Colleges and Universities in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder is home to one of Colorado’s top universities and several other excellent higher education options. With its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, thriving tech scene, and lively culture, it’s no wonder Boulder attracts students from across the country and around the world. This guide provides an overview of the colleges and universities that call Boulder home.

University of Colorado Boulder

The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) is a public research university and the flagship campus of the University of Colorado system. With over 34,000 students, it’s one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the state.


  • Founded in 1876, just 5 months after Colorado became a state
  • Second oldest campus in the UC system after University of Colorado Denver
  • Originally known as Colorado University until 1877


  • Over 150 undergraduate programs and 350 graduate programs
  • Top ranked programs include physics, geology, environmental sciences, engineering, psychology, and business
  • Strong research focus – over $380 million in annual research funding
  • Faculty includes Nobel laureates, MacArthur fellows, and Fulbright scholars

Campus Life

  • Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains, providing easy access to hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities
  • 850+ student organizations, including academic, athletic, cultural, religious, and special interest groups
  • Large Greek system with over 30 fraternities and sororities
  • Events like Fall Welcome, Spring Concert, football games, etc.


  • Competes in the Pac-12 Conference
  • 17 varsity athletic teams known as Buffaloes or Buffs
  • Strong programs in football, cross country, skiing, and volleyball
  • Rivalries with Colorado State and Nebraska

Notable Alumni

  • Ken Salazar, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior
  • Jon Benet Ramsey, child beauty queen
  • Peggy Fleming, Olympic gold medalist in figure skating
  • Steven Pollock, co-founder and CEO of Rhapsody International

Naropa University

Founded in 1974, Naropa University is a private liberal arts university with Buddhist roots located in north Boulder. It has an enrollment of around 1,100 students.


  • Over 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Most popular majors are psychology, religious studies, writing & literature, environmental studies
  • Known for its contemplative education combining Eastern traditions and Western scholarship
  • Strong creative writing program led by renowned faculty like Anne Waldman

Campus Culture

  • Close-knit community with small class sizes
  • Events and lectures focused on mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth
  • Vegetarian cafeteria with locally sourced organic food
  • Commitment to sustainability and environmental awareness

Notable Alumni

  • Joanna Preuss, author and translator
  • Reginald Ray, Buddhist teacher and scholar
  • Stephanie Kaza, environmentalist and professor
  • Judith Simmer-Brown, religious studies professor

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College (FRCC) is a large community college system serving Boulder County and surrounding areas. It provides affordable and accessible higher education.


  • Associate’s degrees and occupational certificates in over 100 programs
  • Transfer programs to ease transition to 4-year universities
  • Strong dual enrollment program allowing high school students to take FRCC classes


FRCC has three main campuses in the Boulder area:

  • Boulder County Campus – Located in Longmont with focus on technical and career training
  • Larimer Campus – Situated in between Boulder and Fort Collins in Loveland
  • Westminster Campus – Offers health sciences, visual arts, veterinary training, and more


  • Low tuition rates compared to 4-year colleges
  • Small class sizes with dedicated faculty
  • Variety of online, hybrid, and evening courses for flexibility
  • Strong workforce development programs

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University (CCU) is a private Christian liberal arts university located in Lakewood, 15 minutes outside of Boulder. It has additional sites in Denver.


  • 100+ undergraduate, graduate, and non-traditional adult programs
  • Notable for aviation, business, criminal justice, and education
  • Affiliated with the Evangelical Christian Churches of America
  • Incorporates Christian values, biblical studies, and service learning

Student Life

  • Lakewood campus houses dorms, food court, library, and recreation center
  • 15 DII athletic teams compete in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference
  • Over 50 student clubs, intramural sports, worship groups, and more
  • New Denver site caters to working adult students

Notable Alumni

  • Darrell Stuckey, NFL football player
  • Matt Luke, college football coach
  • Jenny Hull, Olympic swimmer
  • Michael Kearney, known for setting several world records related to education

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

For those interested in culinary careers, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts offers professional training in Boulder.


  • Culinary Arts Associates Degree
  • Pastry Arts Associates Degree
  • Professional Culinary Essentials Diploma
  • Farm-to-Table Cooking Certificate

Training Facilities

  • Commercial kitchens equipped with professional appliances and tools
  • Student-run restaurant, bakery, and outdoor pop-up cafe
  • Farms, local food producers, and artisans for sourcing ingredients

Faculty & Approach

  • Accomplished chefs and bakers as instructors
  • Focus on classic French techniques along with contemporary trends
  • Emphasis on sustainability, seasonality, and farm-to-table cooking

The school frequently wins awards for its culinary and pastry programs. Graduates go on to work in restaurants, hotels, resorts, bakeries, and more.

