Best Jesuit Colleges and Universities in the US

March 18, 2024

best Jesuit universities and colleges

An education provided by a Jesuit college or university can stand out for many reasons. Whether you come from a Catholic background or not, receiving a Jesuit education means that you’ll focus not just on your intellectual development, but your social justice awareness and participation to see how you can best serve the community around you. Some of the nation’s best universities will do this, but the best Jesuit universities will emphasize the social impact even more. While on your general search of colleges and universities, you’ve probably come across a Jesuit college or university without even knowing it. Perhaps you hadn’t already known that the highly-ranked Georgetown University or Boston College are Jesuit institutions.

Here are the best Jesuit colleges and universities in the US. If you’re interested in seeing where other Jesuit colleges and universities are located outside of the US, be sure to also check out the AJCU’s entire list which includes institutions in the District of Columbia and Belize.

Best Jesuit Colleges and Universities in the US

1) Georgetown University

Coming in as the most selective Jesuit university on this list, Georgetown University is also recognized as one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions. Georgetown University is located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and has an acceptance rate of 12%. As “a forward-looking, diverse community devoted to social justice, restless inquiry and respect for each person’s individual needs and talents,” Georgetown University offers a holistic approach to education. You might be surprised to learn that it was founded in the decade the U.S. Constitution was signed, making it America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university.

2) Boston College

Located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Boston College is a highly-ranked and well-known Jesuit college with a 19% acceptance rate, offering undergraduates over 60 majors to choose from. As one of the best Jesuit colleges in the US, Boston College seeks to share the fundamental principles of Catholicism to its diverse student body. Those who are interested in learning more about Catholicism can attend the daily Mass service or sit in on the regularly occurring lectures or talks on Catholicism.

3) College of the Holy Cross

Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, the College of the Holy Cross was founded by the Jesuits in 1843 and currently has an acceptance rate of 43%. It is also ranked as one of the country’s leading four-year liberal arts colleges and has a total full-time enrollment of 3,197, providing a tight-knit community for students. Holy Cross emphasizes the importance of adapting to changing times while still upholding Jesuit beliefs to serve their community, and since 1843 the institution has and still continues “to instill the love of knowledge, the spirit of reflection and contemplation and respect for one’s fellow man that characterizes Catholic and Jesuit teachings.”

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4) Santa Clara University

Because Santa Clara University is located in Santa Clara, California, it sits in the heart of Silicon Valley and “blends high-tech innovation with a social consciousness grounded in the Jesuit educational tradition.” In its 2023 list, US News & World Report ranked Santa Clara University as #60, coming in at the top 15% of national universities; in 2024, the university was also ranked #13 for undergraduate teaching. Students can expect to find Jesuit values embedded into nearly every program on campus.

5) Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University is located in Los Angeles, California and is the largest Catholic university on the West Coast, with over 7,100 enrolled undergraduate students. A private university, Loyola Marymount University has a 46% acceptance rate and about 150 student organizations, including 15 Greek chapters, providing constant opportunities for students to form new relationships within and across their communities. Loyola Marymount University ranks as one of the best Jesuit universities in the US because of how they “invite men and women diverse in talents, interests, and cultural backgrounds” to enrich their educational community and advance their values-based mission.

6) Fordham University

If you were ever interested in attending college in New York City, you probably came across this name. Fordham University is located in New York City and takes advantage of its prime location – the city becomes your campus. With an acceptance rate of 58%, Fordham University’s Jesuit history and mission are fundamentally about three ideas: strive for excellence in everything you do, care for others and fight for justice. Fordham is guided by Catholic and Jesuit traditions and “fosters the intellectual, moral and religious development of its students and prepares them for leadership in a global society.” As one of the country’s selective universities, Fordham actively embraces its 500-year history of the Jesuits and expects its students to commit to the Jesuit education that goes beyond themselves.

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7) Fairfield University

Situated in Fairfield, Connecticut, Fairfield University is a private university with an acceptance rate of 56% and over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled across its five schools. Embracing a “liberal humanistic approach to education” and “encouraging critical thinking, cultivating free and open inquiry, and fostering ethical and religious values,” Fairfield University joins this list of best Jesuit colleges and universities for its emphasis on innovative learning. Fairfield has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, so prospective students can expect smaller classrooms and direct communication with their respective professors.

8) Gonzaga University

Located in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga University has an acceptance rate of 76% and has been the premier Catholic university of the Inland Northwest since 1887. Gonzaga University focuses on preparing “students to be wholehearted leaders who serve the common good and give glory to God.” While embracing a humanistic heritage and identity alongside its Catholic and Jesuit beliefs, Gonzaga University joins this list of best Jesuit universities in its efforts to embrace people of all backgrounds.

