To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Connecticut anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Connecticut
Ranking the best colleges and universities in Connecticut is an exercise in finding the most possible words for “best” – Connecticut has too many world-class institutions to narrow down. Yale University 84 is a household name, the third university in the US and, for centuries, the standard for greatness. But not everyone can go to Yale. Connecticut has a complex economy that requires an exceptionally high proportion of college graduates, from finance and high-tech manufacturing to healthcare and government, and the state’s private liberal arts colleges and public universities are doing the heavy lifting. It’s a unique place: as one of the oldest colonies, Connecticut attracts historians and tourists; as one of the wealthiest states, Connecticut’s hospitality and service economy is massive. And Connecticut’s higher education system must account for it all.
Connecticut has a string of public universities that would easily fill out a top ten ranking all on their own, led by the University of Connecticut 66 – the mighty UConn. Other regional public institutions, like Eastern Connecticut State University , carry the weight of educating professionals in nursing, management, and education. But New England, of course, is the land of the elite liberal arts college, and Connecticut has more than its fair share, including Protestant strongholds like Connecticut College 73 and Trinity College 72 , Catholic institutions like Fairfield University 72 and Sacred Heart University , and independents like Quinnipiac University 67 . From its earliest days, Connecticut provided the model for higher education in the US, so when we say the best colleges and universities in Connecticut, we mean the best, period.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Constitution State.
There is little to say about Yale University that hasn’t been said before; the third-oldest college in the US, Yale is, quite literally, a model of the American university. Founded in 1701, Yale was originally dedicated to theology and the classics (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin), but the Yale curriculum followed the trends of education over the course of the 18th and 18th century, gradually incorporating the liberal arts, the sciences, and finally graduate studies and professional studies (including America’s first Ph.D.). With the second-largest endowment in the US, and a level of prestige that defines “prestige,” Yale has been the alma mater of presidents, senators, justices, CEOs, and some of the most prominent scientists in American history. Yale, simply put, is where leaders come from.
As one of the most selective universities in the world (accepting only 6% of applicants), Yale has its pick of the most accomplished, promising students nationally and internationally. Yale is also highly diverse, with nearly 40% of students coming from a minority background, and like many other Ivy League institutions, Yale guarantees that all students, no matter their family income, will be able to pay their tuition without debt. Students have access to Nobel Prize-winning faculty, the third-largest library in the nation, and the most cutting-edge research imaginable. Yale has been influential in every field from literature to medicine, and nearly every program is ranked in the top 5 or top 10 nationally. For those who make the grade, there’s no better college in Connecticut.
Founded in 1831 by the Methodist Episcopal Church (now the United Methodist Church), Wesleyan University became independent of the church in 1937, though it retains ties as a Methodist historical site. Wesleyan University was the first college named for John Wesley, founder of Methodism, and the university was dedicated to broad liberal arts education from the beginning. Wesleyan has long been an innovator and pathfinder, establishing one of the first undergraduate science programs in the US, becoming one of the first colleges to admit women, and pioneering study of world and experimental music. Wesleyan is ranked the #21 college in the US, and Forbes places it in the top 10.
Wesleyan is widely known as one of the finest undergraduate educators in the nation, with an astounding 8:1 student:faculty ratio meaning students have a level of access to faculty mentorship and legitimate research that is almost impossible at any other university. Rather than a traditional foundational curriculum that all students take, as in the liberal arts model, students at Wesleyan take a first-year seminar focused on academic writing and research, then pursue their own course of study. Wesleyan’s engineering students also have a 3-2 program in partnership with Columbia University and Caltech, allowing them to earn their first three years at Wesleyan, then complete a master’s degree at one of the partners. From engineering to the arts and theater, a Wesleyan degree comes from one of Connecticut’s best colleges.
