According to the Lumina Foundation, the state of Washington has pledged to increase post-secondary educational attainment to 70 percent by 2023. The state is doing this through a series of initiatives, including a statewide policy for prior learning assessment. Many other policies are in place through the state, as well as individual institutions, in the hopes of encouraging even more residents to come into the higher education fold. To make a review of Washington colleges and universities easier, we have compiled a great deal of information in this guide. From alumni salaries to financial aid availability to cost of living information and rankings of tops colleges, students can get a firm handle on what to expect from college.

Washington College Leaderboard: 2017 Rankings

Washington Washington

Washington is home to many public and private colleges, universities and two-year institutions. With so many options, prospective students may feel overwhelmed. However, students can use our rankings to narrow down the choices. Our rankings take into account the points that matter most to students, including graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios, tuition and financial aid. The result is a comprehensive list of the best colleges in Washington.

Rank School Name Score Tuition Fees Alumni Earnings Student/Teacher Ratio Gift Financial AidGraduation Rate Acceptance Rate # Online Programs # Total Programs Placement Services Credit for Experience
1
Edmonds Community College
99.60
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$35,500
14:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
27%
27% N/A 3 121 Yes Yes
2
Shoreline Community College
98.19
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$40,500
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
19%
26% N/A 8 68 Yes Yes
3
Renton Technical College
97.75
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$35,100
14:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
15%
61% N/A 1 91 Yes Yes
4
Bates Technical College
96.34
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$35,300
16:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
18%
65% N/A 0 107 Yes Yes
5
Clark College
96.04
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$32,800
15:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
11%
24% N/A 2 98 Yes Yes
6
Seattle Vocational Institute
95.07
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$30,700
13:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
15%
69% N/A 0 16 Yes No
7
Bellingham Technical College
94.81
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$34,600
22:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
14%
42% N/A 1 73 Yes Yes
8
Everett Community College
94.06
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$35,300
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
16%
26% N/A 0 59 Yes Yes
9
Spokane Community College
93.77
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$30,600
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
14%
26% N/A 6 107 Yes Yes
10
Tacoma Community College
93.22
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$34,500
18:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
12%
27% N/A 0 59 Yes No
11
Walla Walla Community College
92.62
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$31,400
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
40%
37% N/A 0 86 Yes Yes
12
Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom
92.39
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$34,200
18:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
11%
20% N/A 1 65 No Yes
13
Lower Columbia College
92.15
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$29,100
16:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
3%
30% N/A 0 88 No Yes
14
Wenatchee Valley College
92.12
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$31,500
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
22%
27% N/A 0 48 No Yes
15
Pierce College at Puyallup
91.75
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$34,200
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
8%
20% N/A 0 36 No Yes
16
Whatcom Community College
91.69
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$31,100
15:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
22%
31% N/A 0 34 Yes Yes
17
South Puget Sound Community College
91.39
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$31,600
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
12%
29% N/A 1 54 Yes Yes
18
Spokane Falls Community College
91.29
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$28,300
18:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
14%
23% N/A 7 60 Yes Yes
19
Big Bend Community College
91.28
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$32,200
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
37%
33% N/A 0 39 Yes No
20
Grays Harbor College
89.11
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$26,100
20:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
11%
37% N/A 1 56 Yes No
21
Cascadia Community College
86.00
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
N/A
17:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
3%
31% N/A 1 15 No Yes
Rank School Name Score Tuition Fees Alumni Earnings Student/Teacher Ratio Gift Financial AidGraduation Rate Acceptance Rate # Online Programs # Total Programs Placement Services Credit for Experience
1
Gonzaga University
99.76
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$52,800
11:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
98%
81% 68% 5 59 Yes No
2
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
98.71
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$52,100
18:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
34%
81% 55% 8 463 Yes No
3
Seattle University
97.84
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$55,200
12:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
93%
78% 73% 0 105 Yes No
4
University of Puget Sound
97.84
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$51,500
11:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
99%
77% 79% 0 51 Yes No
5
Pacific Lutheran University
97.52
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$45,900
11:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
98%
70% 75% 0 53 Yes No
6
Saint Martin’s University
96.50
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$47,400
12:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
97%
54% 89% 0 37 Yes Yes
7
Washington State University
96.36
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$46,400
15:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
51%
67% 82% 16 235 Yes No
8
Whitworth University
95.09
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$41,200
11:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
97%
76% 75% 0 57 Yes Yes
9
Seattle Pacific University
94.24
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$43,900
15:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
97%
72% 83% 1 91 Yes No
10
Central Washington University
94.08
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$44,900
19:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
71%
53% 86% 10 166 Yes No
11
Walla Walla University
94.03
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$45,800
13:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
96%
50% 58% 0 52 Yes No
12
Whitman College
93.71
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$43,000
9:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
77%
87% 41% 0 48 No No
13
Western Washington University
93.27
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$43,200
19:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
43%
67% 85% 1 139 Yes No
14
Heritage University
93.07
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$33,000
8:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
95%
16% N/A 7 47 Yes Yes
15
City University of Seattle
92.75
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$50,400
11:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
N/A
20% N/A 16 21 Yes Yes
16
Eastern Washington University
91.69
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$40,500
21:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
56%
46% 74% 1 111 Yes Yes
17
Northwest University
90.96
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$40,200
13:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
97%
48% 96% 3 42 Yes Yes
18
Bastyr University
86.00
Published in-state tuition and fees for undergraduate students.
$$$$$
Annual median earnings 10 years after entering the college. Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.
$32,000
9:1
First-time, full-time undergraduates receiving grant or scholarship aid directly from the postsecondary institution.
N/A
N/A N/A 0 14 No No

