Best private colleges in every state

Written by:
March 20, 2019
Updated on March 22, 2019
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Best private colleges in every state

In the wake of a national college admissions scandal—in which parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for their children's college acceptance—university students are likely re-evaluating the worthiness of their institution. Some of the schools involved in the controversy are now being sued by students and graduates who say the scandal has devalued their degree or coursework. In almost every case, the schools involved are already well-known as some of the best private colleges in their respective states.

Not all of the top schools were included in the scandal, prospective students in each of the 50 states can choose from dozens of great colleges. For this list, Stacker looks at the best private colleges in every state and current news involving the schools. We evaluated data from Niche, a data research company that compiles information specific to schools—such as how the national average student to faculty ratio is 18:1, and the average private college tuition across the country is $35,676 per year.

In order to determine the best private schools, Niche examined data including academics, overall value, campus life, professors, diversity, student life, safety, the local area, and student satisfaction. The most weight was given to academics, accounting for 40% of each school's overall score. Second weightiest is the overall value, incorporating loan amounts, what students consider the actual value of the school to be, and what alumni earn after they leave the school. The local area and safety records held the least weight, at 2.5% each. The most recent data obtained came from the U.S. Department of Education statistics for 2018. Some of the data was also self-reported by the schools through direct contact with Niche and a school data update form.

While some of the choices might be obvious, others may come as a surprise to readers. Read on to see if you attended the best private college in your state—and find out which state only has a single private four-year institution.

You might also like: Best public colleges in every state 

Alabama: Samford University

- Location: Birmingham, AL
- Tuition: $30,490
- Acceptance rate: 83%
- Applicants: 3,808
- SAT scores: 1080-1280
- ACT scores: 23-29
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

Samford is dominated by students with medical majors, and students at the conservative Christian university recently had some research published in a major medical journal. The student-led study showed that exercise is more effective when participants listened to music they actually liked—which seems obvious but had never actually been researched.

Alaska: Alaska Pacific University

- Location: Anchorage, AK
- Tuition: $20,760
- Acceptance rate: 86%
- Applicants: 450
- SAT scores: 830-1115
- ACT scores: 17-26
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Some readers may recognize this college as the home school of Olympic cross-country skier siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen. The small liberal arts school is well-known for its successful ski team.

Arizona: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Prescott

- Location: Prescott, AZ
- Tuition: $34,662
- Acceptance rate: 77%
- Applicants: 2,168
- SAT scores: 1130-1350
- ACT scores: 23-29
- Student faculty ratio: 18:1

This powerhouse school in the aeronautics training world just got a huge boost from Boeing in the form of a $3 million donation. The money is meant to fund scholarships that cover the costs of pilot training and programs focusing on aircraft maintenance.

Arkansas: Ouachita Baptist University

- Location: Arkadelphia, AR
- Tuition: $25,870
- Acceptance rate: 71%
- Applicants: 1,786
- SAT scores: 1020-1260
- ACT scores: 21-28
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

News about Ouachita is dominated by coverage of the school's heavy sports focus—and now also a yearbook focus. The 2017–2018 yearbook was just voted as one of the best in the nation, receiving the Silver Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

California: Stanford University

- Location: Stanford, CA
- Tuition: $49,617
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Applicants: 44,073
- SAT scores: 1390-1540
- ACT scores: 32-35
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

This “West Coast Ivy League” school is known for the high quality of both its students and its academic programs. In recent weeks, however, Stanford is embroiled in controversy as a participant in the college admissions scandal.

Colorado: Colorado College

- Location: Colorado Springs, CO
- Tuition: $52,818
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Applicants: 8,223
- SAT scores: 1220-1430
- ACT scores: 28-32
- Student faculty ratio: 10:1

Colorado College has a unique teaching schedule to other colleges, using a "block plan.” Essentially, students take one class for three and a half weeks, then start another; at the end of the semester, they'll each have taken four classes. Right now, sports are hitting big as the hockey team is in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs.

Connecticut: Yale University

- Location: New Haven, CT
- Tuition: $51,400
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Applicants: 32,879
- SAT scores: 1460-1580
- ACT scores: 32-35
- Student faculty ratio: 6:1

Yale, an Ivy League school, was the starting point for the massive college admissions scandal. Morrie Tobin, a man under investigation for another crime, asked for leniency by providing information about Yale's soccer coach, who asked him for a bribe to get his daughter into the college.

