SQUAMISH, British Columbia — North America isn’t short on tiny, remote liberal arts colleges, but even by those standards Quest University is remarkably tiny, remote, and liberal. Located on an idyllic mountain range in British Columbia and operating under the motto “Question everything,” Canada’s first and only private, secular nonprofit university is a promising experiment in higher education: A 2013 national survey ranked Quest, which is only seven years old, the best university in Canada.
Quest certainly looks like collegiate paradise: The 60-acre campus in Squamish, a tiny town off the spindly Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler, overlooks looming granite peaks, lush forests, and sparkly turquoise fjords. Students access the panoramic library via a glass elevator that rises over a native fern garden. After class, they build tree houses above babbling brooks and wildflowers.