15 Top Hidden Gem Colleges in Colorado


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15 Top Hidden Gems in Colorado

Hidden Gem Colleges in Colorado offer quality education and online programs and are some of the best small schools in the state. With a reputation for excellent higher education, Colorado has numerous colleges and universities that offer a good education with affordable tuition.

In addition to large state schools, Colorado has some excellent small private universities and small public colleges. In addition to offering an excellent education, the schools on our list also have online degree programs. These Hidden Gems in Colorado are some of the best schools you’ve never heard of!

How We Ranked the Hidden Gem Colleges in Colorado

Online Schools Guide editors found smaller Colorado colleges with excellent academic reputations and online degree programs. Then, we ranked the programs based on the cost of attendance and the number of online offerings.

1. Colorado Christian University

website: Colorado Christian University
Colorado Christian University

Nestled in the Denver, Colorado, suburb of beautiful Lakewood, the Colorado Christian University was founded in 1914 as one of the premier interdenominational Christian colleges in the state of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. Over 9,000 students attend the university each year on its main campus and the regional center located in Colorado Springs and through online classes. The university offers more than 200 academic programs for students to choose from in various subjects. More than 1,500 traditional students attend the College of Undergraduate Studies, most residing on campus.

The College of Adult and Graduate Studies offers graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to enroll in degree programs as adult learners. More than 90 percent of the university’s adult students complete their degree programs online, allowing them to tend to their other responsibilities. Online classes make it much easier for them to achieve their goals while they work at their own pace. Students can choose from more than 100 different associate, bachelor, master’s, and doctorate programs online. Some include associate degrees in Biblical Studies, Business Administration, computer information technology, and communication studies. Examples of bachelor’s degree programs include computer science, accounting, and applied psychology with various focuses.

Location: Lakewood, Colorado

Online programs: 78

2. Regis University

website: Regis University

Founded in 1877, Regis University is considered the only Jesuit and Catholic university in the Rocky Mountains area. It is one of only 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. The idea for creating the university came about through a vision by St. Ignatius. The university’s main goal is to educate students to be able to work in leadership roles while positively impacting society as a whole. There are three colleges under the Regis University umbrella: Anderson College of Business and Computing, Regis College and School for Professional Advancement, and the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions.

Regis University is home to nearly 7,000 students enrolled in more than 120 different degree programs throughout the three colleges. The university offers undergraduate and graduate programs in various areas, such as criminal justice, education, music, health care, business, counseling, and many others that can be completed on campus in person or through online classes. The university offers master’s degree and doctorate programs, including pharmacy and physical therapy, that are offered online.

Location: Denver, Colorado

Online programs: 47

3. Pikes Peak State College

website: Pikes Peak State College

Founded in 1968 under the name of the El Paso Community College, Pikes Peak State College now serves more than 17,000 students yearly and is the most diverse and extensive college in the Pikes Peak area. The average class size is 16 students at the main campus, which is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The current campus of the college is situated on 212 acres of land near Fort Carson and was constructed in 1978, the same year that the college council approved the name of Pikes Peak State College.

Students can attend classes at one of three main campuses, two smaller learning centers located at the Fort Carson Army Post, and the Peterson Space Force Base. Students can also complete their degree programs online. For example, students wishing to earn an associate degree in art, automotive technology, computer science, or nursing can take online classes. Bachelor degree programs online include business administration, emergency services administration, and broadcasting and electronic media.

Location: Colorado Springs

Online programs: 20 degrees

4. Colorado State University Global

website: Colorado State University Global
CSU Global

Colorado State University Global (CSU Global) was founded in 2007 and offers fully online degree and certificate programs. CSU Global, part of the Colorado State University System, is considered the first independent, fully accredited State University to offer classes 100 percent online.

Program areas include business management, accounting, computer science, finance, criminal justice, cybersecurity, health care administration and management, human resource management, human services, information technology, marketing, and project management. Students can earn their bachelor’s or master’s degree fully online while still tending to their other responsibilities.

Location: Greenwood Village

Online programs: 16

5. Adams State University

website: Adams State University
Adams State University

Situated in the Colorado town of Alamosa, Adams State University was founded in 1921 as a college for those who strived to be teachers. The school is named after Billy Adams, a Colorado legislator who then became the governor of Colorado for three terms. The first graduate of the university, Harriet Dalzell, received her degree in 1926 before becoming the school’s first librarian and Alamosa County school superintendent. As the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs expanded, it took on the name Adams State College in 1946 before changing its name in 2012 to Adams State University.

The school offers an array of different areas of study, and many of those degree programs are online. Examples include business, teacher education, higher education administration leadership, counselor education, sociology, media industry, and communication. These are bachelor, master’s, and graduate degree programs.

Location: Alamosa, Colorado

Online programs: 12

6. Colorado State University-Pueblo

website: Colorado State University-Pueblo
Colorado State University-Pueblo

More than 4,000 students attend Colorado State University-Pueblo, founded in 1933 as the Southern Colorado Junior College. It is a fully accredited university that provides various opportunities for students, including educational, social, and cultural opportunities. The university changed its name to its current one in 2003 to align more closely with its governing body, the Colorado State University system. The 275-acre campus is located in Pueblo, Colorado, which is about 100 miles away from Denver.

