There are many options available for students who wish to pursue a religious-based curriculum, but the choices aren’t so abundant for those who identify as atheists or agnostics. While most colleges and universities are tolerant of diverse perspectives, some rise above the rest, offering additional support for students whose beliefs aren’t mainstream. If you’re looking for a school where you’ll not only be accepted but embraced into a community of like-minded students and professors, the following schools are worthy of your consideration.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
- Secular Curriculum – 1 point
- Atheist/Agnostic Student Organization on Campus – 1 point
- Progressive Course Offerings – 1 point
- Emphasis on Critical Thinking and Class Discussions – 1 point
- Diverse Student Population – 1 point
- “ Wow” Factor – 1 point
Great Colleges for Atheists and Agnostics
After evaluating scores of schools with secular-based curricula, we’ve determined the following 20 to be among the best choices for students who describe themselves as atheists or agnostics. In an effort to provide the most useful information possible for our readers, we’ve excluded the obvious choices from our list and instead focused on those that may not immediately come to mind. After applying the above rating and ranking methodology, we present these schools by the number of points awarded. In the case of a tie, the most affordable school was awarded the higher ranking.
#20 –College of Southern Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Enrollment : 8,394
Net Price : $12,925
Students at the University of Southern Indiana gain knowledge and cultural awareness through outreach programs. Community service is one of the university’s core values. Its programs offer valuable real-world experience to students, preparing them to enter the career of their choice. USI also promotes diversity not only in race but also in ideas and worldviews. An active Secular Student Alliance group provides support for non-religious students and participates in many humanitarian aid and community service projects.
#18 – Indiana University
Enrollment : 22,525
Net Price : $10,979
Indiana University is made up of eight campuses and is a world leader in medical, technological, and professional education. It has over 200 research facilities where students can apply theory to real-world situations. Partnerships with local and international organizations are highly valued and actively pursued, allowing students to gain valuable experience while simultaneously serving both the state and global community. Indiana University strives for full diversity as well as academic freedom.
#17 – University of West Florida
Enrollment : 10,072
Net Price : $10,759
The University of West Florida focuses on collaboration, innovation, and inclusiveness in education. It has received many high rankings, such as No. 20 for Most Affordable Online Colleges in Florida, No. 5 for Top Online Engineering Colleges, No. 8 for Top College in Florida for Teacher Education, and No. 1 in the Best Colleges for Sports in 2015 Division II Category. On-campus facilities are state-of-the-art, and several opportunities for hands-on learning are available both on and off campus.
#16 – New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Enrollment : 12,784
Net Price : $10,299
New Mexico State University is a multi-cultural university that focuses on using research and outreach to serve the community. It is the only institution of higher education in New Mexico that offers courses in information and communication technology, professional golf management, engineering physics, engineering technology, and aerospace, industrial and surveying engineering. While it has been specifically awarded for serving Hispanics, NMSU also promotes diversity in areas other than race, such as sexuality and worldview.
#15 – University of La Verne
La Verne, California
Enrollment : 5,211
Net Price : $24,435
The University of La Verne works to improve the human condition through education and professionalism. Students are expected to graduate with an appreciation of the liberal arts, critical and creative thinking abilities, leadership and teamwork skills, social responsibility, and community engagement. The university prides itself in its ethnic diversity, with less than 25 percent of its students identifying as Caucasian. Over half of La Verne’s classes have fewer than 19 students, promoting class discussion and interaction with faculty.
#14 – Ripon College
Enrollment : 840
Net Price : $20,559
Ripon College trains students to become successful, socially responsible citizens who can apply critical thinking and logic to their careers. Students gain these skills through one-on-one interactions with faculty and a rigorous liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Intentionally small classes foster discussion and strong academic relations. Many of Ripon’s programs have received national recognition, including the ROTC program and the Department of Communication. Within six months of graduating, over 90 percent of Ripon students find employment in their field or enter professional school.
#13 – Eastern Illinois University
Enrollment : 7,640
Net Price : $16,326
Eastern Illinois University promotes diversity, communication, and critical thinking in education. More of the university’s graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees than any other college in Illinois, as well as most master’s colleges in the rest of the country. Students can participate in creative activity and research opportunities to get hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of their majors and career paths. These opportunities cover a wide range of disciplines and topics, such as poverty, sustainable energy, history, and autism.
#12 –University of Nebraska- Lincoln
Enrollment : 19,979
Net Price : $15,109
The University of Nebraska- Lincoln focuses heavily on extensive research and undergraduate education. Several special programs are available that expand both students’ and the community’s knowledge in science, technology, sustainability of resources, and public policy. As a land-grant university, UNL works to serve the state of Nebraska by being a cultural and intellectual resource. It has also been ranked in the top 50 public universities U.S. News and World Report’s annual evaluation of America’s Best Colleges for over 10 straight years.