Delaware: Goldey-Beacom College

- Location: Wilmington, DE
- Tuition: $10,200
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Applicants: 819
- SAT scores: data not available
- ACT scores: data not available
- Student faculty ratio: 20:1

This suburban college has a heavy focus on business courses, offering a Ph.D. in business administration. Other degree programs for undergrad and graduate studies include psychology, criminal justice, English, and economics.

Florida: University of Miami

- Location: Coral Gables, FL
- Tuition: $48,484
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Applicants: 30,638
- SAT scores: 1230-1420
- ACT scores: 28-32
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

The University of Miami just built a new architecture studio. And although the school isn't immediately known for its architecture program, that may change soon—the building just won the U.S. Building of the Year award.

Georgia: Emory University

- Location: Atlanta, GA
- Tuition: $49,392
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Applicants: 23,747
- SAT scores: 1350-1520
- ACT scores: 30-33
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Coffee-lovers might want to stay away from Emory University for a while. The college's on-campus coffee shop recently failed a health inspection with more than a dozen violations of code.

Hawaii: Brigham Young University - Hawaii

- Location: Laie, HI
- Tuition: $5,400
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Applicants: 3,340
- SAT scores: 1090-1250
- ACT scores: 22-26
- Student faculty ratio: 17:1

As part of the Brigham Young University slate of campuses, BYU Hawaii carries a Mormon religious affiliation. Most students go for business majors within the school's associate and bachelors programs.

Idaho: Northwest Nazarene University

- Location: Nampa, ID
- Tuition: $29,000
- Acceptance rate: 73%
- Applicants: 967
- SAT scores: 1030-1230
- ACT scores: 20-27
- Student faculty ratio: 15:1

Northwest Nazarene may be affiliated with The Church of the Nazarene, but only 36% of students subscribe to that religion. The women's basketball team recently made history by winning the GNAC Tournament for the first time.

Illinois: Northwestern University

- Location: Evanston, IL
- Tuition: $52,678
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Applicants: 37,259
- SAT scores: 1420-1560
- ACT scores: 32-34
- Student faculty ratio: 6:1

Known for both sports and an award-winning journalism school—Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications—suburban Chicago's Northwestern University is often high on applicants' lists. The campus has recently received negative coverage, however, with reports of robberies against students at the Chicago campus.

Indiana: University of Notre Dame

- Location: Notre Dame, IN
- Tuition: $51,505
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Applicants: 19,564
- SAT scores: 1370-1520
- ACT scores: 32-34
- Student faculty ratio: 10:1

The University of Notre Dame is known worldwide for its Fighting Irish football team. It's a prestigious Midwestern school, built in the 1800s by a French priest.

Iowa: Grinnell College

- Location: Grinnell, IA
- Tuition: $50,714
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Applicants: 5,850
- SAT scores: 1310-1510
- ACT scores: 30-34
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Applicants to Grinnell College recently encountered a tricky situation when the liberal arts school's application system was hacked. Those who had their applications compromised received ransom notes requesting bitcoin payments.

Kansas: MidAmerica Nazarene University

- Location: Olathe, KS
- Tuition: $29,670
- Acceptance rate: 66%
- Applicants: 957
- SAT scores: 910-1200
- ACT scores: 18-24
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

A Christian religious mindset is strongly emphasized in MidAmerica Nazarene's educational programs. The school has more than 40 degree programs and an increasing range of adult education courses.

Kentucky: Berea College

- Location: Berea, KY
- Tuition: $25,760
- Acceptance rate: 35%
- Applicants: 1,710
- SAT scores: 970-1200
- ACT scores: 22-27
- Student faculty ratio: 10:1

Berea College's long tradition as a Christian school means some students go there expecting one—even though the school is no longer tied to a sectarian affiliation. Every student that goes there, however, leaves debt free. The school pays full tuition for every one of its students.

Louisiana: Tulane University

- Location: New Orleans, LA
- Tuition: $52,960
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Applicants: 35,622
- SAT scores: 1330-1490
- ACT scores: 30-33
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

Tulane has long been considered a backup school for students who aren't able to get into the Ivy Leagues, thanks to its highly regarded educational status. But some students aren't too pleased with the school right now, as it's been named in the college admissions scandal and is currently being sued.

