A Brief History of Western State Colorado University

The institution that is now Western State Colorado University was established in 1901. It was the first college on Colorado's Western Slope and is the fourth oldest public college in the state.



The College actually opened for classes in 1911 as the Colorado State Normal School. Originally planned as a preparatory college for teachers, Western's role changed when it became Western State College in 1923. Though for many years Western was known for its graduates who became teachers, it was, in fact, the first Colorado college designed to teach a primarily liberal arts curriculum, and the liberal arts have remained at the core of Western's academic life ever since.

In August 2012, Western State College of Colorado became Western State Colorado University.

Some of Western's most cherished buildings - hallmarks of the lasting durability of the university - were constructed during the lean years of the Depression. Savage Library, the President's House and Ute Hall are striking architecturally, adding character to the campus.

During the postwar years of the 1940s, Western's enrollment soared as veterans took advantage of the GI Bill and new programs were added. By the 1970s, enrollment was exceeding 3,000, crowding the college so much that new freshmen often slept in the halls of their dorms for the first few days, until a dorm room became available. During the 1980s, Western began to focus exclusively on undergraduate education in three core areas: the liberal arts, teacher education, and professional programs. Western's enrollment has remained at about 2,300 students. Throughout its history, Western has been a source of innovation and excellence which is reflected in the quality of its programs and in the success and achievements of its graduates. We also boast a proud Olympic tradition at Western, having sent 22 students and alumni to the Olympic Games. 


The academic year is full of opportunities for students to learn from, and become acquainted with, outstanding scholars, great thinkers, fine performers, and others from throughout the world. Just as importantly, summer in Gunnison is full of educational opportunities, such as the Summer Business Institute and the Teacher Institute. Western offers a broad range of courses of study in a beautiful mountain setting. Many degree programs take advantage of this environment, which has been called "one of the world's greatest natural laboratories." Western offers students an opportunity to study in a wide range of fields such as business, computer science, communications, the social and behavioral sciences, professional recreation, the arts, the sciences and teacher education.

Western's excellence has also been felt in other arenas. Western hosts the only nationally certified collegiate Mountain Rescue Team, and a Wilderness Pursuits program offers students ample opportunities to explore themselves and the mountains, rivers, and forests which surround the campus. The university's vibrant theatre and fine arts departments provide a cultural center for the entire Gunnison Valley. In athletics, Western traditionally has one of the country's finest small-college athletic programs

Moving forward, Western continues to build on its long tradition of excellence.