Washington College Planning and Outreach Initiatives

In keeping with Washington’s ambitious goal of increasing educational attainment in the coming years, the state has introduced numerous programs to help students achieve their goal of obtaining a college degree. These programs are designed to help students plan for college, both financially and academically, as well as provide them with the information they need to succeed while in college. Special attention is paid to underserved students, especially those who are first-generation or low-income students. Below are a few of the college planning tools set forth by the state.

Ready Set Grad

This program reaches out to students in six through 12th grade with college planning tools that prepare them to afford college, choose their major, narrow down the college options and figure out what they can do to plan right now. The program also targets those who are already in college, as well as those who are embarking on continuing education, by helping them choose the career path that works best for their goals.

12th Year Campaign

This is a combination of two programs: the College Application Campaign and College Goal Washington. The program specifically targets the goal of 70 percent educational attainment by 2023 by reaching out to high school students with financial aid and application information. Part of this plan provides in-depth help with the FAFSA, including the preparation and timely submission of this important form.

The Washboard

This is a free, web-based clearinghouse of scholarship opportunities for students in Washington. The goal of this organization is to increase the availability of scholarships for those who can use them, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition, the program improves efficiency in the scholarship process and the data that students will find on those scholarships, and it provides high-quality, centralized resources for college students.

Cost Analysis of Colleges in Washington

Prospective students should consider a few things when determining the cost of college. Understanding tuition is the first step toward figuring out finances. Financial aid is another important component as it can bring down tuition by a significant amount. Finally, how many students actually get the large financial aid packages offered by schools also matters. These charts focus on the tuition, financial aid and percentage awarded to students in Washington.

Average Washington Tuition & Fees at 4-Year Public Colleges

Source: CollegeBoard

% of Washington Students Receiving Financial Aid

Source: IPEDS

Average Financial Aid Award for Washington Students

Source: IPEDS

* Institutional aid represents grant and scholarship funds directly awarded by a postsecondary institution.

* Financial aid data represents 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Washington’s Most Affordable Colleges

Though tuition does matter, it’s important to remember net price is the bottom line, not tuition. Net price is calculated by subtracting any financial aid award from the cost of attendance. The result is a number that is typically more reasonable. Students can then look into additional financial aid, scholarships and loans to help cover any additional costs. These are the top six schools when it comes to lowest net price in Washington.

Average
Annual Net
Price

Cost for students awarded federal financial aid, after school and government aid is deducted. At public colleges, only applies to in-state students.

Washington College Net Price vs. National Average
WASHINGTON $15,464 Average
Annual Net Price
$18,073

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Washington Alabama Colleges with Top Alumni Earnings

Though how much a student might make upon graduation depends upon a wide range of factors, some schools tend to produce alumni with higher wages. These six schools are the best for producing alumni with the highest salaries ten years after their enrollment. We have also compared those average salaries to the national average to give a better idea of where Washington graduates stand.

Annual
Median Earnings
10 Years
After Entering
College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

Washington Alumni Salaries vs. National Average
WASHINGTON $39,625 Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After Entering College
$42,759

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Colleges in Washington That Produce the Least Student Debt

One of the biggest concerns for students is the level of debt they might carry after graduation. The goal for many is to get out of college with as little debt as possible. These six schools produce alumni with the lowest amount of student debt after graduation. We have also compared the average graduate debt to that of the nation as a whole to provide better real-world expectations.

Median
Federal Student
Loan Debt After
Graduation

Only for undergraduates who completed college; does not include Parent-PLUS loans.

