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

The Western experience includes personalized attention from faculty, lifelong friendships with classmates, and academic programs enhanced by the natural laboratory that surrounds the university. And with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 17 to 1, professors handcraft each student’s education to fit their 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, 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 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%


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, are include everything from pickleball to inner-tube water polo.

Western’s spectacular mountain location allows for the flourishing Mountain Sports program. Mountain Sports includes intercollegiate competitive teams in alpine ski and snowboarding, freeride ski and snowboarding, freestyle ski and snowboarding, Nordic skiing, ski mountaineering, mountain biking, 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. Many missions the team is called out on are life or death situations.

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 for the past four years in a row.

  • Recognized as a College of Distinction for Colorado as well as for the U.S. for the second year in a row.

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

  • Recognized as one of the top Most Beautiful College Campuses in Rural Areas and one of the top Affordable Small Colleges by Great Value Colleges.

  • Proud participant of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which makes funds available for veterans and their dependents.

  • Visit Western’s Awards page to see more awards and distinctions.

Hands-On Learning

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 oflevation 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 17 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.

Western sustains many different kinds of opportunity for student research, including faculty-led, 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 or poster presentations.

Biology students, as well as those in related disciplines like Chemistry, 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.

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 Preparation 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 18 students, the Western experience compares to what students may find at a private college. Western’s largest classroom has just 66 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. 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

Freshmen at Western are enrolled in the first year experience seminar, Headwater 100, which begins meeting during orientation to provide students with a seamless transition into college. At orientation, students take part in service learning projects, are introduced to academic resources, and participate in field experiences, workshops, and social events.

During the Headwater 100 First Year Seminar, students examine the “place” surrounding Western and the community. This is a discussion-based seminar that includes 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.

Students are able to start building peer relationship through the optional Wilderness Based Orientation trips. Western offers trips like rock climbing, white water kayaking, and everything in-between. New students can make meaningful connections through these experiences and get introduced to 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. Advisors offer information when students have 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 students investigate their 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 188 200 171 84 16 2 1 662

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 theater, music, and dance. It is easy to take advantage of the galleries that feature local, regional, and national artists, community classes, concerts, movies, and special events. Many annual festivals include the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, Crested Butte Film Festival, Cattleman’s Days, and various music festivals. Western art students and local artists display their work in the annual Art in the Park event and the monthly First Friday Art Walks. Multiple art galleries in Gunnison have close working relationships with the art program at the university, and the Gunnison Arts Center hosts a variety of activities for the community.

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 open to campus and the community.


Western is just 30 minutes from some of the nation’s best skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and 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 helps provide students with those opportunities. Wilderness Pursuits provides fun, low-cost, and professional outdoor expeditions and resources for students. They have 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.


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 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 6 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 10 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 majors, 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 year-long residency at a school of their choosing, fully immersing themselves in 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, 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 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 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


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. Eligible students’ financial aid packages may include a combination of federal, state, and institutional grants.


Each student admitted to Western is automatically considered for merit scholarships. 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.