50 Best Value Alternative Graduate Schools in the West 2016

By Iris Stone
April 2016

Read below for our ranking of the 50 best alternative graduate schools in the Western United States.

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “alternative.” Why wouldn’t we just rank the best grad schools? Why did we feel compelled to look for something different? In short, because a list of the 50 best graduate schools based on traditional factors – like selectivity and test scores – wouldn’t be news to anyone. That’s because the same colleges and universities always appear at the top of those rankings, in almost the exact same order. We all know about the prestigious Ivy League universities and schools like Stanford and Cal Tech, which many consider to be “new Ivies.” And so we wondered: is it possible to create a ranking of top grad schools that doesn’t include any of these typical options?

Methodology

We developed our own “alternative” methodology, which you can read all about here.

The 50 best alternative grad schools in the West are listed below. Many schools are probably still not that much of a surprise, as they all have plenty to offer advanced degree seekers. For each, highlight some of the university’s strongest subjects, which we hope will help guide you as you consider which is the right school for you.

New Mexico State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

As a diverse school and a leading institution with the NASA Space Grant Program, New Mexico State University is home to a top graduate program for aerospace engineering, especially for minority students.

50. New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM

Website
New Mexico State University’s business, education, and nursing programs are all well-regarded, but its graduate program in engineering is particularly notable for its affiliation with the NASA Space Grant Program, for which NMSU is the lead New Mexico institution. The space agency provides curriculum enhancement, faculty development, and scholarships to STEM programs across the country. Another key aspect of NMSU’s identity is diversity. The school is a Hispanic-serving institution, and nearly half of the student population is Hispanic. In fact, NMSU aims to serve diverse communities across every county in New Mexico, including American Indian tribes, through its Tribal Extension program.
Tuition and Fees: $9,757/yr
Score: 54.63

Oklahoma State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

OSU invests in several different areas of research, giving it wide appeal to students who want to attend graduate school for healthcare, education, technology, or just about anything else.

49. Oklahoma State University

Stillwater, OK

Website
With 17 master’s and 45 doctoral level programs, Oklahoma State University has something for every one of its 5,000 graduate students. Research is an essential element of the school’s mission. Whether its students choose to pursue a graduate degree in engineering or English, OSU actively pursues federal funding within particular focus areas: energy technology, health care, STEM education, food safety and security, water stewardship, and technologies to aid independent living. OSU’s well-ranked graduate degree in medicine features a noteworthy and nationally regarded four-year Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine that provides comprehensive medical training with a unique “whole-person” approach to treating patients.
Tuition and Fees: $13,837/yr
Score: 55.81

California State University San Bernardino Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Graduate students who need flexibility should turn to CSU San Bernardino, which offers graduate degrees in interdisciplinary topics to suit a combination of interests.

48. California State University-San Bernardino

San Bernardino, CA

Website
California State University, San Bernardino features a number of unique graduate programs, many of which are focused on providing an interdisciplinary approach to education. One particularly flexible example is the school’s top graduate degree in interdisciplinary studies, which enables students to build their own custom degree program in consultation with three faculty members, at least two of whom must come from different fields of study. Graduate students can also pursue a graduate degree in business administration with a focus in Entrepreneurship, where they’ll start and run a real business under the advisement of Cal State’s expert faculty.
Tuition and Fees: $13,396/yr
Score: 55.86

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

If you’re an aspiring inventor, you’ll find like-minded grad students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette – a top graduate degree for engineering of all kinds.

47. University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Lafayette, LA

Website
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s robust research program prioritizes finding practical applications for its cutting-edge research. The school is proud of its faculty’s and students’ real-world innovations, including a driver-less robotic vehicle named CajunBot and a hurricane-proof solar home called BeauSoleil. UL Lafayette’s graduate degree in systems engineering draws on each of the school’s five engineering departments – chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and petroleum – and enables graduate students to obtain an integrated graduate degree in engineering while specializing in one of these fields. Graduates of the Systems Engineering program can pursue careers in fields ranging from coastal ecosystems to fiber optic networks to disaster resource management.
Tuition and Fees: $13,546/yr
Score: 61.06

California State University Northridge Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

CSU Northridge stands out as a graduate school with a unique balance, combining large-scale public resources with small-scale academic programs.

46. California State University-Northridge

Northridge, CA

Website
California State University-Northridge is the third largest school in the University of California system, but most of its graduate programs are quite small, meaning students benefit from the resources of a major institution and the personal touch of a tight-knit academic community. Applicants can choose from two doctoral programs — a Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy – and a broad range of 58 master’s degrees, including programs in counseling, education, and public administration, as well as a top graduate degree in business administration designed for fully employed professionals.
Tuition and Fees: $13,395/yr
Score: 70.21

University of the Redlands Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Redlands students benefit from strong graduate programs in Communicative Disorders and Language and Learning.

