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Take Paws: My Top Five Pet-Friendly Colleges and Universities

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Years ago, while on a campus tour at the University of Northern Colorado, I heard a tour guide casually mention two specific residence halls that allowed dogs and cats to live with the student residents. I was taken aback as I had never heard of such a notion, but immediately my cat-like curiosity was sparked. I returned to the high school I worked at, mentioned this to a couple of colleagues, and did a quick google search to see if there were any other like-minded institutions. Some time passed and it never really came up again. However, recently, as fate would have it, I ended up on a tour of private colleges and universities in the great state of Florida where I visited not one, but two colleges which prioritized their love of pets to the point of allowing them to live on campus. You might think this is a fairly common thing, but do your research and you will find that very few schools in the U.S. actually allow dogs or cats to take up residence. Many allow fish or perhaps small caged animals, but not our family favorites, Rex and Whiskers.

My love of cats and dogs runs true throughout my lifetime. Right now, my wife and I include two dogs and three cats as part of the furry family. I, of all people, understand when an 18-year old’s only hang up to leaving home for the big college adventure is leaving their favorite dog or cat.

I have good news for you. There are a number of colleges and universities that understand this sentiment as well and have taken measures to welcome your four-legged companions who aren't registered service or support animals. Among this list are some really solid and reputable options! I’ve taken the time to designate and provide commentary on my top five. As for the details and scope of pet inclusion, they very. Some allow pets in a wide variety of housing (Eckerd College), while others designate a specific residence hall or two. With all of them, you'll want to read the fine print on their policies.

Perhaps your son or daughter will be able to take little Bruiser or Button to a place that not only permits their residence but also proves to be the perfect institutional fit, launching them into a world of possibilities with their dog or cat at their side!

St. Petersburg, FL – Tampa Bay area

Number of Residences Allowing Dogs/Cats: 12

Undergraduate Students: 1,760

Student to Faculty Ratio: 12:1

Six Year Graduation Rate: 64%

Freshman Retention Rate: 79%

Acceptance Rate: 69%

Popular Majors: Marine science, environmental studies, psychology, animal studies

Eckerd is truly distinct for a number of reasons, and their enthusiastic embrace of including pets in their students’ lives is exemplary of this. The institution has such a niche, in fact, that it draws 84% of its students from outside the state of Florida, and on average, a student who attends there traveled 1,000 miles from home! Eckerd’s campus includes a mile and a half of ocean waterfront and draws in the lover of sunshine and nature. Nearly every other student there seems to have marine science or environmental science as part of their graduation plan, and regardless of their major, they pride themselves on being forward-thinking environmentalists who hope to impact the world for good. As far as the pets are concerned, they set the standard with their annual graduation ceremony for outgoing pets in the spring, and pet blessing in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in the fall. Ultimately, Eckerd’s one-of-a-kind campus, culture and embrace of barefoot living make it very intriguing for some, and understandably not so much for others!

Washington, PA – near Pittsburgh

Number of Residences Allowing Dogs/Cats: 3

Undergraduate Students: 1,160

Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1

Six Year Graduation Rate: 64%

Freshman Retention Rate: 85%

Acceptance Rate: 90%

Popular Majors: Business/marketing, psychology, English

The eleventh oldest college in the U.S. is one I have yet to visit, but I have heard its name come up time and time again on the list of noteworthy liberal arts colleges to consider. According to the Fiske Guide to Colleges, they are renowned for their preprofessional programs with high placement into law, medical and health-related graduate institutions. Their attention to capitalizing on small class sizes and access to professors certainly helps. As for their pet policy, my understanding is that they have designated three pet-friendly dorms. Many institutions will only make exceptions for registered service or support animals, but I could not find this requirement in my research of Washington and Jefferson. If this is true, they are on the shortlist of schools not requiring this. Since 94% of their undergraduate students live on campus, it is nice to know that they prioritize a few residence halls for pets!

Greeley, CO – hour north of Denver

Number of Residences Allowing Dogs/Cats: 2

Undergraduate Students: 11,460

Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1

Six Year Graduation Rate: 52%

Freshman Retention Rate: 70%

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Popular Majors: Business administration, nursing, education, psychology

Does your prospective student have a love for Fido and the great outdoors of Colorado? Look no further than Northern Colorado University. Often overlooked by those seeking the larger campuses of University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University, Northern Colorado has much to offer through its close proximity to the front range of the Rocky Mountains as well as the city of Denver, and boasts very strong programs in education, business and nursing. Another perk to this public state university, besides its two dedicated residence halls allowing cats and dogs, is the relatively small student population of just under 11,500 students. Greater access to faculty and significantly lower tuition combined with the aforementioned make this place one to consider!

Providence, RI

Number of Residences Allowing Dogs/Cats: 4

Undergraduate Students: 7,267

Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1

Six Year Graduation Rate: 60%

Freshman Retention Rate: 76%

Acceptance Rate: 88%

Popular Majors: Culinary arts, hospitality management

Johnson and Wales, like Eckerd, could be an outstanding fit for the right student with its niche offerings, most notably in hospitality and food services (though plenty of other majors are offered). I visited the Colorado campus a few years back, and was struck by the quality of facilities and hands-on experiences they offered. The Colorado campus is no longer open, but they do have an additional campus in Charlotte. The Providence campus, however, is the flagship and does include the bonus of four total residence halls allowing dogs under 40 lbs as well as cats! In addition to their focus on experiential education, they pride themselves on lower fees for a private institution and report an average annual cost of $26,775 after financial aid is applied.

DeLand, FL

Number of Residences Allowing Dogs/Cats: 4

Undergraduate Students: 3,080

Student to Faculty Ratio: 13:1

Six Year Graduation Rate: 65%

Freshman Retention Rate: 77%

Acceptance Rate: 81%

Popular Majors: Music, finance, business, entrepreneurship

Florida makes the list twice! Stetson University, a reputable institution near the east coast of Florida with renowned business and music programs, also happens to share in the opinion that cats and dogs are beneficial on campus. Stetson, resembling a more conventional college campus setting than, say, Eckerd, includes a robust business department with 11 majors and 15 minors plus a substantial music program that is home to 10% of all students there, a significant portion for music. Some 30% of their student body is involved in Greek life and they celebrate membership in NCAA Division I, also on the rare side for a school of their size.

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