Washington College Grad Debt Vs. National Average
WASHINGTON $19,653 Median Federal Student
Loan Debt After Graduation
$23,145

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Cost of Living for Washington College Students

Washington offers great economic opportunities for graduates. According to Forbes, the cost of living in the state is about 2.5 percent higher than that of the national average, but there is no state income tax, and the average wage is in excess of $50,000 per year. Washington is one of only eight states in the nation with such a generous average wage. We looked at the metropolitan areas of Washington to help students understand where it might cost more to live and thus where it might be cheapest to attend college.

area composite index housing groceries utilities transportation health care misc.
Statewide Average 107% 109% 106% 89% 115% 117% 107%
Everett 112% 129% 108% 82% 118% 126% 105%
Seattle 142% 183% 126% 111% 130% 122% 131%
Spokane 97% 91% 94% 86% 108% 115% 99%
Tacoma 105% 90% 101% 109% 111% 117% 113%
Vancouver 106% 102% 105% 94% 116% 109% 111%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

College Accreditation in Washington

Accreditation is a process of validation. Colleges and universities seek accreditation from an independent accrediting body, which then evaluates the college to determine if it meets the high standards of a quality education. Accreditation proves a school has a strong curriculum, learned faculty and a meaningful degree. Employers prefer to see applicants with degrees from accredited schools, some colleges require transfer credits come from accredited institutions, and more financial aid options are available to those who attend an accredited college or university.

Accreditation for colleges in Washington is through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). In addition to regional accreditation through NWCCU, colleges can also opt for programmatic accreditation. This means an individual program has been evaluated and recognized for meeting the standards of a quality education. Below are two examples.

Washington College City Spotlight

Seattle

Seattle is not only home to the Space Needle; it also has numerous colleges, including public and private institutions, vocational and trade schools, and career schools centered on specific fields - especially the arts. Here are a few of the more prominent schools in the Seattle area.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

SeattleUniversity of Washington Public $11,904 $52,100
More than 54,000 students are served annually by this large research university. They attend sixteen colleges and schools within the university and partake in the 1,800 classes available. Although Seattle is the flagship campus, there are also large campuses in Bothell and Tacoma as well as an academic medical center. The average time it takes to graduate is four years, and 83 percent of entering freshmen graduate within six years, which is the highest percentage of any public institution in Washington.
SeattleSeattle University Private not-for-profit $33,557 $55,200
Founded in 1891, Seattle University is affiliated with the Jesuit Catholic faith. More than 7,400 students enjoy the 50-acre campus in Seattle's Capitol Hill area, where they attend one of 64 undergraduate programs, 31 graduate programs and 28 certificate programs. Ninety-five percent of students attend full-time, and three out of four students engage in community service-that's three times the national average. Over 86 percent of undergraduates receive financial aid as do 67 percent of graduate students and 9
SeattleSeattle Central College Public $5,366 $30,700
Spokane

The second most populous city in the state, according to the City of Spokane website, Spokane has been named an All-American City three times in the past 41 years. Spokane ranks fourth in the country for metro areas with the highest levels of healthcare employment. Students interested in healthcare and any other field can find their program at the two large public universities, two private colleges, and the public Community Colleges of Spokane system.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

SpokaneGonzaga University Private not-for-profit $28,155 $52,800
Established in 1887, Gonzaga is a Catholic liberal arts university located on the banks of the Spokane River. Over 7,600 are enrolled as undergraduates, graduates, law students and non-credit students. The school includes seven colleges, 75 fields of study, 26 master's degrees, three doctoral degrees and a juris doctor degree, all with a student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1. Ninety-eight percent of students at the university receive financial aid.
SpokaneSpokane Falls Community College Public $7,399 $28,300
The main campus of SFCC is in Spokane, but there are satellite campuses in Pullman and Fairchild Air Force Base as well as online options available. Over 8,000 students attend the school, with 66 percent of them seeking a transfer to a four-year college when their time at SFCC is over. Students select from over 40 pre-major programs, which prepare them for transfer, or from numerous career and technical programs. Students can also opt for the bachelor's degree in information systems and technology or applied management.

Source: College Scorecard

Resources for Prospective Washington College Students

Students seeking more information on Washington colleges and universities can start here. This list of resources, unique to the state, can help students with their college planning or provide a strong overview of the higher education system in the state.

Gear Up Washington State

This program, available in 73 districts across the state, helps students prepare for college and explore their financial aid options.

GET: Guaranteed Education Tuition

This program is the savings plan created by Washington to help students attend college through a prepaid plan, which locks in a potentially lower tuition rate.

Independent Colleges of Washington

This association of independent colleges in the state includes information on financial aid, student programs and other offerings through the member colleges.

OPEN Washington

The Open Education Resources Network provides free resources online for students, educators, parents and other interested parties. These resources might include lecture notes, assignments and tests, which serve as excellent study guides for college students.

Washington Financial Aid Association

This site offers in-depth information on various types of financial aid, how to get it and when to consider loans.

Washington Online

This collaborative program provides students with information on the online courses available through colleges in the state.

Washington Student Achievement Council

The goal of this state agency is to increase student success and boost educational attainment in the state. Students and parents can find information on a variety of issues, including financial aid and college readiness.