Colorado features 134 schools of higher education, with nearly 540,000 enrolled in certificate or degree programs in 2012. The state’s collection of educational opportunities ranks it 20th nationally in number of colleges and 20th in number of college students. Its wide range of post-secondary institutions also gives students numerous options for pursuing a higher education:
|College Type||Number in Colorado|
|Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation)||11|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||5|
Top Cities in Colorado for College Education
Large urban areas in Colorado house the biggest number of colleges and college students. However, many colleges are also located in some of the small and mid-sized cities in the state. The following lists rank the higher education opportunities in Colorado by city:
Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)
- Denver (100,000)
- Colorado Springs (87,400)
- Westminster (37,000)
- Boulder (31,000)
- Fort Collins (28,400)
Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)
- Denver (33)
- Colorado Springs (22)
- Aurora (13)
- Lakewood (8)
- Boulder (7)
Higher Education in Denver, Colorado
Standing at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is home to 32 universities, colleges and post-secondary trade schools. In this highly educated metro, 42.2 percent of all residents aged 25 and older have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. Denver colleges and universities serve a combined student body of 70,570 with an excellent range of undergraduate and graduate degree options at nationally recognized institutions.
Denver’s Auraria Campus is a downtown complex serving the four-year University of Colorado, Denver (UCD), the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the two-year Community College of Denver. UCD is Colorado’s largest research university and is ranked among the top 200 national universities by U.S. News and World Report. Offering the 132 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, UCD has gained high rankings and recognition for its nursing and School of Medicine programs coordinated with the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The Community College of Denver has more than 200 partnerships with businesses in the city and offers more than 100 certificate and associate degree programs.
Digital Denver: Online Schools and Universities
Students with heavy work and family obligations can still complete professional certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees online. There’s no waiting for the snowplow to arrive to commute to campus. More than 65 colleges, universities and private schools offer online degree programs in Colorado. In Denver, UCD was among the first universities in the nation to offer online degrees in 1996. The university’s CU Online has grown to offer 18 degree programs along with 12 professional certificates entirely online. Popular programs include an online MBA, nursing (RN, RN to BSN, Master’s and PhD), and Specialist License: Early Childhood Special Education. U.S. News ranks the university’s online graduate nursing programs 10th in the nation.
Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver, offers 16 undergraduate degree programs, 25 graduate degrees, and 25 professional certificates entirely in an online format through its College of Professional Studies. The Regis College for Health Professions offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates through the Loretto Heights School of Nursing, School of Physical Therapy, and Division of Health Services Administration.
Online Learning in Colorado
Colleges in Colorado have recognized the need for flexibility in higher education, and responded by adding distance learning courses to traditional course line-ups. The result is that students now have more online learning options than ever before for earning certificates and degrees. These online programs come from public colleges, private not-for-profit colleges, religious colleges and for-profit institutions. For example, CU Online from the University of Colorado is proud of its three-pronged approach to distance learning: flexible degree options, extensive student support and excellent faculty training. CU Online has 23 online and hybrid degree programs available, as well as 15 certificates. Featured majors include business, engineering, nursing, health care and education.
Paying for College: Tuition and Cost of Living
Pursuing a college education is a significant financial investment, with tuition as the highest expense. Tuition can vary considerably depending on the institution and its location. Colorado college students who have established state residency typically pay less tuition than those who have not. In 2012, yearly tuition for Colorado residents was $10,900.
When estimating the cost of college, prospective students also need to consider other mandatory college fees in addition to tuition. For example, many schools charge fees for labs, parking, athletics and other student services. Fees to attend colleges in Colorado in 2012 averaged $800, for a total of $11,700 in tuition and fees for the year.
In addition to tuition and fees, living expenses account for a large portion of higher education costs. Room and board rates can cover a wide range, depending on whether students choose to live on campus or off campus. The cost of living in Colorado is just 1 percent higher than the national average. The following table breaks down the cost of living (COL) in Colorado’s metro areas as compared to the U.S mean (100%):
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Many colleges in Colorado offer a wide range of academic opportunity, but how do you choose one that offers a solid return on your investment? The following five colleges have the highest lifetime returns on investment (ROI). Here, ROI is measured by subtracting the total cost of attendance for four years from the average lifetime salary of graduates:
- Colorado School of Mines
- University of Colorado – Boulder
- University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
- University of Colorado at Denver
- University of Denver
Scholarships, FAFSA and Alternative College Funding
Students can reduce college costs with help from numerous programs. For example, federal financial aid is one of many options Colorado students have for lowering college costs. Since federal financial assistance entails need-based programs, students must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine the total amount for which they qualify. The percentage of Colorado undergraduate students who received federal financial aid in 2012 was 59.
Most students, even those who receive federal financial aid, can pursue scholarships to make college more affordable. A number of higher education institutions in Colorado award scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarships from non-profit organizations, companies and state and local governments. Here is a list of some of the sources for scholarships in Colorado:
- ASTA-Rocky Mountain Chapter
- Coloradans for Nebraska
- Colorado Department of Higher Education
- Colorado Early Achievers Scholarship
- Colorado Student Grants
- Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals
- Denver Association
- EMU National Scholars Program
- Greenhouse Scholars
- LEAD Foundation
- Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship
- Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute
- Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship Foundation
- The Pinnocal Foundation College Scholarship Foundation
In order for students to receive college financial assistance, they must attend an accredited Colorado college or university. There are several regional and national accrediting agencies, each with quality standards for accreditation. In Colorado, the primary accrediting body is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (http://www.northcentralassociation.org/). However, online colleges in Colorado may receive national accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1926 to cover correspondence education. Individual schools and programs may also seek accreditation to garner further approval of their academic offerings. For instance, the University of Northern Colorado's School of Nursing has received accreditation from Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and approval by the Colorado State Board of Nursing.
AC Online: Ranking the Most Affordable Online Colleges in Colorado
Online schools in Colorado offer tremendous distance learning opportunities for students. Many online programs use the same professors and curriculum for the online track as the equivalent on-campus programs. This means online students can earn identical degrees as their on-campus peers. We’ve cataloged the most affordable online colleges in Colorado, ordered from lowest tuition to highest. Comparing degree levels, accessibility, admission requirements, and tuition costs, one can find great value in Colorado’s online colleges.Click here to see our methodology.