Hidden Gem Colleges in the Southwest | 2021 Rankings

Deserts, plateaus, sprawling cities, and canyons, mesas, and more make up the rugged Southwestern landscape. Many of the colleges in the area are as excellent as the geography is dynamic. We wanted to highlight some of the lesser-known Southwest colleges that deserve attention.

For this list, we’re including the following states as part of the Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

To qualify as a Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Have an acceptance rate higher than 10%

Here are the best Southwest colleges that are Hidden Gems!


Did you know that the Arizona State University West campus is almost entirely powered by solar energy? Business, Psychology, Biology, Speech Communication, and Social Work are the most popular majors at ASU West. There is a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio at the school. 76% of the incoming class call Nevada home, but many other students come from California.
Location Glendale, AZ
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,445
One of the younger schools in the country, ASU Polytechnic opened its doors in 1996. However, it was initially called ASU East and was changed to its current title in 2005. Engineering, Business, Liberal Arts, Biology, and Aeronautics are the 5 most popular majors on campus. There is an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Mesa, AZ
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,095
Blue and gold are the colors of the Embry-Riddle Eagles, whose mascot’s name is Ernie. Aerospace Engineering, Aerospace Science and Technology, International Relations, Mechanical Engineering, and Business are the top 5 most popular majors on campus. Alumni of Embry-Riddle have gone on to become astronauts, politicians, pro athletes, and more.
Location Prescott, AZ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,776


Liberal Arts and Sciences is the only major offered at the Sante Fe campus of St. John’s College. It should come as no surprise, then, that St. John’s has an extensive reading list for students that can include the Odyssey, Hamlet, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and Faust among many other famed pieces of literature.
Location Santa Fe, NM
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 371
Students attending the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology focus on science and engineering-related fields. Unsurprisingly, the most popular majors offered include Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering. The average student-to-faculty ratio is 8 to 1 and most students are from New Mexico.
Location Socorro, NM
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,895
Easten New Mexico University is recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution and is a part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Liberal Arts and Sciences is the most popular major, followed by Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. The school’s official colors are green and silver.
Location Portales, NM
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,005


Blue and white are the colors of the Oklahoma City Stars. A star also features in their school logo. Additionally, the mascot is named Starsky the Ram. OCU has over 250 student-athletes that participate in NAIA Division I sports, including basketball, rowing, soccer, golf, and wrestling. 39% of students on campus study at the graduate level.
Location Oklahoma City, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,773
Southern Nazarene University, also known as SNU, has an acceptance rate of 75%. Students will find an average class size of 11 students to 1 faculty member and that half of their classmates are from Oklahoma. The university’s official colors are crimson and gold and their mascot is the Thunder Cat.
Location Bethany, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,081
Oral Roberts University was founded in 1965 and its motto is “Educating the whole person.” Following its motto, this liberal arts university offers over 70 programs -- popular ones include Psychology, Registered Nursing, and Biology. Oral Roberts University’s athletes are called the Golden Eagles, with navy and gold as their official school colors.
Location Tulsa, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,053


“Nil nisi per aspera” or “Nothing but the fierce” is the official motto of Austin College. Students interested in applying to Austin College will be happy to know that there is no application fee. Additionally, 100% of students receive institutional financial aid to help pay for college. The school also has an interesting mascot, the kangaroo.
Location Sherman, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,299
Black and gold are the colors of the Southwestern University Pirates. A baccalaureate college, the highest degree offered at Southwestern is the bachelor’s degree. Southwestern has an acceptance rate of 49%, accepting around 2,300 of the nearly 4,800 applications sent in every year. A whopping 90% of incoming students call Texas home.
Location Georgetown, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,434
“Veritatem, Justitiam Diligite” is the Latin motto of the University of Dallas, which in English means “Love Ye Truth and Justice.” Biology, Business, English, Political Science, and Economics are the top 5 most popular majors at the university. Alumni of the University of Dallas include writers, politicians, actors, academics, and businesspeople.
Location Irving, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,542

Interested in any of these Southwest colleges? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.