Connecticut College, founded in 1911, has an interesting relationship with Wesleyan University; originally a women’s college, Connecticut College was founded when Wesleyan (one of the first coed universities in the US) reversed its policy of accepting women. Connecticut College began accepting men in 1969, when Wesleyan also returned to its coed status. Connecticut College is ranked in the top 50 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, and is widely considered one of the most prestigious small liberal arts institutions nationally, particularly for its influential scholarship and its well-known commitment to community outreach.
Connecticut College is highly selective, and is especially committed to seeking out and recruiting high-performing students from low income and minority backgrounds. All students work through an interdisciplinary core curriculum called Connections, which emphasizes exploratory, experiential education. A 9:1 student:faculty ratio helps students take part in significant research alongside some of the most decorated faculty in New England, while a strong emphasis on study abroad, internships, and service learning means that Connecticut College students are steeped in real-world learning and action. Not just a top Connecticut college, Connecticut College is a top global college.
When Trinity College was founded in 1823 as Connecticut’s second university, it was viewed as unwanted competition by Yale, which had monopolized higher education in the state for over a century. While Yale was Congregationalist, Trinity College was Episcopal, and for most of its history Trinity was primarily a local college for Hartford and the surrounding area. Trinity is deeply tied to the life of Hartford, Connecticut’s capital city; the state house sits on Trinity’s original campus, when Trinity moved to the edge of the city in 1872, though of course Hartford’s borders grew to meet it. Trinity was also the original home of Connecticut Public Television. Trinity College is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 40 liberal arts college in the nation, and has often been named a Little Ivy, both for its reputation, and its value.
Trinity College is particularly known as one of the most successful feeder colleges for elite graduate schools. With its traditional liberal arts curriculum, Trinity is dedicated to providing students with a deep and broad grounding in the classical humanities and sciences as a preparation for further specialized study. Trinity’s student:faculty ratio of 9:1 makes it a perfect atmosphere for undergraduate research and exceptional mentorship, which is one of many reasons for Trinity graduates’ high level of accomplishments. Trinity is also well known for its extremely close-knit student body, which has helped make it one of the top colleges in Connecticut.
A private Catholic university founded in 1942 by the Society of Jesus, Fairfield University was originally an all-male institution built on the estates of two prominent Fairfield, CT families. As part of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, which has 28 member institutions in the US, Fairfield University is known for the same level of academic rigor and social responsibility that has made the Jesuits known worldwide as top educators. Fairfield University is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #2 best regional institution in the North, and Bloomberg Businessweek recognizes Fairfield as the #2 best ROI in Connecticut, based on quality and value.
Fairfield University is a liberal arts college in the Jesuit tradition, emphasizing community service and engagement; combining humanist and scientific learning with Catholic faith; and prioritizing critical thought and intellectual exploration. While Fairfield is built on the liberal arts, its professional schools and programs are also recognized as some of the best in the nation; the Dolan School of Business and the Egan School of Nursing, in particular, are two of the highest-ranked schools in their fields. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has also recognized Fairfield as one of the nation’s best undergraduate educators, underscoring Fairfield’s reputation as one of the top universities in Connecticut.
University of Connecticut
One of the most prestigious public universities in the US, and the foremost public research institution in New England, the University of Connecticut is the state’s flagship land, sea, and space-grant institution. Founded in 1881, the institutions first known as Storrs Agricultural College really took flight when it was chosen for Connecticut’s land-grant university two years later. The land-grant mission meant bringing the best agricultural and mechanical education possible to the state’s residents, setting the stage for UConn’s world-class research. Known nationally as a Public Ivy (a public university as highly rated as the Ivy League), UConn is ranked in the top 20 national public universities by U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Connecticut was part of the founding of the New England Knowledge Corridor, a loose cooperative of industry and schools in the area between Hartford and Springfield. In addition to its world-changing research, UConn is known for its excellent professional programs in teacher education, business, nursing, medicine, and dentistry. Meanwhile, the UConn School of Law has long been ranked as the best public law school in New England. UConn also takes care of its students, as evidenced by a 97% sophomore retention rate, and the third-highest 4-year graduation rate in the nation. It’s truly Connecticut’s best public educator.