Maine: Bowdoin College

- Location: Brunswick, ME
- Tuition: $51,848
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Applicants: 7,251
- SAT scores: 1360-1510
- ACT scores: 31-33
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Both former President Franklin Pierce and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called Bowdoin College home during their youth in the 1800s. The school still maintains a prestigious student list; 19 graduates recently received Fulbright fellowships, second only to Williams College where 22 students were awarded Fulbrights.

Maryland: Johns Hopkins University

- Location: Baltimore, MD
- Tuition: $52,170
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Applicants: 27,156
- SAT scores: 1450-1570
- ACT scores: 33-35
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

Often considered one of the best—if not the best—schools for medical education, Johns Hopkins is continually releasing scientific studies. One of the most recent ones explores targeting cells for medication delivery.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

- Location: Cambridge, MA
- Tuition: $49,892
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Applicants: 20,247
- SAT scores: 1490-1570
- ACT scores: 33-35
- Student faculty ratio: 3:1

This technology-focused school is consistently releasing groundbreaking research on everything tech, with the work done by faculty and students alike. Recently, the school explored how spider silk can be used as an artificial muscle in robots.

Michigan: Calvin College

- Location: Grand Rapids, MI
- Tuition: $34,600
- Acceptance rate: 83%
- Applicants: 3,221
- SAT scores: 1100-1330
- ACT scores: 23-30
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

Calvin College was founded in 1876 as a Christian school. The motto of the 400-acre, 3,700-plus student institution reflects that heritage: “My heart I offer to you Lord, promptly and sincerely.”

Minnesota: Carleton College

- Location: Northfield, MN
- Tuition: $52,782
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Applicants: 6,499
- SAT scores: 1360-1530
- ACT scores: 31-34
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Peter Tork, a member of the Beatles-era band The Monkees, recently died, and Carleton College honored him as a former student. Music continues to have a strong emphasis at the school; one of the professors just released a children's album.

Mississippi: Millsaps College

- Location: Jackson, MS
- Tuition: $38,930
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Applicants: 4,276
- SAT scores: 1110-1320
- ACT scores: 22-28
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Students at Millsaps College have ample opportunity to study abroad, as the school boasts long-standing international partnerships, such as with a bio-cultural reserve in Mexico. Community engagement is heavily emphasized as well for students staying on the 100-acre campus.

Missouri: Washington University in St. Louis

- Location: Saint Louis, MO
- Tuition: $51,533
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Applicants: 30,463
- SAT scores: 1470-1570
- ACT scores: 32-34
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

St. Louis' Washington University is a research institution with more than 90 degree programs; the majority of the student body double majors. Low-income students are encouraged to apply; the school just launched grant programs specifically for them.

Montana: Carroll College

- Location: Helena, MT
- Tuition: $34,480
- Acceptance rate: 78%
- Applicants: 2,686
- SAT scores: 1080-1270
- ACT scores: 22-28
- Student faculty ratio: 11:1

Undergraduate enrollment is down across the country, and Carroll College is feeling the sting. The school recently decided to cut five majors, 10 minors, three certificate programs, and 15 full-time positions. It is, however, adding five graduate degree programs.

Nebraska: Creighton University

- Location: Omaha, NE
- Tuition: $38,750
- Acceptance rate: 72%
- Applicants: 9,727
- SAT scores: 1070-1290
- ACT scores: 25-30
- Student faculty ratio: 11:1

Creighton University, a Jesuit Catholic school, can boast an excellent statistic: 99% of the students are either employed, in graduate school, or volunteering within six months of their graduation. The students are expected to learn by doing through internships and and research initiatives.

Nevada: The Art Institute of Las Vegas

- Location: Henderson, NV
- Tuition: $17,410
- Acceptance rate: 100%
- Applicants: 107
- SAT scores: data not available
- ACT scores: data not available
- Student faculty ratio: 16:1

As part of the national collective of Art Institute schools, this one recently had a scare: the school was expected to shut down due to financial crisis. Students and faculty recently learned the school will remain open for good while other Art Institute campuses shut down.