9) St. Louis University

St. Louis University joins this list of best Jesuit colleges and universities as one of the county’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic universities. Located in Saint Louis, Missouri, St. Louis University has an acceptance rate of 70% and is a private university “recognized for world-class academics, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service.” The university was founded in 1818 and strives to be a global Jesuit university – be sure to also check out their campus in Madrid, Spain.

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10) Loyola University Chicago

As a larger university, Loyola University Chicago has a total of 11,800 undergraduate students and has a 78% acceptance rate. Loyola University Chicago, located in Chicago, Illinois, has been ranked, according to the U.S. News & World Report, as #1 for undergraduate teaching in Chicago, #1 undergraduate business program in Chicago, and in the top 5% for undergraduate nursing nationally. Founded in 1870, this university joins the list of Jesuit universities not for its academic expectations but also its excellence in community service. You can find its four campuses spread across the greater Chicago area and Rome, Italy.

11) Marquette University

Marquette University, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a private 4-year university with an acceptance rate of 76% and over 11,000 undergraduate students. It joins this list of the best Jesuit universities in the US, while also ranking as one of the top 20% of best national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1881, Marquette University has a 13:1 student-to- faculty ratio. Marquette University’s mission “is the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others.”

12) Creighton University

A private research university in Omaha, Nebraska with an acceptance rate of 78%, Creighton describes itself as a leading Jesuit institution at the intersection of health and humanity, while also identifying as a Catholic and Jesuit comprehensive university: in its Catholicism, “Creighton is dedicated to the pursuit of truth in all its forms and is guided by the living tradition of the Catholic Church” – and in its Jesuit beliefs, “Creighton participates in the tradition of the Society of Jesus, which provides an integrating vision of the world that arises out of a knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.”

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13) University of San Francisco

In San Francisco, California, the University of San Francisco takes pride in how it reinvents education through their core curriculum and encourages students to become agents of change. Founded in 1855, the university joins this list as it has “dedicated itself to offering a daring and dynamic liberal arts education in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition.” The University of San Francisco upholds their three values of “cura personalis (care for the whole person), being people for others, and diversity in all its forms.” You won’t be surprised to see that it is ranked #1 in ethnic diversity among national universities by US News & World Report in 2024.

14) Seattle University

Seattle University was founded in 1891 and is located in Seattle, Washington with over 7,200 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate colleges. The student-to-faculty ratio at Seattle University is 11:1 and the average class size consists of 18 students. Seattle University joins this list of best Jesuit universities and has also ranked in US News & World Report’s “Best National Universities.” Students can expect to receive a Jesuit education centered on the values of care, academic excellence, diversity, faith, justice and leadership.

15) Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland is located in Baltimore, Maryland and is a private university with an acceptance rate of 84% and a total of 3,700 undergraduate students. The school’s Jesuit liberal arts education “calls students to tackle academic challenges head-on, to redefine what’s possible, to understand how it all connects, to think differently, to strive for excellence.” Out of all of the Loyola-named universities, Loyola University Maryland was founded as the first institution in the US to bear St. Ignatius of Loyola’s name.

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16) The University of Scranton

Located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the University of Scranton provides a liberal arts education where “spirituality is at the core of [their] mission as a Catholic, Jesuit institution of higher learning.” The university was founded in 1888 and has an acceptance rate of 80%. It has also earned accreditations from 16 different accrediting agencies in business and management, chemistry, computer science, counseling, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

17) Rockhurst University

Rockhurst University is located in Kansas City, Missouri and has an acceptance rate of 67%. Founded in 1910, the university “employs the ideals of finding God in all things, reflection and discernment as well as care of the person in all its programs, policies and interactions.” An education at Rockhurst University entails a curriculum based on the classic liberal arts modes of inquiry, which are artistic, historical, literary, philosophical, theological, scientific relational and scientific causal. Rockhurst University is Kansas City’s Jesuit University for over 100 years.

18) Canisius College

As a longstanding Jesuit college, this higher education institution is “proud to inherit a tradition of educational innovation, academic excellence and purpose-driven inquiry that stretches back nearly 500 years.” Canisius College is located in Buffalo, New York and has an acceptance rate of 81%. Founded in 1870, Canisius College has over 100 majors, minors and degree programs with a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. An interesting fact about Canisius College is that its namesake had joined the Society of Jesus in 1543 and was founded in Messina, Italy the first Jesuit school. At Canisius College, “finding God in all people and things and educating the whole student – remain core values.”