45. University of Redlands

Redlands, CA

Website
Graduate students at the University of Redlands benefit from the school’s unique “Centers of Distinction.” This innovative network of research institutions features six distinct centers, each of which focuses on a highly specialized field of study. One example is the Truesdail Center for Communicative Disorders, which connects graduate student clinicians with local clients who suffer from swallowing disorders, traumatic brain injury, stuttering, autism, and language and learning disorders. Although the school offers just 14 graduate degree programs, most have similarly strong links with other Centers of Distinction, providing an invaluable resource for students working in less common fields.
Tuition and Fees: $18,792/yr
Score: 73.27

Hardin Simmons University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Hardin-Simmons is one of the best graduate schools for religion – not only for its programs in divinity, but also for the other spiritually-infused programs, like Church Music and Family Ministry.

44. Hardin-Simmons University

Abilene, TX

Website
As a Christian university, Hardin-Simmons offers a number of faith-based graduate programs, including graduate degrees in Church Music, Family Ministry, and Divinity. HSU also boasts a relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas that is over a half-century old, providing great networking opportunities for students who want to enter the ministry after earning their graduate degree in divinity. And for students aiming for more secular careers, the school offers a healthy set of graduate degrees in liberal arts – including Master of Arts in English, History, and Clinical Counseling, as well as MBAs in Sport Management and Entrepreneurship.
Tuition and Fees: $11,700/yr
Score: 77.50

Oklahoma City University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Oklahoma City University’s graduate program in education is surprisingly comprehensive, with options in unique subtopics like Behavioral Sciences and American Montessori.

43. Oklahoma City University

Oklahoma City, OK

Website
Oklahoma City University is known for its innovative Master’s of Education – students can pursue M.E.s in Applied Behavioral Sciences, Professional Counseling, and even a 50-year-old American Montessori Certification program that allows students to obtain a Montessori certification while pursuing their graduate degree in education. The school’s low student-to-faculty ratio (11:1) enables students to receive individual attention as they choose an “area of emphasis” for their graduate degree. OCU is a Christian university and has a historic relationship with the United Methodist Church, but the school welcomes all faiths with an “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors” policy.
Tuition and Fees: $15,804/yr
Score: 79.75

University of Texas El Paso Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

In addition to academic strengths in business and engineering, UT El Paso has also established itself as one of the best graduate schools for diversity and affordability.

42. The University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso, TX

Website
Applicants to the University of Texas at El Paso can choose from nearly 100 graduate programs. The school offers 20 doctoral programs and 78 master’s programs across the UT El Paso’s seven colleges of business, education, engineering, health sciences, liberal arts, nursing, and science. UTEP makes diversity and excellence a priority by working to ensure that its student population is varied and high-achieving. As many as three-quarters of students receive financial aid, and the school’s Master’s of Business Administration and College of Engineering programs are well-regarded for graduating Hispanic students with degrees in business administration and engineering.
Tuition and Fees: $8,864/yr
Score: 79.82

University of Colorado Boulder Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Undecided and focused students alike will benefit from the dual degree graduate program at UC Boulder, which provides top grad degrees in cross-disciplinary fields within science and tech.

41. University of Colorado Boulder

Boulder, CO

Website
“Two for one” is a common arrangement at the University of Colorado Boulder, which offers 14 dual master’s degree programs and 35 concurrent bachelor’s/master’s degree programs (not to mention over 15 interdisciplinary certificate programs). And with 11 individual research institutes and more than 900 investigators, CU Boulder is no slouch when it comes to research. The school has working relationships with several federal labs and innovative research programs in renewable energy, biotechnology, space sciences, engineering, and geosciences. Graduates will appreciate the school’s Postdoctoral Association of Colorado, which fosters professional development for CU Boulder postdoctoral fellows.
Tuition and Fees: $20,623/yr
Score: 94.60

University of Texas San Antonio Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

The University of Texas at San Antonio is quickly becoming a top graduate school for research, thanks to a five-point approach that focuses on vital areas of health, social development, and the environment.

40. The University of Texas at San Antonio

San Antonio, TX

Website
The University of Texas at San Antonio is large and growing. The school is working toward becoming a Carnegie Tier-1 research institution and offers more than 100 doctoral, master’s and graduate certificate programs. In its quest for Tier-1 status, UT San Antonio has built an impressive research program. The school offers nearly two dozen research centers and institutes spanning UTSA’s five areas of excellence – Energy and the Environment, Health, Human and Social Development, Security, and Sustainability. That translates to high-tech centers in innovative fields like Cultural Sustainability, Water Research, and Cyber Security.
Tuition and Fees: $13,272/yr
Score: 96.36

Northern Arizona University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

If you want a graduate degree in international studies, NAU may be able to help.  Its cost-effective study abroad programs save students plenty of money while they explore other countries.

39. Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, AZ

Website
If you’re short on time, Northern Arizona University is one of over 60 U.S. institutions that offers Professional Science Master’s (PSM) programs. Students can earn a PSM in just two years, and most programs feature interdisciplinary studies across more than one academic discipline. NAU offers PSM degrees in two subjects: Applied Geospatial Sciences and Climate Science and Solutions. Or if you’d like to fit a little travel into your graduate degree, NAU’s Center for International Education will let you pay NAU’s affordable tuition rates in lieu of the cost of a host institution abroad.
Tuition and Fees: $13,025/yr
Score: 104.1

University of Northern Colorado Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Of all the top graduate schools for education, the University of Northern Colorado is one of the most comprehensive, with degrees in Educational Psychology, Leadership, Curriculum Studies, and many more.

38. University of Northern Colorado

Greeley, CO

Website
The University of Northern Colorado aims to provide a great experience for every one of its students. The academic community is tight-knit, with small classes sizes and a teacher/scholar model that ensures faculty members prioritize both 1-on-1 instruction with their students and active research in their fields. That close faculty-student relationship makes UNC one of the best graduate schools for education, with Master’s of Arts in Educational Leadership and Educational Psychology, Master’s of Teaching in Curriculum Studies, English Education, Elementary Education, plus Ph.D. programs in Educational Mathematics, Educational Psychology, and Educational Studies.
Tuition and Fees: $14,748/yr
Score: 106.1

University of South Dakota Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

South Dakota simply wouldn’t be the same without USD, which provides graduate degrees in law and education that have trained more than half of the state’s professionals in those fields.

37. University of South Dakota

Vermillion, SD

Website
The University of South Dakota is well-respected in its home state. Seventy percent of South Dakota’s lawyers and about half of its doctors and teachers graduated from USD. And no wonder – with 66 graduate and professional programs, USD is the largest graduate education provider in the Mount Rushmore state. The school offers a wide variety of graduate programs in education – 11 categories in all – many of which include additional specializations that ensure every student can find a graduate program in education that is unique to his or her interests.
Tuition and Fees: $10,955/yr
Score: 106.3

University of North Dakota Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

North Dakota may be a long way away from a space shuttle launch site, but that hasn’t stopped the University of North Dakota from developing a top graduate school in aerospace science and aircraft systems.

36. University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND

Website
Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the University of North Dakota is even bigger than its neighbor to the south. With 120 graduate degree and certificate programs (and more likely on the way) UND has become a nationally known research institution. Much of that notability comes from the school’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, which provides one of the best top graduate degrees in aviation in the U.S. Those years of experience have enabled the school to remain on the cutting edge. Today it is home to the Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research, Education and Training.
Tuition and Fees: $13,964/yr
Score: 108.8

University of Texas Arlington Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Students who are interested in a graduate degree in architecture or public planning should consider the University of Texas at Arlington’s top programs.

35. The University of Texas at Arlington

Arlington, TX

Website
The University of Texas at Arlington is the second largest in the UT system, and its graduate program reflects that size, with just over 9,000 graduate students and over 100 master’s and doctoral degree programs. The school offers degrees in nine different academic areas, including an innovative College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs that offers a Master of City and Regional Planning and a PhD in Urban Planning and Public Policy. UT Arlington’s graduate program in business is also one of the best in the country and has working relationships with many Chinese educational institutions.
Tuition and Fees: $11,625/yr
Score: 108.9

Utah State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

As one of the only universities in the U.S. with a combined clinical/counseling/educational psychology program, Utah State is one of the best graduate schools for psychology students with varied interests.

34. Utah State University

Logan, UT

Website
Utah State University is home to the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, one of the largest and most varied educational and human services colleges in the country. The college offers 29 research, clinical, and professional degrees by itself and is one of only two universities in the country to offer a PhD graduate program in psychology that combines clinical, counseling, and school psychology and is accredited by the American Psychological Association. If education and psychology aren’t your fields of choice, USU offers more than 150 other graduate degree programs to meet nearly every need.
Tuition and Fees: $12,079/yr
Score: 109.5

University of Arkansas Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

The University of Arkansas is a top grad school for international students, as it accepts a large number of foreign applicants and invests heavily in its study abroad programs.

33. University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, AR

Website
The University of Arkansas takes a global approach to graduate education; the school welcomes international students through an International Students and Scholars team and offers extensive study abroad programs. More than a third of graduate students were international in 2012, and 800 students studied abroad while pursuing a graduate degree at UA. One benefit of this worldwide focus is the school’s unique Program in Comparative Literature and Cultural studies, a doctorate program with a wide range of areas of concentration: comparative literature, interdisciplinary Hispanic studies, modern language, cultural studies, literary translation.
Tuition and Fees: $12,595/yr
Score: 114.8

Portland State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Portland State University’s top graduate degrees in environmental studies, like Sustainable Food Systems and Energy Policy, reflect the eco-conscious values of its home state.

