfing, mountain biking, cycling, and world-class fishing are all within minutes of campus. And the 1.7 million acres of the Gunnison River Territory encompass some of the wildest and most beautiful terrain in the world, including the Blue Mesa Reservoir, Hartman Rocks, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

With so many outdoor recreational activities to choose from, Western commits to making adventure accessible to every student. Wilderness Pursuits provides students fun, low-cost, and professional outdoor expeditions and resources. Every Mountaineer has free reign over the university’s massive gear room, enjoying rental access to kayaks, mountain bikes, camping gear, snow sports equipment, and more. They can even join guided trips through the surrounding mountains, exploring the beautiful Colorado landscape to its full potential.


Western’s intercollegiate sports teams compete at the NCAA Division II level in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Western has 11 Varsity sports. Western’s mascot is the Mountaineer, known as Mad Jack, who can be found standing in front of our Welcome Center. Western’s colors are Crimson and Slate.

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


Western offers a wide range of club and intramural sports, so students can get involved and stay active at all different levels. Club sports compete against other universities. Teams include baseball, soccer, rugby, cheerleading, ice hockey, and lacrosse. Intramural sports are played within the university as well, including everything from pickleball to innertube water polo.


Western’s spectacular mountain location allows for the flourishing Mountain Sports program. Mountain Sports includes intercollegiate competitive teams in alpine skiing, freeride skiing and snowboarding, Nordic skiing, ski mountaineering, mountain biking, road cycling, and trail running.

Western also has the country’s only college-based Mountain Rescue Team, whose rescue services include large-scale wilderness search, high angle rope rescue, low angle rope rescue, avalanche rescue, and winter rescue. They also provide mountain safety education for anyone interested. What’s more, trained Mountaineers have even been called out on life-or-death missions.


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms  
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  
Other housing options  

Western alumni 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 prepares students for an industry that boasts an average starting salary of $92,000 per year. Similarly, Western’s Energy Management program is one of a handful of undergraduate programs in the country endorsed by the American Association of Land Professionals.

Pre-med students at Western have a 96% placement rate in graduate programs, and 94% of Education program graduates gain employment in their fields within a year of graduation. Over 97% of Computer Science graduates contacted reported employment within their field, and the acceptance rate for Western’s pre-law emphasis in the Politics & Government major is 100%.

Internships & Career Development

Whatever their major, students at Western engage with the professional world. Western students have access to and guidance about a variety of internships.

Before graduating, Western’s education majors spend a yearlong residency at a school of their choosing, fully immersing themselves in work experience in a way that typical education programs do not offer. Art majors also have the chance to experience real-world challenges, displaying their work and practicing gallery showings at local galleries. Amazing, practical opportunities like these abound for every major, including internships at museums, architectural firms, and the state government.

Western’s Borick School of Business has its own Office of Career Success, which prepares students 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.

Whatever their interests, Western provides every student with the tools to engage in hands-on learning in the professional world.


Admissions Fall 2017

 1,955 total applicants
1,681 total admissions
447 total freshman enrollment

85.98% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2018-19 Admission

Rolling Admission? Yes

Priority date: Nov 1

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 2017

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 500 590
SAT Math 500 590
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 20 25
ACT Math 18 25
ACT English 19 25
ACT Writing    



Expenses In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $6,624  $18,096 
Fees $3,490 $3,490
Total $10,114 $21,586
Room and Board (on campus) $9,635  $9,635 
Room Only $5,030  $5,030 
Board Only $4,605  $4,605 
Estimated Total On Campus $19,749 $31,221


Average Financial Aid Packages 2017-2018

$11,049 first-year students
$8,821 all undergrads


Western offers tuition discount programs to students from select states who do not qualify for a merit scholarship through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) and Central Plains programs. Students receiving these discounts will pay 150% of total in-state tuition prices, a substantial savings relative to out-of-state tuition.

WUE 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


Generally, grants are awarded based on demonstrated financial need, cost of education, and enrollment status. One should apply each year via a FAFSA form. Eligible students’ financial aid packages may include a combination of federal, state, and institutional grants—all of which do not have to be repaid.


Each student admitted to Western is automatically considered for merit scholarships. Western State Colorado University awards scholarships based on such considerations as academic excellence, financial need, field of study, school activities, leadership, community service, and exceptional artistic or athletic talent.