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19) St. Joseph’s University

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University was founded in 1851 and implements the Jesuit educational model that fosters for students “the freedom and encouragement to grow mentally, spiritually, personally and creatively.” SJU has an acceptance rate of 83% and emphasizes its belief of a faith that does justice across its five schools and colleges with over 260 top-ranking programs in arts and sciences, business, education, healthcare and nursing.

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20) Xavier University

Situated in Cincinnati, Ohio, Xavier University is a private Jesuit university that offers over 90 undergraduate programs and has an acceptance rate of 84%. The university was founded in 1831 and has a success rate of 99%, meaning that 99% of the students who graduate become employed, attend graduate school or work in service positions within six months of graduation. Rooted in a liberal arts tradition, Xavier University’s mission is to “educate each student intellectually, morally and spiritually.”

21) Le Moyne College

Located in Syracuse, New York, Le Moyne College is a small private college with a total of 2,700 undergraduate students and an acceptance rate of 73%. Standing as the youngest Jesuit college in the US, Le Moyne College “encourages students to integrate contemplation and action, so they become men and women with well­-developed minds, generous hearts and reflective souls – ‘agents of change’ who work to bring about a more just, humane world.”

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22) John Carroll University

John Carroll University is a private university located in University Heights, Ohio with an acceptance rate of 88% and a total of 2,600 undergraduate students. The university joins this list of Jesuit colleges as it “finds the source of its inspiration in the experience of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the centuries-long commitment of the Society of Jesus to academic excellence and service to the common good.”

23) Loyola University New Orleans

Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, Loyola University New Orleans has an acceptance rate of 78% and a total of 3,300 undergraduate students. The university was chartered in 1912 by Jesuit priests and strives to have its students focus on living a life of leadership and service. Grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, Loyola University New Orleans takes inspiration from St. Ignatius’ teachings to find God in all things and is “dedicated to the education of the whole person.”

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24) Regis University

Situated in Denver, Colorado, Regis University is a private Jesuit Catholic university that “seeks to build a more just and humane world through transformative education at the frontiers of faith, reason and culture.” Regis University’s acceptance rate is at 81% and ranks as one of the smaller Jesuit universities, with a total of around 2,700 undergraduate students. Founded in 1877, Regis University has a 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and “shepherds the development of the whole person in relation to the common good, asking, ‘How ought we to live?’”

25) Saint Peter’s University

Saint Peter’s University is a private university situated in Jersey City, New Jersey with an acceptance rate of 93%. In 2022, Saint Peter’s University was ranked highest in New Jersey and in 6th place for Best Value in Regional Universities North Category by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings. The university centers their Jesuit education on values that are instrumental, student-centered, characterized by structure, flexible, eclectic and personal.

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26) Spring Hill College

In Mobile, Alabama, Spring Hill College is the state’s oldest institution of higher learning and was founded in 1830. The college joins this list of Jesuit colleges in the US as it provides a Jesuit education that will “shape your leadership skills and commitment to serving others, all with the support of the Jesuit community for your development.” With over 52 majors and concentrations, Spring Hill College provides a service-oriented Jesuit liberal arts education, and if you’re considering the college for graduate studies, you’ll be happy to see their announcement about tuition-free graduate degrees for incoming freshmen.

27) University of Detroit Mercy

Joining the list of best Jesuit universities in the nation, the University of Detroit Mercy is a private Catholic university in the Jesuit and Mercy traditions, located in Detroit, Michigan. As stated in their mission statement, an education at Detroit Mercy “seeks to integrate the intellectual, spiritual, ethical and social development of our students.” The Wall Street Journal /College Pulse ranked the University of Detroit Mercy as #52 in the country, and in the 2024 rankings of Best Colleges in the U.S., the university came in at #2 in the state of Michigan.

Brief history of the Jesuit tradition in education

The Jesuit tradition began with the Society of Jesus, a Catholic order which was founded in 1540 by Saint Ignatius Loyola and his companions who were eager to expand their efforts in service and education. The Society of Jesus became known as the Jesuits, and they led initiatives to create Jesuit colleges and universities across the United States. According to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, “…A Jesuit higher education is grounded in the liberal arts tradition with a focus on quality teaching, critical thinking, and rigorous academic standards and scholarship. It is guided by a spirituality that seeks justice.”

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Students at Jesuit colleges and universities can expect to receive a rigorous academic education, while also learning skill sets on how to make a positive contribution to society. If a Jesuit education is what you’re searching for, or are even open to, you could soon find yourself studying at one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious universities.