32. Portland State University

Portland, OR

Website
It might not surprise you to hear that Portland State University is one of the greenest schools in the country. Eight buildings on the PSU campus boast LEED certification, and the school has mandated that all future buildings must earn LEED certification as well. And as you might expect, the school’s highly regarded graduate programs in Urban Studies (PSU offers both a Master’s and Ph.D.) feature an Environment field area with courses in Green Buildings and Energy and Society. If that’s not “green” enough for you, consider pursuing one of Portland State’s popular graduate degrees in Sustainable Food Systems or Energy Policy and Management.
Tuition and Fees: $17,181/yr
Score: 116.0

Louisiana State University and A&M College Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

LSU’s broad investment in research and advanced education has helped the university rise to new heights, with top grad programs in more than 30 subjects.

31. Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College

Baton Rouge, LA

Website
Like the University of Northern Colorado, Louisiana State University operates on the teacher/scholar model, meaning it values research as a vital part of the university’s overall health. LSU also sees research productivity as an important indicator of the quality of education it provides its students. LSU’s approach to integrating teaching and research has paid off and its heavy investment (financially and otherwise) in a wide range of programs has placed it in Carnegie Tier-1 territory. The school now boasts nationally ranked graduate programs in education, library and information studies, fine arts, and landscape architecture, plus more than 100 other master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs.
Tuition and Fees: $9,877/yr
Score: 117.1

University of Nevada Reno Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

It’s hard to get more “alternative” than offering an uncommon graduate degree like Basque Studies, which UNR offers through its popular grad social science programs.

30. University of Nevada-Reno

Reno, NV

Website
The University of Nevada-Reno is another top-tier research university with some amazing technology – two ultra-powerful lasers, a gene-sequencing center, and even a large-scale experimental earthquake research center that enables researchers to test the stability of structures by simulating earthquakes. UNR also has several robust liberal arts graduate programs, including a Master of Science in Equity and Diversity in Education and a unique Basque Tutorial program. Students in that track pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in Basque Studies in conjunction with a UNR graduate degree in anthropology, foreign languages and literature, geography, political science, or history.
Tuition and Fees: $12,245/yr
Score: 118.7

University of Nevada Las Vegas Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Befitting its location in one of the world’s top vacation destinations, the University of Nevada Las Vegas has some of the best graduate degrees in Hotel Administration, Hospitality, and Hotel Design.

29. University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV

Website
Like its sister institution in Reno, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas is ranked by the Carnegie Foundation as a “research-intensive university,” and the school is working hard to achieve Tier-1 status. Several of UNLV’s top-ranked programs are aided by its proximity to the Las Vegas strip. Business students can choose from well-regarded graduate programs in Hospitality Management and Hotel Administration (the latter of which offers two dual Master’s programs), and architecture students can pursue a graduate degree in Hospitality Design during a year of intense study with Las Vegas-based architecture firms.
Tuition and Fees: $12,455/yr
Score: 120.3

Missouri University of Science and Technology Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

A STEM-dominant grad school, the Missouri University of Science and Technology is a leading academic force in graduate-level computing and engineering.

28. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, MO

Website
The Missouri University of Science and Technology is a STEM-focused school with strong graduate programs in four primary areas: Business, Psychology and Communication, Sciences and Computing, and Engineering. In 2009, MST changed its name from the University of Missouri, Rolla to affirm its commitment to STEM fields. Since then, the newly titled University of Science and Technology has set its sights on becoming one of the top five polytechs in the U.S. Today. Nearly three-quarters of the student body studies some branch of engineering, and MST’s graduate degree in engineering is one of the best in the country.
Tuition and Fees: $17,886/yr
Score: 120.9

University of Houston Clear Lake Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

UHCL takes advantage of its location near the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, offering top professional graduate programs in aerospace engineering and related fields.

27. University of Houston-Clear Lake

Houston, TX

The fact that the University of Houston-Clear Lake can count a half-dozen astronauts among its alumni might seem like a fortunate coincidence, until you consider its proximity to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. In fact, the Texas state school system specifically founded UHCL as a way to provide graduate programs in engineering that would help meet NASA’s demand for professionals with advanced degrees. And although the school stops short of a comprehensive astronaut training program, starry-eyed grad students can nonetheless choose from a wide range of top graduate degrees in the sciences. If you’d prefer to keep your feet planted firmly on the ground, you’ll find plenty of other master’s degrees on the Clear Lake Campus, including programs in art, business, and healthcare administration – as well as a relatively new doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Tuition and Fees: $11,196/yr
Score: 121.8

Texas Woman's University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Texas Woman’s University is, no surprise, one of the best graduate schools for women, and it has gained attention for its reputable degrees in Physical Therapy, Library Science, and Gender Studies.

26. Texas Woman’s University

Denton, TX

Website
In addition to being the largest state-supported university for women in the United States, Texas Woman’s University has a number of other academic claims to fame. For example, the school is home to the largest graduate nursing program in Texas, a highly regarded graduate degree in library science, and one of the nation’s best occupational and physical therapy programs. And as you might expect, TWU offers a robust Women’s Studies program that features a post-baccalaureate Graduate Certificate in Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies as well as both a Master of Arts and PhD in Women’s Studies.
Tuition and Fees: $9,420/yr
Score: 128.1

Montana State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

With an annual research budget north of $100 million, it’s no wonder Montana State has established leadership in research-intensive graduate programs like biomedicine and energy.

