Walla Walla is home to three nationally ranked colleges: Whitman College, Walla Walla University, and Walla Walla Community College.
Whitman has been in the city since 1882.
"Whitman and Walla Walla have kind of grown up together," said Antonio Cabasco, Whitman Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.
The small liberal arts and sciences college is home to about 15,000 undergraduate students, with 45 states and 30 countries represented.
"32% or about a third of our students come from the state of Washington," said Cabasco. "Some of our incoming class will have students from Albania, Belarus, Botswana, Kenya, Vietnam, Mongolia and Mexico."
The average of 17 students in a class and the high academic reputation have helped increase popularity over the last decade.
This year Whitman reached a record number of applicants. More than 4,200 students applied and only 420 will join the freshman class.
"I think the word has gotten out about Whitman," said Cabasco.
He said one of the big pulls is that students benefit from a team of professors who are experts in their fields. Over 90 percent of faculty members have PhDs.
"We have wonderful dedicated faculty who will engage with them and can also provide opportunities outside for further engagement in research or internships," said Cabasco.
Walla Walla University currently has 1,900 graduate and undergraduate students over five campuses.
Students are heavily involved in service. About 10 percent of each graduating class will have spent a year as a task force worker. Students from the Engineers Without Borders chapter raise funds and implement engineering projects around the world.
The group recently built a water system in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
The Christian liberal arts school is also one of the most active work study colleges in the Pacific Northwest.
Walla Walla University is also ranked in the top 250 private colleges that give students the least private student debt.
In the graduating class of 2017 the youngest graduate was 19 and the oldest was in their 60s.
Walla Walla Community College was established in 1967.
The school serves the highest financial need population in the state.
"About 58% of our students are on need-based financial aid. A lot of our students are first-generation college students," said Walla Walla Community College President Derek Brandes. "You're changing peoples lives you're changing their families lives."
The school prepares students to transfer to universities, but it gains recognition for it's unique curriculum.
More than half of enrollment is in workforce programs.
"We have a John Deere mechanic's program. People from all over the west coast of the United States come for that program," said Brandes.
"We are one of the few colleges that offers a horse shoe program or farrier program, and irrigation technology program," said Brandes.
They have satellite operations at Tyson's foods and Broetje orchards as well.
The school provides 40 percent of the state's correction education to inmates at both Coyote Ridge Corrections Center and the Washington State Penitentiary.
They have nine thousand registered students at multiple campuses with the average age of 28.
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