Washington's independent colleges and universities continue their unique legacy

Washington’s 10 private colleges and universities positioned to partner with state, industry and supporters to produce more college graduates

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Potential college students of Washington  – and their parents – have many choices when it comes to colleges to attend.

We have state colleges and universities around the state, in cities large and small from Seattle to Ellensburg that offer majors in everything from technology to agriculture.

But don’t forget the private and independent colleges Washington state offers.

These colleges and universities tend to be small, with far fewer students than the much larger state schools.

They also tend to be more expensive – but generous financial aid packages may make them at least as affordable as a comparable state school – more than 90% of independent college students are recipients of some sort of financial aid.

These ten schools have a total enrollment of about 40,000 students each year from 90 countries, all fifty states and every county within our state.

26% of their students are first generation (the first in their family to graduate from college), 28% are students of color and 30% are low income.

In other words, this is the educational experience that can change the course not only of a student, but an entire family.

These independent colleges confer 20% of all undergraduate degrees in the state of Washington.


Some of these schools are historic, Gonzaga University, for example, was founded in 1887 – two years before Washington became a state. Others, like Heritage University, are far more recent, having opened in 1982.

Some, like Pacific Lutheran University, are still at their original location, while others, like Whitworth University started in one location (Tacoma) and established themselves in an entirely different place (Spokane).

Some of these schools began with religious or denominational roots. Some still carry this banner proudly, while others wear their founding beliefs lightly.

I have attended events or conferences at about half of these schools and I have to say that the most striking thing about the schools I have seen up close is their distinctly defined character and mission.

If you, or the college age student in your life is looking for an education with a strong philosophical or historical “flavor,” I highly recommend these schools.

Each of these schools I have worked with have also had strong advising and alumni support services. This can make a world of difference as you apply for graduate school or your dream job.

Doorways are literal as well as metaphorical at a universityPhoto: Morf Morford
Doorways are literal as well as metaphorical at a university Photo: Morf Morford

If you have not yet decided on a school, I suggest that you begin with the advice and key questions on this website – http://www.icwashington.org/parents_students/.

Many schools probably offer the academic preparation you may be looking for, but finding a school that “fits” your personality and style may be the most important criteria of all.

More on these colleges and universities can be found at www.ICWashington.org, the website for Independent Colleges of Washington (ICW), the statewide service association of these 10 private non-profit colleges and universities.

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