25. Montana State University

Bozeman, MT

Website
Montana State University is well-known for innovative and multidisciplinary graduate programs – like the graduate degree in Immunology and Infectious Disease in the school’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Other popular graduate programs include biomedicine, energy, environmental science, and agriculture. Ecology and natural biology degrees offer particular appeal to MSU students, given the university’s proximity to one of North America’s most unique ecosystems: Yellowstone National Park. Graduate students flock to Bozeman to take advantage of the opportunity to conduct experiments at Yellowstone. Fortunately, MSU has established an impressive research budget to meet this demand, with annual expenditures of more than $100 million and plenty of funds to maintain its state-of-the-art research facilities.
Tuition and Fees: $11,520/yr
Score: 131.3

Texas Tech University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Texas Tech is quickly becoming one of the top grad schools in the Southwest region, thanks to nearly 30 nationally ranked degrees and its recent promotion to Carnegie’s Tier 1 status.

24. Texas Tech University

Lubbock, TX

Website
Texas Tech’s status as a leading research institution has recently grown to new heights, thanks to its inclusion in the latest list of Carnegie’s Tier-1 universities. Not only is TTU one of just 81 public universities in that category, but it is one of only 15 universities to have been “promoted” to Tier-1 designation since Carnegie’s last ranking (in 2010). That indicates just how focused the university is on growth, and its graduate division has benefited greatly. With 59 doctoral degrees, 103 master’s degrees, and 53 certificate programs, plus 65 specialized research centers and institutes, graduate students at TTU have access to an extremely broad range of resources.
Tuition and Fees: $10,473/yr
Score: 140.6

University of California Santa Cruz Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

While many schools have been quick to strengthen their STEM programs for the 21st century, UC Santa Cruz is keeping the humanities alive through top graduate degrees in the social sciences and arts/media.

23. University of California-Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, CA

Website
As one of the “Public Ivies,” the University of California Santa Cruz offers a unique combination of big-budget, world-class research programs and a well-regarded and comprehensive liberal arts school. That should be especially appealing to students looking to take advantage of UC Santa Cruz’s extensive interdisciplinary graduate programs. One example is the school’s graduate degree in Digital Arts and New Media, which pulls together faculty from the arts, computer engineering, humanities, the sciences, and social sciences and enables students to pursue both artistic and scholarly research in a cutting-edge field.
Tuition and Fees: $20,811/yr
Score: 144.0

University of Hawaii Manoa Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Its unique location in the open Pacific gives the University of Hawaii Manoa a significant edge in certain fields, and it has become a popular graduate school for astronomy and oceanography.

22. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu, HI

Website
The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s unique location – nestled in the Honolulu valley of Manoa – makes it an ideal choice for students who want to study topics as diverse as oceanography, astronomy, Pacific Islands and Asian area studies, linguistics, and tropical agriculture. Well aware of its strengths in these areas, UHM has established a variety of research centers to support cultural and environmental exploration. In particular, the school has access to world-class astronomical observatories, making its graduate program in astronomy tempting to star-gazers for reasons besides the tropical climate. In addition to this academic diversity, the University of Hawaii at Manoa also boasts a diverse student body, which reflects the state’s multicultural population as well as its proximity to countries other than the United States.
Tuition and Fees: $23,432/yr
Score: 144.1

Southern Methodist University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Many people are familiar with Southern Methodist’s graduate degrees in theology, but for an alternative option consider choosing SMU for its high-quality Interactive Technology program.

21. Southern Methodist University

Dallas, TX

Website
True to its name, Southern Methodist University is home to a robust graduate school of religion, with Master’s of Divinity, Ministry, Sacred Music, Theological Studies, and Theology, as well as doctoral programs in Ministry, Pastoral Studies, and Religious Studies. You’ll find all of these programs within SMU’s Perkins School of Theology, which – despite being over 100 years old – features a newly constructed LEED-certified building with state-of-the-art technology. For something completely different, students can pursue a Master of Interactive Technology at SMU’s aptly named Guildhall, one of the first and most respected graduate schools in videogame design in the United States.
Tuition and Fees: $46,066/yr
Score: 144.7

University of Denver Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

The University of Denver is not exactly the most affordable graduate school, but its top programs in Creative Writing and Interdisciplinary Studies make a strong case for its value nonetheless.