Founded in 1929 as a business-focused junior college, Quinnipiac University arose out of a need for a more accessible education option in New Haven, the home of Yale University; Quinnipiac later moved to Hamden, CT, when it outgrew its New Haven campus. A small commuter campus for most of its history, Quinnipiac really began growing in reputation and size in the 1990s, becoming a full university in 2000. Now home to a law school and medical school, Quinnipiac is highly respected throughout the Northeast, and its forward-thinking online programs are regularly ranked among the top nationally by U.S. News & World Report.
The majority of Quinnipiac’s 10,000 students come from New England and the Northeastern states, but Quinnipiac attracts students from 40 states and more than a dozen foreign nations. True to its origins, Quinnipiac’s curriculum is rooted in market-ready programs marked by experiential learning, collaboration, and practical, applied knowledge. Quinnipiac’s faculty is made up of experienced practitioners in their fields, and a solid 16:1 student:faculty ratio means students know and interact with their professors. Quinnipiac’s 8 professional schools include top-notch business and health sciences, and in recent years Quinnipiac has become especially celebrated for some of the best online degree programs in the world. Quinnipiac is one of Connecticut’s best universities, but it’s there for anyone in the world.
Sacred Heart University
From its founding in 1963, during the revolutionary, reforming Vatican II Council, Sacred Heart University was intended to be a new kind of Catholic college, bringing together the best of Catholic tradition and faith with dynamic, progressive ideas. Sacred Heart was the first American Catholic university founded expressly to be governed and run by the laity instead of religious officials. U.S. News & World Report ranked Sacred Heart among the best regional universities in the North, while the Chronicle of Higher Education rates it as one of the fastest-growing Catholic colleges nationwide.
At first, Sacred Heart was strictly for local commuting students, but during the 1990s the university began accepting residential students, and has grown into one of New England’s largest Catholic institutions with more than 8000 students. Sacred Heart’s undergraduate program is rooted in the interdisciplinary liberal arts, titled The Common Core: The Human Journey, and focuses on holistic thinking, knowledge, and reflection. Sacred Heart’s Welch College of Business is ranked one of the best nationally by the Princeton Review, while the Farrington College of Education is Connecticut’s top private teacher’s college. From any direction, Sacred Heart University is a top Connecticut college.
Eastern Connecticut State University
Part of the Connecticut State University System, Eastern Connecticut State University began its life in 1889 as a public normal school, the 19th century’s most advanced teacher’s education method. Before the advent of the teacher’s college, teachers learned through experience in a model classroom, teaching actual students; this was the “normal” method. Connecticut’s third public university, Eastern today is recognized as one of the best regional universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, especially as an educator for working adults.
Eastern is primarily a public liberal arts college, with a small student body of just over 5000 students; more than 90% of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. That size gives students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student:faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success. With its history, Eastern is of course one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults. Among Eastern’s esteemed alumni is Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow.
University of Saint Joseph
The first college for women in Connecticut’s capital, the University of Saint Joseph was founded in 1932 by the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order dedicated to education and advocacy for women. Following Sisters of Mercy tradition, USJ was open to all races and faiths, and though the university is coed today, that heritage of acceptance has made the university one of the region’s best institutions for working adults and other nontraditional students. The University of Saint Joseph is ranked among the best regional colleges in the North by U.S. News & World Report.
Because the Sisters of Mercy have always stood for students taking on agency and ownership of their own lives, the University of Saint Joseph was designed to combine the best Catholic liberal arts curriculum with marketable, career-ready skills. Professional studies and continuing education are significant parts of USJ’s outreach to the community in the Hartford metropolitan area, and Connecticut in general. USJ is also known for their outstanding student support, with small classes and a 10:1 student:faculty ratio creating an environment for personal, professional, intellectual, and spiritual growth for all Saint Joseph students, from traditional undergraduates to online learners.