#11 – Southern Oregon University
Enrollment : 5,406
Net Price : $13,648
Southern Oregon University has a strong liberal arts and sciences curriculum, as well as many specialized programs that strengthen students’ knowledge and connection to the community. These programs include internships, military science, civic engagement, youth programs, and honors courses. Students are expected to participate in these programs as well as others in order to apply classroom, lab, and studio knowledge to real-world scenarios. The university also promotes diversity, inclusiveness, and social justice through several different resource centers.
#10 –University of Minnesota – Duluth
Enrollment : 9,987
Net Price : $13,580
The University of Minnesota promotes social justice and values diversity in perspectives and ideas. Students learn about the world from a scientific and humanist point of view. A variety of special programs are available to students who want to expand their education, including research opportunities and an honors program. Students looking for a chance to connect to other students can choose from almost 300 professional, political and social action, religious, Greek, recreational, and special interest groups.
#9 – Arizona State University
Enrollment : 39,961
Net Price : $12,191
Arizona State University is a research university made up of five campuses in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Students can study at these locations, online, or even abroad. The faculty is diverse and highly qualified, and several members have won prestigious awards such as Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. More than 500 clubs and student organizations are available for students to participate in, including active Secular Student Alliance and Secular Free Thought Society groups.
#8 – Juniata College
Enrollment : 1,615
Net Price : $25,883
Students at Juniata College are given the skills necessary to pursue the career of their choice through personalized education and community involvement. Juniata allows students to design their own individualized courses of study with the help of two advisors. This, combined with several hands-on opportunities, makes it easier for students to find employment after graduation. The university also boasts inclusiveness and diversity in all areas. It has been highly ranked by Forbes, Washington Monthly, and others for its value and curriculum.
#7 –The College of New Jersey
Ewing, New Jersey
Enrollment : 6,743
Net Price : $19,119
The College of New Jersey is nationally acclaimed. It has received awards from the Princeton Review for being environmentally responsible and providing high-quality education for a low price, as well as other awards from Money Magazine, U.S. News, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. It is also one of the most competitive and selective colleges in the nation. Students become fluent in their disciplines and learn critical thinking skills that can be applied to any of TCNJ’s 50 liberal arts and professional programs.
#6 – University of Connecticut
Enrollment : 18,395
Net Price : $19,049
The University of Connecticut is one of the top public research universities in the U.S. and has a strong commitment to diversity and innovation. Students can choose from over 100 majors or create their own. Students also have the ability to form Learning Communities made up of people who share their interests. Internships, research opportunities, honors classes, and education abroad are available to students who want to participate in enrichment opportunities. Outside of academics, students can join student-run organizations or participate in several free campus activities.
#5 – State University of New York at Geneseo
Geneseo, New York
Enrollment : 5,548
Net Price : $15,850
One of the most selective universities in the U.S., the State University of New York at Geneseo provides students with high-quality education through research and rigorous courses. The university’s state-of-the-art Integrated Science Center has the only pelletron particle accelerator in western New York, making it a major resource for scientific research. Outside of academics, students can participate in over 200 student-led organizations, including an active Secular Student Alliance group.
#4 – Boise State University
Enrollment : 19,333
Net Price : $15,847
Though it was founded by the Episcopal Church, Boise State University teaches a secular curriculum and is accepting of non-religious students. In fact, a campus climate survey showed that the vast majority of atheist and agnostic students did not claim to have faced any discrimination because they were non-religious. Its location in Boise, Idaho gives students plenty of opportunities for internships and jobs after graduation. Boise State also boasts the largest undergraduate nursing program in Idaho as well as highly regarded creative writing, engineering, and business programs.
#3 – Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Enrollment : 20,671
Net Price : $13,580
Central Michigan University focuses on teaching its students analytical and critical thinking skills that allow them to question and improve the world around them. CMU provides students with opportunities that are not available anywhere else in the state. It is the only Michigan university that offers an undergraduate degree in meteorology and a major in recreation and event management. It is also one of two universities in the Midwest that operates an island research station. Diversity is promoted through several programs, organizations, and events.
#2 – Howard University
Enrollment : 7,013
Net Price : $22,337
Howard University is a high activity research institution that promotes the advancement of underrepresented populations both in the U.S. and around the world. It is the top producer of Peace Corps volunteers, African-Americans in STEM fields, and undergraduates who earn PhDs in STEM. Its College of Medicine is regarded internationally for its production of women surgeons and physicians who provide healthcare to underserved communities. The Howard University School of Law has not only worked to promote social justice but has also trained the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and other noted public officials.
#1 – Cleveland State University
Enrollment : 11,826
Net Price : $15,377
Cleveland State University’s location in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio provides students with many exciting opportunities to gain hands-on experience while simultaneously serving the community. As part of its unique Engaged Learning strategy, the university partners with other schools, companies, and organizations including Texas Instruments, Northeast Ohio Medical University, and Parker Hannifin Corporation. The extension of classrooms into the surrounding city has sparked an influx of new students, bringing new ideas and diversity to the campus.
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