Catholic Colleges and Universities | University of Portland

Catholic Colleges and Universities

Are you considering attending a Catholic school? Catholic colleges and universities offer students a holistic opportunity to develop knowledge and skills while participating in meaningful community, engaging in social justice, and developing personal values and perspectives. How much do you know about the benefits offered by Catholic schools? Attending a Catholic university can provide you with several advantages and benefits.

9 Benefits of Attending a Catholic College

  • Catholic Colleges Have Rich Intellectual Traditions
  • Commitment to Service
  • Catholic Colleges Integrate Faith and Reason
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships at Catholic Universities
  • Catholic College Campus Size
  • Diverse Academic Programs - Classic Liberal Arts Education
  • Catholic Colleges Provide a Strong Community
  • High Retention and Graduation Rates at Religious Colleges

When looking for a college, there are many factors to consider that can help you make the best decision. This article will help you better understand and appreciate the many benefits that Catholic colleges and universities provide to their students.

Catholic Colleges Have Rich Intellectual Traditions

If you study the history of education, you will see that the Catholic church played a central role in the establishment and development of universities, with many of the first universities connected to monasteries. As a result, a Catholic education is internationally synonymous with academic excellence, with many Catholic universities and colleges holding top rankings and a selective acceptance rate.

Catholic universities and colleges enjoy the benefits of building on centuries of work in higher education, producing institutions of academic quality. In our nation, the first Catholic institution of higher learning was Georgetown University, founded in 1789 by Bishop John Carroll and operated by the Jesuit order. University of Portland is affiliated with the Congregation of Holy Cross, an order of priests and brothers, guided by the belief of their founder Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC, that "the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”

Commitment to Service

Do you also want to give back and join other college students who are making a difference in the lives of those around them? If so, you may find that a Catholic college or university provides the opportunity to serve others. You are dedicating the next four years of your life to your education and academic goals, and it’s important for the experience to be meaningful.

Social justice and service are at the heart of a Catholic institution. Students will find encouragement through mentors and peers, like those in UP's Moreau Center for Service and Justice, to use their talents to advance social justice beyond the borders of the campus into the local community and beyond. The Moreau Center offers several ongoing service opportunities throughout the year as well as immersion programs during spring, fall, and summer breaks. 

Catholic Colleges Integrate Faith and Reason

Theology and philosophy are integrated into the intellectual environment of Catholic universities. At a Catholic college, faculty and students are supportive of philosophical inquiries that help develop your faith and spirituality. Education takes place in a holistic manner, and professors can teach ethical and moral themes that can impact their academic disciplines. Because faith and ethics are a part of the education experience, students are prepared to reflect on modern society from a value-oriented perspective. Every student at University of Portland takes at least three theology and two philosophy courses as part of our Core Curriculum

Through Campus Ministry programs, students of all faith traditions will find support for their spiritual journey. Catholic students will have access to the Sacraments, regular mass offerings, retreats, and religious studies opportunities. Students of all faiths will find an environment where faith is valued and nurtured, and students with no faith tradition will find a warm and accepting community.

Financial Aid and Scholarships at Catholic Universities

Attending a Catholic university is an investment for your future. To help with the cost of this investment, it is recommended that students pursue financial aid and scholarship opportunities. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education stated that 96 percent of students enrolled in a Catholic college or university received some sort of financial aid. 

In order to qualify for federal financial aid, students must complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application opens October 1, so this is something that high school students and their parents complete in the fall of senior year. It must be completed each year a student intends to receive financial aid, and a separate application must be filed for each student in a family who is attending college.

In addition to federal student aid, Catholic colleges and universities offer their own financial aid to help with the cost of tuition. Recently, it was reported that almost 90 percent of students attending a Catholic institution received financial aid from the college or university. Many colleges use the FAFSA to award their own need-based financial aid. You can contact the college’s financial aid office to request assistance with filling out the FAFSA and to learn about other options for financial aid and how to apply for them.

Scholarships also help with college expenses. Catholic colleges and universities offer a variety of scholarships to their students. For example, UP scholarships include many merit-based opportunities for scholarships. Academic scholarships are often awarded to high achieving students. Typically, these are awarded based on GPA (Grade Point Average) and test scores (SAT or ACT). Students can also be awarded athletic scholarships, music scholarships, theater scholarships, and more.

There are also scholarships specifically for students who attend a Catholic college or university. The National Catholic College Admission Association offers several scholarships each year to students attending a member Catholic college or university. Other scholarships are available specifically for Catholic students. For up to date information, contact the office of financial aid and scholarships at the college you are considering and ask about scholarship opportunities.