Career Training Programs in Boulder

In addition to degree programs, Boulder has many career and vocational training options at various institutions. Here are some top schools for hands-on training in in-demand fields:

Holistic Counseling

  • Naropa University – Certificate in Mindfulness-Based Counseling
  • Finger Lakes School of Massage – Professional Massage Therapist Program

Technology & Computing

  • Galvanize – Immersive bootcamps in data science, web development, etc.
  • Techtonic Academy – Software developer apprenticeship program
  • LeaderQuest – IT and cybersecurity certification training

Sustainable Trades

  • Boulder Housing Partners – Green energy management training for affordable housing jobs
  • Thistle Community Housing – Apprenticeships in sustainable building, farming, landscaping

Outdoor & Wellness

  • CorePower Yoga – Yoga teacher training program at studios nationwide
  • Institute of Integrative Nutrition – Holistic health coaching certificate online

These targeted training programs allow students to gain practical skills in an accelerated format to prepare them for rewarding careers.

Research Institutes & Centers in Boulder

Boulder is known as a hub for advanced research due to the presence of federal labs, university institutes, and private organizations. Here are some of the top research centers driving innovation in Boulder:

University of Colorado Boulder

  • Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) – Studies Earth’s upper atmosphere and space near Earth
  • Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) – Focuses on clean energy technologies
  • JILA – Joint institute with NIST conducting research in astrophysics, biophysics, etc.

Government Agencies

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Earth system research to improve weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and more
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – Measurement science research supporting industry and technological advancements

Private Organizations

  • National Snow and Ice Data Center – Studies snow, ice, climate, and environmental change worldwide
  • Space Science Institute – Conducts research, education, and public outreach programs on space science

Between cutting-edge government research, university breakthroughs, and private projects, Boulder contains one of the highest densities of PhDs, researchers, and science professionals in the country. The city’s emphasis on innovation and sustainability nurtures groundbreaking research across many scientific fields.

Best Value Colleges in Boulder

While Boulder has no shortage of higher education options, tuition and fees can vary greatly between schools. Here are some of the top value colleges offering an affordable education:

Front Range Community College

With its low tuition rates and extensive transfer programs, FRCC provides the most budget-friendly path to a 4-year degree. In-district rates start under $150 per credit hour.

Naropa University

As a smaller private school, Naropa is pricier than FRCC but more affordable than many private universities. 2021-2022 tuition was $18,996.

Western State Colorado University

Located an hour from Boulder in Gunnison, CO, Western State offers affordable in-state tuition rates around $7,500 annually.

Aims Community College

Also about an hour from Boulder in Greeley, CO, Aims keeps costs low with in-district tuition of $140 per credit hour.

CU Boulder Metropolitan State University of Denver Partnership

This program allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree for the total cost of MSU Denver’s (Much lower) tuition plus CU Boulder’s fees.

For those seeking prestige on a budget, Boulder has partnerships and community colleges that make higher education attainable. There are ways to minimize debt and still reap the benefits of Boulder’s exceptional academic environment.

Outlook for Higher Education in Boulder

Boulder offers no shortage of options for high-quality postsecondary education and workforce training. Here are some predictions for the future of higher education in this city:

  • Continued growth and expansion at CU Boulder to provide more diversity in degree programs
  • More partnerships between research labs, universities, and private companies to drive innovation
  • Increased focus on sustainable and renewable energy education to support local industry
  • Strong job market and opportunities for graduates in tech, sciences, sustainable trades, and outdoors industries
  • More accessible, affordable pathways to 4-year and graduate degrees through community college transfer programs
  • Expansion of remote and online education options, especially for working professionals
  • New facilities and learning spaces equipped with the latest technology and environmental efficiency

Given Boulder’s young, educated population, thriving economy, and research prominence, it seems poised to remain a magnet for college students seeking a progressive academic experience paired with incredible outdoor recreation and an entrepreneurial spirit.

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  • From Downtown Boulder: Head northwest on Pearl Street toward 28th Street. Turn left onto 28th Street and drive for 2 miles. Make a right onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Turn left onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From Denver International Airport (DEN): Take Pena Boulevard to I-70 W, then merge onto I-25 N. Take exit 217A onto US-36 W toward Boulder. After 20 miles, take Foothills Parkway exit, merge onto Foothills Parkway, and drive 2 miles. Turn right on Valmont Road, then left on 33rd Street. 1950 33rd St will be on your left.
  • From University of Colorado Boulder: Head southeast on University Avenue, which becomes Baseline Road. Turn right onto 30th Street and drive for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto Valmont Road and continue for 1 mile. Finally, turn right onto 33rd Street, and 1950 33rd St will be on your left.