Top Oregon Colleges

For lovers of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon has some excellent choices for higher education. My top picks for the state range in size from small Reed College with under 1,500 students to Oregon State with close to 30,000. The list includes public and private institutions as well as several with religious affiliations. Our criteria for selecting Oregon's top colleges include retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, value, student engagement, and notable curricular strengths. We have listed the schools alphabetically rather than forcing them into any kind of artificial ranking; the differences between a large public university and a small liberal arts college are too great to make meaningful distinctions in rank.

All of the schools below have an admissions process that is at least partly holistic, so along with your grades and standardized test scores, less numerical measures can also play a role. Your personal essay, interview, and extracurricular involvement can help strengthen your application at many of these colleges and universities.

George Fox University

George Fox University
M.O. Stevens / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Newberg, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 4,139 (2,707 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian university (Friends)
  • Distinctions: one of the country's top Christian colleges; 14 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 20; commitment to personal attention; good grant aid; NCAA Division III athletics

Lewis & Clark College

Watzek Library at Lewis & Clark College
Jeremy McWilliams / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 3,419 (2,134 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 19; chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for strong liberal arts and sciences; strong social science majors; excellent efforts related to community service; NCAA Division III athletics

Linfield College

Pioneer Hall at Linfield College
Photo Courtesy of Linfield College
  • Location: McMinnville, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 1,632 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Baptist Church
  • Distinctions: founded in 1858 and one of the oldest colleges in the Pacific Northwest; 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 17; separate nursing school in Portland; high level of participation in athletics; NCAA Division III athletic program

Oregon State University

Oregon State University
saml123 / Flickr
  • Location: Corvallis, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 30,354 (25,327 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: land-, sea-, space, and sun-grant institution; highly regarded forestry program; university manages over 10,000 acres of forest; popular business and engineering programs; NCAA Division I athletics compete in the Pacific 12 Conference

Pacific University

Marsh Hall at Pacific University
Tom Brandt / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Forest Grove, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 3,909 (1,930 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university (liberal arts focus)
  • Distinctions: founded in 1849; 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 19; strong education and health programs; easy access to hiking, skiing, kayaking, and other outdoor recreation; over 60 clubs and organizations; 21 Division III athletic teams

Reed College

Reed College
mejs / Flickr
  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 1,427 (1,410 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; one of the country's best liberal arts colleges; 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 15; high number of students go on to earn PhDs

University of Oregon

University of Oregon
jjorogen / Flickr
  • Location: Eugene, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 23,546 (20,049 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: a member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; flagship campus of Oregon's state university system; excellent creative writing program; member of the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference

University of Portland

Romanaggi Hall at the University of Portland
Visitor7 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 4,383 (3,798 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio; one of the country's top Catholic universities; strong engineering programs; member of the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference

Willamette University

Walton Hall at Willamette University
Lorenzo Tlacaelel / Flickr
  • Location: Salem, Oregon
  • Enrollment: 2,556 (1,997 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university (liberal arts focus)
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio; high percentage of students study abroad and devote time to service; students from 43 states and 27 countries; NCAA Division III athletic programs