20. University of Denver

Denver, CO

Website
At the University of Denver, graduate students outnumber undergrads by a healthy margin, and not without reason. UD’s large graduate student body is reflective of the university’s commitment to advanced education. In addition to hosting one of the top graduate programs in creative writing in the country, the school also encourages interdisciplinary and dual-degree programs. Students can pursue dual-degree programs in social work, international studies, or global finance, or propose their own biconstituent coursework. U Denver students also have the option to explore multidisciplinary education within a single degree through special cross-cutting programs like Intermodal Transportation, Intercultural Communication, or Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
Tuition and Fees: $41,415/yr
Score: 146.5

Baylor University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Baylor University is arguably the best grad school for medicine if you value community service. Their medical students often work in local community clinics to build experience while giving back.

19. Baylor University

Waco, TX

Website
Baylor University is more than 170 years old and has the honor of being the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. A Christian university, Baylor takes its religious mission seriously and encourages all students to give back to the community through service. For example, students at Baylor’s graduate school of medicine often travel abroad to provide health care in community clinics, an experience that helps future doctors build both experience and gratitude. In general, the university emphasizes hands-on learning at every turn, a priority perhaps best evidenced by the newly opened Baylor Research & Innovation Collaborative (BRIC). This state-of-the-art facility provides a collaborative environment for students, faculty, and private companies to tackle cutting-edge challenges in science and engineering.
Tuition and Fees: $28,602/yr
Score: 146.9

Colorado State University Fort Collins Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Housing one of the country’s best graduate schools in veterinary medicine, CSU Fort Collins is a smart choice for animal loving health professionals.

18. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Fort Collins, CO

Website
Research is the name of the game at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. The school dedicates more than $300 million every year to research expenditures, the vast majority of which comes from federal programs. CSU’s graduate program in veterinary medicine is particular well-funded, and students get hands-on experience working with a wide variety of animals at the world-class James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Research is also vital to CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and a dedicated animal cancer institute provides highly specialized instruction for graduate students.
Tuition and Fees: $17,511/yr
Score: 149.8

University of Texas Dallas Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

UT Dallas actually began as a school just for graduate students, and even today it continues to focus on developing top grad programs in as many fields as possible.

17. The University of Texas at Dallas

Richardson, TX

Website
The University of Texas at Dallas became a four-year university in 1990. In the previous three decades, UT Dallas was an exclusively graduate-level institution. That focus on upper-level degrees has contributed to the breadth and strength of graduate degree coursework that students enjoy today – and which now spans eight schools! UT Dallas’s graduate program in engineering is particularly strong, offering unique subspecialty options in biomedical engineering and telecommunications, among others. The latter reflects the university’s roots as a research arm of Texas Instruments and its current location in the “Telecom Corridor” of Richardson, Texas.
Tuition and Fees: $17,111/yr
Score: 149.9

Washington State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

With programs that focus on health, sustainable resources, social equity, and national security, Washington State University has become a top graduate school for humanitarians and social activists.

16. Washington State University

Pullman, WA

Website
As a Carnegie-designated Tier-1 Research Institution, Washington State University is no stranger to research, or the funding it requires. The school organizes its resources around five “grand challenges”: sustaining health, sustainable resources, opportunity and equity, smart systems, and national security. Food and agricultural science complements more than one of these challenges, which is why WSU’s graduate degree in food science is one of the most well-regarded in the country. Students in this program have access to an array of cutting-edge food science technologies, including a “sensory evaluation facility” to test scents and flavors.
Tuition and Fees: $19,444/yr
Score: 151.4

University of California Riverside Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Large graduate programs in agricultural science and international studies prove that UC Riverside is committed to effecting positive change in the local community.

15. University of California-Riverside

Riverside, CA

Website
The University of California, Riverside is one of the most diverse universities in the UC system, and its graduate program even more so; nearly ⅔ of graduate students at UCR represent international and minority groups. That focus on diversity blends well with two of the school’s major research institutions – the Center for Ideas and Society and the UC Institute for Mexico and the United States. Even so, a large portion of UCR’s funding flows toward the agricultural science program, which is popular among students interested in serving the local Californian economy. In addition to a top graduate program in agricultural science, the university also provides master’s and doctoral degrees in molecular biology, plant pathology, and plant science, among many others.
Tuition and Fees: $20,340/yr
Score: 151.6

Oregon State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

14. Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

Website
Oregon State University is the only public institution in the United States to be designated as a land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant and sun-grant university, and that commitment to the public good is a core element of OSU’s graduate school. The university’s Holistic Graduate Education initiative provides unique civic-minded courses in diversity, ethics in research, and even a class called “Creating Happiness” that includes a community-building component. OSU is also home to a number of initiatives that focus on issues of social justice and international aid, including the UNESCO Water Cooperation and Peace program. Students who are interested in these programs can even pursue a graduate degree in conflict management integration.
Tuition and Fees: $17,402/yr
Score: 153.7

University of Oklahoma Norman Campus Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

With more than 200 total graduate degrees – three dozen of which earn national rankings – the University of Oklahoma Norman is clearly a top grad school for students who think big.