The university offers various areas of study, such as social work, business administration and management, sociology, and criminology, in an on-campus traditional setting. The university also works to meet the needs of working adults you’ll have families to raise by offering various online degree programs, such as Master of Business Education and Master of Education degrees. Some bachelor’s degree programs offered fully online include leadership and management, Health Science administration, and registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Location: Pueblo, Colorado

Online programs: 12

7. Colorado Mesa University

website: Colorado Mesa University
Colorado Mesa University

Founded in 1925, Colorado Mesa University boasts an enrollment of nearly 11,000 students working to earn their degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, associate, and certificate levels. Most university students are traditional-age students enrolled full-time, but many other students attend college and work and care for families. This is the reason the university offers a variety of online courses as well as fully online degree and certificate programs.

Some certificate programs offered entirely online include a graduate certificate in rhetoric and literary studies and a graduate certificate in social sciences. When it comes to associate degrees, students can earn an associate of arts in social science or an associate of arts in university studies and liberal arts fully online. Some bachelor’s degree programs include Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, sport management, elementary education licensure, and business administration in management. Some graduate degrees offered online are master of business administration, Master of Science and Nursing, Master of Science in Sport Management, and Master of Arts in criminal justice leadership and policy. Students can also earn a doctorate in nursing practice entirely online.

Location: Grand Junction, Colorado

Online programs: 11

8. Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design

website: Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design
Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design

The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design was founded in 1963 by Philip J Steele as a private, for-profit school nestled in the foothills of Colorado. He was a well-known educator and illustrator who wanted to develop an art program that teaches drawing and painting methods that date back to the Renaissance. The school currently has over 1600 undergraduate students enrolled in a variety of areas of study.

The college prides itself on the fact that students can earn degrees through online degree programs while still working a full or part-time job or raising a family. The online degree programs offered at the school include game art, fashion design, graphic design, photography, art education, animation, illustration, illustrative design, music production, and interior design.

Location: Denver, Colorado

Online programs: 10

9. Colorado School of Mines

website: Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines

The Colorado School of Mines is unique because its first-year traditions were founded in 1908 by 250 students, along with 20 faculty members and a team of burros. It is a tradition that first-year students start their year off with a hike up Mt. Zion while carrying a 10-pound rock from their hometown. They then leave it with the rocks from the students before them on the famous hillside “M.”

The school itself was founded in the city of Golden, Colorado, in 1874. Hundreds of students each year enter into undergraduate and graduate degree programs in various areas of study, including science, engineering, and mathematics, with a significant focus on energy and the environment.

While many students opt to attend classes in person, online certificate and degree programs are available for those who want to work at their own pace. These include addictive manufacturing, business analytics, and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage certificate programs. Some degree programs offer cyber security and data science with various focuses, such as computer science, earth resources, and foundations.            

Location: Golden, Colorado

Online programs: 7

10. Columbia College of Missouri

website: Columbia College of Missouri
Columbia College of Missouri

The first students at the Columbia College of Missouri focused on ancient history, proper grammar, math, philosophy, geography, composition, and the Bible. In 1851, the college was referred to as the Christian Female College and received a charter issued by the Missouri legislature.

Today, the college has become one of the higher-education leaders and has more than 30 branches throughout the United States, with the main campus being located in Columbia, Missouri. It is a private, nonprofit liberal Arts and Sciences college that provides programming for students to earn their associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The college serves around 18,000 students in both non-traditional and traditional settings.

Online degree programs allow adult students to fit their college classes into their already busy schedules since they can take courses anywhere, anytime. The college has offered more than 30 degree programs online since 2000. Those degree programs include business management, computer and mathematics, general studies, accounting and finance, management and human resources, marketing and entrepreneurship, nursing, social sciences, and Health Sciences.

Location: Centennial, Colorado

Online programs: 26

11. Nazarene Bible College

website: Nazarene Bible College
Nazarene Bible College

The Nazarene Bible College was founded in 1964 to glorify Jesus Christ as Lord by preparing adults to evangelize, disciple, and minister worldwide. The school’s primary focus is preparing women and men to work in the ministry. It is a private college nestled in the beautiful city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and it was approved to grant degrees in 1970 by the Colorado Department of Education.

With only about 350 students enrolled, the college has a seven-to-one student-to-faculty ratio, so students get the individualized attention they want. While many students attend classes in a traditional setting on campus, others ought to take many degree programs available online. The school began offering online education in 1998 and currently offers a four-year college degree program and the Bachelor of Arts and ministry degree for those who want to serve as counselors, ministers, educators, or in other supportive roles within the church.

Other online programs include an associate of arts degree in ministry with various concentrations, such as Christian educational ministries, early education, church ministries, and Hispanic pastoral ministries. Students can also earn certificates in ministry preparation, the ministry preparation program, and a variety of others.