New Hampshire: Dartmouth College

- Location: Hanover, NH
- Tuition: $53,496
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Applicants: 20,035
- SAT scores: 1430-1560
- ACT scores: 30-34
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

Dartmouth is highly regarded for its medical, engineering, and business schools. One of the college's claims to fame is inventing the BASIC programming language. There have recently been reports, however, of on-campus harassment and rape of students by tenured faculty members; the school just released a new plan to address the issue.

New Jersey: Princeton University

- Location: Princeton, NJ
- Tuition: $47,140
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Applicants: 31,056
- SAT scores: 1430-1570
- ACT scores: 31-35
- Student faculty ratio: 5:1

An Ivy League research university, Princeton is the fourth oldest college in the nation, formed in 1746. The majority of students receive financial aid, and as a testament to student satisfaction, 99% of the freshman class returns for the following year.

New Mexico: St. John's College - Santa Fe

- Location: Santa Fe, NM
- Tuition: $35,000
- Acceptance rate: 63%
- Applicants: 342
- SAT scores: 1190-1350
- ACT scores: 23-32
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

This school is reading-centric, with a curriculum called the “great books” program. Essentially, it means that each course is accompanied by ample reading of classic and important books. And now it's more affordable—tuition is lowering by 32%.

New York: Columbia University

- Location: New York, NY
- Tuition: $57,208
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Applicants: 38,118
- SAT scores: 1410-1570
- ACT scores: 31-34
- Student faculty ratio: 6:1

Columbia is the oldest school in New York, founded in 1754 by King George II of England. President Barack Obama attended the school, which is known for its Ivy League education. Popular majors include social sciences, engineering, and biology.

North Carolina: Duke University

- Location: Durham, NC
- Tuition: $53,744
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Applicants: 33,077
- SAT scores: 1380-1540
- ACT scores: 31-35
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

Thought it's not technically an Ivy League school, Duke's education standards are highly regarded. Sports are a big deal on campus; the basketball team just won its 21st Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

North Dakota: University of Jamestown

- Location: Jamestown, ND
- Tuition: $20,578
- Acceptance rate: 65%
- Applicants: 1,154
- SAT scores: 940-1050
- ACT scores: 19-24
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

Nursing and athletics are the main draws for students coming to the University of Jamestown, a liberal arts school with a Christian curriculum. And although students love the small class sizes and welcoming atmosphere, some are worried the school isn't doing enough to be environmentally friendly.

Ohio: Kenyon College

- Location: Gambier, OH
- Tuition: $53,560
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Applicants: 5,603
- SAT scores: 1260-1460
- ACT scores: 29-33
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Kenyon is known as a college for writers because of the liberal arts school's intense focus on writing. A sophomore recently won an Oscar for a documentary she helped produce.

Oklahoma: University of Tulsa

- Location: Tulsa, OK
- Tuition: $41,509
- Acceptance rate: 39%
- Applicants: 7,869
- SAT scores: 1150-1440
- ACT scores: 25-32
- Student faculty ratio: 11:1

Founded in 1894, this 4,100-student strong research university is historically known for engineering and finance studies. There are more than 100 degree programs available on the 200-acre campus.

Oregon: Reed College

- Location: Portland, OR
- Tuition: $54,200
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Applicants: 5,652
- SAT scores: 1310-1500
- ACT scores: 30-33
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Each student at Reed College is required to complete a year-long humanities program and can choose to move on to the college's masters program in liberal studies. The students like to break records, as shown by a group that recently made what might be the world's largest piece of chalk.

Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania

- Location: Philadelphia, PA
- Tuition: $53,534
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Applicants: 40,413
- SAT scores: 1420-1560
- ACT scores: 32-35
- Student faculty ratio: 6:1

Ivy League school the University of Pennsylvania just announced it will be creating a new undergraduate program. Thanks to a $6 million donation, the school will now be able to create a degree program focused on service, citizenship, and wellness.

Rhode Island: Brown University

- Location: Providence, RI
- Tuition: $53,419
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Applicants: 32,723
- SAT scores: 1400-1570
- ACT scores: 31-35
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

Brown University is known for its diverse and challenging undergraduate education programs. The Ivy League school recently made the news for being part of the college admissions scandal—and also for helping develop a moon mission.