13. University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Norman, OK

Website
All else aside, the sheer number of graduate degrees available at the University of Oklahoma – 160 master’s and 75 doctoral programs – make it a great choice for a number of different educational paths. With so many options, you’re likely to find at least one degree that interests you. But just in case you don’t, the school has established a flexible graduate program in interdisciplinary studies. This option allows students pursue either a master’s or doctoral degree through an academic program of their own design. The University of Oklahoma also offers a number of formal dual-degree programs, many of which include a Master of Business Administration. You can design your own dual-degree coursework, too!
Tuition and Fees: $13,574/yr
Score: 154.1

Iowa State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

As the home of a high-tech virtual reality research center, Iowa State has positioned itself as one of the best graduate schools for the study of human- computer interaction.

12. Iowa State University

Ames, IA

Website
Although it began with just a handful land-grant graduate programs in agriculture, engineering, home economics, and veterinary science, the graduate school at Iowa State University has grown to include more than 100 unique programs, including dozens of specialized PhD programs. One example of the school’s incredible advancement is its Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC), an interdisciplinary research center that provides a cutting-edge graduate degree in Human Computer Interaction. Students at the VRAC have access to the world’s highest-resolution immersive display environment, which features a six-sided virtual reality room not unlike the “holodeck” from Star Trek.
Tuition and Fees: $15,434/yr
Score: 155.6

Texas A&M University College Station Best Alternative Graduate Colleges in the West

Texas A&M University at College Station has more graduate students than most schools have undergrads, making it an attractive choice for anyone seeking a top grad program with resources and room to spare.

11. Texas A & M University-College Station

College Station, TX

Website
As the fourth largest university in the United States and the largest in Texas, Texas A&M University is home to 20,000 graduate students. With 10 colleges and 18 research institutes, it’s hard to beat Texas A&M in sheer size. That heft gives the university an advantage in forming relationships with local, state, and federal agencies, and those relationships have helped the school’s research budget to edge up near $1 billion in research expenditures. Texas A&M’s graduate program in veterinary medicine is famous for leading the project to create the first cloned pet, a cat named “cc.”
Tuition and Fees: $12,898/yr
Score: 156.8

University of North Texas Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

With on-campus facilities like the Kristin Farmer Autism Center, UNT houses one of the best graduate schools of education – especially for students who want hands-on experience.

10. University of North Texas

Denton, TX

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Founded as a teachers’ college in 1890, the University of North Texas has maintained a strong graduate program in education while growing well-regarded science and engineering departments that produce cutting-edge research. UNT’s College of Education offers prestigious master’s and doctoral degrees in a variety of fields, including curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and educational psychology. The school’s close relationships with innovative centers and clinics like the Kristin Farmer Autism Center and the Child and Family Resource Clinic allow students to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world instruction and care.
Tuition and Fees: $10,423/yr
Score: 157.9

University of Oregon Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Graduate students of all interests can find what they need at the University of Oregon, which boasts two-dozen top grad programs plus unique specializations in fields like Interior Design and Food Studies.

9. University of Oregon

Eugene, OR

Website
One of the most unique elements of the University of Oregon’s graduate school is its large number of “specializations.” These interdisciplinary tracks enable students to dig more deeply into specific subject areas than traditional degrees allow. For example, students pursuing a Master’s in Architecture can also study elements of interior design. Other specialization options are open to graduate students of all disciplines, such as African Studies, Food Studies, and Translation Studies. UO is also a Tier-1 Research Institution which includes 21 research centers and institutes, many of which work within cutting-edge fields like brain injury, cyber security, and neuroinformatics.
Tuition and Fees: $20,156/yr
Score: 158.2

Saint Louis University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Of all the best graduate schools for healthcare, Saint Louis University is one of the few to incorporate the holistic Jesuit approach, which emphasizes education for “the whole person.”

8. Saint Louis University

Saint Louis, MO

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Saint Louis University is a Catholic Jesuit institution with a 200-year history of “educating the whole person” in the Jesuit tradition. The school is home to a number of top 50 graduate programs, including degrees in health care management, public health, and supply chain management. SLU also offers several dual graduate degrees that incorporate public health. And if studying abroad appeals to you, you can earn your entire graduate degree in English or Spanish at SLU’s Madrid campus, located among other educational and religious institutions in the Spanish capital’s Chamberí district.
Tuition and Fees: $18,986/yr
Score: 158.5

University of Houston Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Problem solvers will love the University of Houston’s “research clusters,” which invite scholars from all across its top graduate programs to come together to find multidisciplinary solutions to complex issues.

7. University of Houston

Houston, TX

Website
Although the University of Houston’s graduate research program might not be quite as well-funded as some of the other Tier-1 Research Institutions on this list, it nonetheless benefits from an extensive network of more than 40 on-campus research centers and institutes. One unique element is the university’s multidisciplinary “research clusters,” which bring together investigators from multiple fields of study to tackle a specific problem. These and other teams work together in the 200,000 square-foot state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Research and Classroom Complex, which was built in 2005 and features more than 40 laboratories.
Tuition and Fees: $13,374/yr
Score: 160.2

University of Nebraska Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln already houses many of the country’s best graduate degrees in agriculture and biotechnology, and the new “innovation campus” will only boost its reputation further.

6. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln, NE

Website
The big news at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC). This ancillary research campus is currently under construction, but expectations are high. The NIC, which will eventually occupy 2.2 million square feet. It will work to facilitate relationships between UN and private companies, particularly in the university’s focus areas of agricultural biotechnology and life science. This initiative underscores UNL’s long history of supporting research and innovation within its home, and is one of the reasons that Nebraska residents dominate the student body (78% of students are from the Cornhusker State). Still, students from any state looking to pursue a graduate degree in agriculture should consider UN’s strong agronomy, food science, and animal science programs.
Tuition and Fees: $14,716/yr
Score: 164.9

University of Missouri Columbia Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

Mizzou is a clear standout for the size and scope of its grad programs, but especially for its trifecta of top graduate schools in law, medicine, and veterinary science.

5. University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia, MO

Website
As the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system, UM (or Mizzou) has a large graduate program with nearly 7,000 students and more than 150 graduate degree programs. The school is proud of the incredible variety it offers graduate students, emphasizing that Mizzou is one of only five U.S. universities with law, medicine, and veterinary medicine programs plus a nuclear reactor all on the same campus. In fact, Mizzou considers interdisciplinary research to be a “hallmark” of its graduate studies, and the school offers an Interdisciplinary Innovations Fund that provides grants specifically for multidisciplinary student projects.
Tuition and Fees: $16,185/yr
Score: 168.5

Arizona State University Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

With nearly 400 graduate degree programs, 60 top-ranked programs, and a Tier-1 research classification, ASU Tempe has all the resources and variety you would expect from one of the nation’s best graduate schools.

4. Arizona State University-Tempe

Tempe, AZ

Website
Arizona State University is at the top in several categories. It is the largest public university in the United States, a Carnegie Tier-1 research institution, and U.S. News & World Report’s Most Innovative School in America for 2016. All those resources enable ASU to offer an incredible depth and range of graduate programs – more than 15 colleges and schools that are home to nearly 400 master’s and doctoral programs, concentrations, and certificates. There’s just no comparison between ASU and smaller schools, and the university takes advantage of this scale to offer a robust set of interdisciplinary graduate degrees. For example, ASU’s graduate program in design comes in a number of multidisciplinary flavors, including engineering, healthcare, and interaction design.
Tuition and Fees: $16,848/yr
Score: 177.8

University of Iowa Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

In addition to a world-renowned graduate degree in creative writing, the University of Iowa has more than 50 other nationally-ranked programs across a wide range of subjects.

3. University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

Website
The University of Iowa is the originator of the “Iowa Idea,” an innovative model for liberal arts education first developed in the 1920s. The Iowa Idea become the model for the modern Master of Fine Arts program, and UI has built on this heritage with the development of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, a top graduate program in creative writing that is one of the best in the world. Although the Program in Creative Writing might be UI’s best-known graduate degree, the school also offers master’s and doctoral degrees in more than 100 areas of study, including 25 that are ranked in the top 25 of their fields.
Tuition and Fees: $18,128/yr
Score: 178.8

University of Arizona Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

The University of Arizona’s large research budget and impressive on-campus facilities make it a haven for graduate students of astronomy, planetary science, and space exploration.

2. University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

Website
The University of Arizona is a heavy hitter in research, with a Tier 1 Carnegie designation and more than $500 million in annual research funding. The school boasts a deep and fruitful partnership with NASA, and the space agency awards UA more grants for space exploration than any other university in the country. Students pursuing a graduate degree in Planetary Sciences have access to the historic and state-of-the-art Lunar and Planetary laboratory, which has had a hand in nearly two dozen interplanetary spacecraft launches (including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey).
Tuition and Fees: $20,214/yr
Score: 184.4

University of Washington Seattle Best Alternative Graduate Schools in the West

“Alternative” ranking or not, the University of Washington in Seattle is a heavyweight amongst even the nation’s best graduate schools – plus, its students benefit from affordable public tuition rates!

1. University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Seattle, WA

Website
The University of Washington places as the #1 alternative graduate school in the West due in no small part to its massive size – more than 14,000 graduate students, over 500 buildings, and a research budget that has more than $1 billion since 2006. UW graduate students have better access to federal research funding than any other public university in the country, and has nearly 100 different top rankings from U.S. News – for its graduate programs alone! But perhaps UW’s biggest standout is its medical school, which hosts one of the country’s top graduate degree in medicine and is one of the most prestigious in the world.
Tuition and Fees: $22,320/yr
Score: 200

Sources:
College Navigator
U.S. News Education: Grad Schools
Carnegie Classification Definitions
The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
American Psychological Association
NBC News: Cloned Cat is No Copy Cat