Catholic College Campus Size

An important consideration in choosing a college or university is its size. Catholic colleges and universities are typically small to mid-sized, with the average student body size of 3,550. If you are looking for a small to mid-sized school, then a Catholic college or university could be the perfect fit.

In addition to appealing campus size, Catholic colleges and universities also have smaller than average class sizes. In contrast to the national average of students to faculty ratio of 18:1, the average student to faculty ratio at Catholic universities—and at University of Portland—is 12:1. This provides a more personalized educational experience.


Diverse Academic Programs - Classic Liberal Arts Education

Catholic colleges and universities offer a variety of undergraduate degree programs to meet the diverse interests of the students in attendance. Many schools boast top-ranked nursing programs, engineering programs, and more. Undergraduate students interested in science and technology will find a myriad of majors and minors in areas, such as biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer-related fields.

Opportunities exist to bridge academic disciplines in programs, such as Environmental Ethics and Policy, which combines a background in science with a discourse that centers on philosophy, theology, ethics, and political science. Students interested in business will find opportunities to study in traditional popular majors, such as accounting, economics, and finance. There are also opportunities for cutting-edge programs like Operations and Technology Management, which is a new major at the University of Portland that was designed by faculty and local executives in response to the complex demands of modern business operations.

Students interested in Health Sciences will find excellent nursing programs, Integrative Health & Wellness Studies, and pre-Health degree programs to prepare students for dental school, medical school, pharmacy school, and more. Liberal arts students interested in performing and fine arts will find majors in theater, music, dance and more with accomplished and committed faculty to guide students’ development and success.

College students studying at Catholic schools often have opportunities to take advantage of study abroad programs, internship programs, mentoring programs, and service programs designed to complement and enhance the educational experience.

Catholic Colleges Provide a Strong Community

Your college experience will be largely defined by your college community. At a Catholic university, you will find a unique sense of community. You will be supported by faculty and staff who genuinely care for the undergraduate students and support students both inside and outside of the classroom. You will have opportunities to build relationships with other students and faculty through classroom discussions and academic work—but also through social and professional clubs, spiritual retreats, and meaningful service to meet needs beyond the borders of the campus. 

Living on campus is a fantastic way for undergraduates to immerse themselves in the campus community. The Office of Residence Life helps students find on-campus housing, which enables students to participate in campus activities and engage in the close-knit campus community of the residence halls.

High Retention and Graduation Rates at Religious Colleges

The average graduation and retention rates are higher at Catholic colleges and universities than at public institutions. Since the goal of attending college is to graduate, a school’s graduation rate is an important consideration. A recent comparison shows that the average 4-year graduation rate of Catholic schools is 44%, while public schools only average 25%. The average 6-year graduation rate of Catholic schools is 57%, compared to 42% at public colleges and universities.

Retention rates reflect student satisfaction and support received by students as they transition to college. These rates measure the number of freshmen who return for their sophomore year. Catholic schools recently reported an average 77% retention rate, which is 9% higher than the national average.

Can You Attend a Catholic College Without Being Catholic?

Most Catholic colleges and universities are open to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation. By design, they are institutions that benefit from diversity. In 2017, the Higher Education Research Institute found that 43.4% of freshmen at a sampling of Catholic colleges and universities identified as Catholic. Catholic schools are a great choice for your higher education, no matter your religious background.

Catholic Colleges and Universities

There are many benefits of attending a Catholic university. As you consider which school to attend, consider how each school uniquely provides the benefits that are important to you. If you’re an athlete, for example, it’s important to research which sports programs are available and the school’s level of competition.

Ask yourself the following questions: What is the size of the campus you are considering and how does that impact the sense of community and opportunities for undergraduate students? What are the unique undergraduate academic programs offered and how do they rank in student outcomes? Where is the university located? Also, be sure to check the admissions requirements to make sure you are a good fit academically.

You can learn a lot about a college by visiting the school’s website and interacting on social media. However, there is no substitute for a campus visit. We encourage all interested applicants to schedule a University of Portland tour to learn more about the benefits and advantages available on campus.

Choosing a Catholic college or university means you will be supported, accepted, and educated in a caring community as you prepare for the challenges of your future career. The University of Portland provides all students—including non-Catholics—with an excellent, holistic education that builds your knowledge, skills, and sense of personal responsibility for ethical behavior and social justice.