South Carolina: Furman University

- Location: Greenville, SC
- Tuition: $48,348
- Acceptance rate: 61%
- Applicants: 5,002
- SAT scores: 1190-1380
- ACT scores: 26-31
- Student faculty ratio: 10:1

Liberal arts college Furman University has a unique requirement of its students: before they graduate, they're required to attend at least 36 university events. With more than 200 clubs on campus, many students find that requirement easy enough to satisfy.

South Dakota: Augustana University

- Location: Sioux Falls, SD
- Tuition: $31,960
- Acceptance rate: 68%
- Applicants: 1,975
- SAT scores: 1070-1290
- ACT scores: 23-29
- Student faculty ratio: 12:1

This liberal arts school has one of the top-ranked biology programs in the nation as part of its natural sciences curriculum. This year, science students are able to attend class in a newly updated and expanded science building.

Tennessee: Vanderbilt University

- Location: Nashville, TN
- Tuition: $47,664
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Applicants: 31,462
- SAT scores: 1440-1570
- ACT scores: 32-35
- Student faculty ratio: 7:1

Students attending Vanderbilt tend to go for music or medical studies. According to recent information from the FBI, Vanderbilt managed to avoid any trouble in the college admissions scandal by having high academic standards for every student in its athletics programs.

Texas: Rice University

- Location: Houston, TX
- Tuition: $45,608
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Applicants: 18,063
- SAT scores: 1490-1580
- ACT scores: 33-35
- Student faculty ratio: 6:1

Tuition at Rice is lower than most other high-tier private colleges, thanks to a $6 billion endowment from Texas businessman William Marsh Rice. Research-based fields, including nanotechnology, are the school's forte.

Utah: Brigham Young University

- Location: Provo, UT
- Tuition: $5,620
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Applicants: 12,858
- SAT scores: 1210-1410
- ACT scores: 27-32
- Student faculty ratio: 20:1

About 50% of the students at Brigham Young University can claim international experience on their resume, having lived outside the United States at some point. Because of the heavy emphasis on Mormon faith, 66% of the students are recently returned missionaries.

Vermont: Middlebury College

- Location: Middlebury, VT
- Tuition: $52,496
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Applicants: 8,909
- SAT scores: 1320-1510
- ACT scores: 30-34
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

Foreign language and international studies have brought recognition to Middlebury College throughout the school's history. It was founded in 1800 and now has branches in 18 different countries including the US.

Virginia: Washington & Lee University

- Location: Lexington, VA
- Tuition: $67,150
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Applicants: 5,455
- SAT scores: 1350-1490
- ACT scores: 31-33
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749 and is constantly dealing with its Confederate past. In order to bring the institution to current times in the wake of Charlottesville protests, the school has renamed buildings and replaced military photos of both Washington and Lee.

Washington: Whitman College

- Location: Walla Walla, WA
- Tuition: $51,370
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Applicants: 4,081
- SAT scores: 1140-1380
- ACT scores: 28-32
- Student faculty ratio: 9:1

Whitman's student body is highly engaged in campus life and also incredibly diverse, coming from 31 different countries. The school focuses on liberal arts and sciences—and enjoys an 88% graduation rate.

West Virginia: Wheeling Jesuit University

- Location: Wheeling, WV
- Tuition: $28,110
- Acceptance rate: 51%
- Applicants: 2,150
- SAT scores: 910-1120
- ACT scores: 19-24
- Student faculty ratio: 13:1

Students tend to head to Wheeling Jesuit University for nursing and education studies, but that may soon change. The school recently announced it's in the throes of a monetary crisis, declaring financial exigency.

Wisconsin: Lawrence University

- Location: Appleton, WI
- Tuition: $46,101
- Acceptance rate: 61%
- Applicants: 3,612
- SAT scores: 1220-1460
- ACT scores: 25-32
- Student faculty ratio: 8:1

Lawrence University is a liberal arts college known for its music program at the school's conservatory of music. Student musicians regularly put on local concerts to help both kids and adults get back to their “musical beings.”

Wyoming: Wyoming Catholic College

- Location: Lander, WY
- Tuition: $23,000
- Acceptance rate: 99%
- Applicants: 82
- SAT scores: 1282
- ACT scores: 26
- Student faculty ratio: 10:1

Wyoming Catholic College is the state's only four-year private school. It's a newer school, just about a decade old and doesn't accept any federal aid. Student work focuses on both the great books and the great outdoors.

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