Location: Colorado Springs

Online programs: 4

12. Aims Community College

website: Aims Community College
Aims Community College

The main campus of Aims Community College is located in Greeley, Colorado, and offers several other campuses throughout the state’s northern area. The college was founded in 1967 and has a total of four physical campuses as well as an entire online campus environment. Students can choose from more than 200 degree and certificate programs in various fields of study.

Some online degree programs available for adult students who work full or part-time jobs or are busy raising a family or with other obligations include associate of science degrees in agriculture business and liberal arts, animal science, and anthropology. Students may opt for an associate of arts degree in various areas, such as art history and biology. Several bachelor’s and graduate degrees are available that students can complete online.

Location: Greeley, Loveland, Fort Lupton, Windsor

Online programs: 1

13. Colorado Mountain College

website: Colorado Mountain College
Colorado Mountain College

Colorado Mountain College is a public community college with several campuses throughout western Colorado. Founded in 1965, the college offers an array of associate, bachelor’s, and career-technical certificate programs to about 20,000 students each year.

While many of the students at Colorado Mountain College opt to take classes in-person at one of the campuses, many others choose to complete their degree or certificate programs through online classes each year. Seven bachelor’s degree programs are offered online, including Business, Ecosystem Science and Stewardship, Education, Human Services, Leadership and Management, Nursing, and Sustainability. They are considered four-year degree programs even though many online students complete them in less time. Students can also earn an associate degree in paralegal studies or a certificate in paralegal studies.

Location: Glenwood Springs

Online programs: 1

14. Fort Lewis College

website: Fort Lewis College
Fort Lewis College

Fort Lewis College is considered to be a public liberal arts college that is located in Durango, Colorado. The school began in 1911 as a military fort that was turned into an Indian boarding school and eventually the state public school. In 2008, the United States Department of Education designated the college as only one of six in the United States that is considered Native American serving, even though it is a non-tribal college. The college offers 30 bachelor’s degree programs, and most classes have 19 or fewer students enrolled in each.

The college offers 59 majors and allows students to complete their coursework in various ways, including entirely online. Students can also participate in internships, other hands-on learning opportunities, and original research. Some of the bachelor’s degree programs offered include accounting, adventure education, anthropology, art history, K through 12 education, biochemistry, and various others.

Location: Durango, Colorado

Online programs: 1

15. Western Colorado University

website: Western Colorado University
Western Colorado University

Western Colorado University is situated in the city of Gunnison, Colorado. More than 2500 undergraduate and 400 graduate students each year attend the school, which is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Students can gain hands-on experience in various areas, including archaeological digs and brand-new computer science and engineering labs.

Western Colorado University’s Adult Degree Completion program was created to assist professionals in gaining some college experience while earning a bachelor’s degree in a more flexible environment through online education. This allows students to continue working, raising a family, or tending to other obligations while completing their coursework for their degrees. Some degree programs include general studies, teacher licensure, and business communication, which can be completed online.

Location: Gunnison, Colorado

Online programs: 1

What is a Hidden Gem in Colorado?

A Hidden Gem in Colorado is a postsecondary school with a smaller student body. Many of these colleges and universities are private religious schools. However, small liberal arts colleges in Colorado and smaller state universities also fit this category.

What are the Benefits of Attending a Small College or University in Colorado?

A small college and a large university offer very different college experiences. Of course, students can earn an excellent education at any established institution. But what other factors will make your college experience the best?

Hidden Gems in Colorado are schools where students thrive. Many of these smaller colleges and universities have a lower student-to-faculty ratio. So students receive more personal attention from instructors. In addition, the reduced class size typically means seasoned professors teach the courses. So, overall, students at these schools have a more personal education experience.

Why Do Students Attend Small Colleges or Hidden Gems in Colorado?

Students attend small colleges and universities for many reasons. Many students like the idea of a smaller campus and a close community. A university the size of your small town can seem overwhelming after attending a small high school.

Community and shared values are essential to many individuals. Many students, especially those attending a religious institution, want to live and attend school with other students with the same values. And one of the Hidden Gems in Colorado may be a good fit for these students.

Are Small Colleges and Hidden Gems in Colorado More Expensive?

Public universities receive significant funding from both state and federal governments. Private institutions don’t receive the same government funding, so they charge more. Therefore, private college tuition is typically more expensive than tuition at state schools.

However, most private schools have additional funding sources they use for financial aid. The money comes from school endowments and gifts. This school-based aid considerably reduces the total cost of what a student pays. Therefore, the final amount of private school tuition is often less than what is listed on their website.

Furthermore, each student’s financial need is part of the financial aid calculation. So, the amount is different for each student. It surprises many students when they learn private schools can be as affordable as public institutions. So, after you find some schools you want to attend, go through the steps to learn your final cost.

Are Smaller Colleges Better?

The best college or university for you is the one that meets your needs. Only you know the right fit for you because everyone is different. So, it is essential to understand where you will grow and thrive. 

Large universities are a good fit for independent learners who may not need much help. However, students needing more individualized attention may find smaller schools with smaller classes a better fit. And one of our Hidden Gems in Colorado may be your place!


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