Despite being a largely rural western state, Utah is home to several powerhouse schools. These include public and private universities as well as online colleges that serve students in the state and beyond.
The Utah System of Higher Education includes six public universities, one public college and one community college. Articulation agreements allow credits to easily transfer between schools within the system. That can be particularly beneficial for students who want to start their education at a less expensive community college and then move to a university to earn their bachelor's degree.
In addition to public schools, Utah is home to a strong line-up of private colleges and universities. Brigham Young University is one of the best-known institutions in the state. Utah is also the base for Western Governors University, a major source for online Utah degrees.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Utah
Of all the data points on Utah schools that matter to students, affordability, flexibility, financial aid and a record of student success are among the most important. We gathered data in those categories and more, analyzed them with our in-house methodology and produced a definitive list of the top colleges and universities in Utah.
When you're done here, be sure to check out the top Utah community colleges, too.
Originally founded as the University of Deseret in 1850, the University of Utah serves today as the flagship school of the Utah System of Higher Education. The faculty at its campus in Salt Lake City includes a Nobel laureate as well as dozens of honorees from distinguished organizations such as the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
The Salt Lake City school has 17 colleges and almost 100 departments offering both undergraduate and graduate programs. The degree catalog at The U, as the school is often called, is one of the largest among Utah colleges and includes more than 80 bachelor's degree plans.
Students here also tend to follow through with their academic commitments. The retention rate at the University of Utah was better than 90 percent in the 2016-17 academic year.
Founded in 1888, Utah State University is the only land-grant institution in the state. Utah State University maintains more than 25 regional locations throughout the Beehive State, including residential campuses in Price and Blanding.
The main USU campus is located in Logan, a city of around 50,000 residents in the mountains of northern Utah. Logan has been named a top college town for its unique mix of arts, culture and outdoor activities, including two federally designated wilderness areas and ten major ski resorts within a two hour drive of campus.
Approximately 120 undergraduate majors, 80 master's degrees and 40 doctorates are offered on campus at USU. It's also one of the best colleges and universities in Utah for online degrees and online courses, offering close to 30 distance education programs for undergraduates and grad students.
Southern Utah University likes to say it has the world's best backyard. Located in Cedar City and in close proximity to national parks and monuments, its campus is both historic and beautiful. The school was founded in 1897 and today is a regional university serving nearly 9,000 students.
Those nearby national parks serve as more than just scenery for students at SUU. The institution has an educational partnership with the National Park Service that allows it to offer its Semester in the Parks initiative, a 16-credit field experience program that features courses in outdoor recreation, geology, biology, library science and communication taught on-site in Bryce Canyon.
Top-notch student athletes flock to the Cedar City campus, as well. The SUU Thunderbirds compete in the Big Sky Conference and have fielded championship teams in football, basketball, softball and cross country.
Founded and supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), the Provo campus of Brigham Young University was the institution's first brick-and-mortar location and serves as its flagship. Satellite campuses of BYU are located in Idaho and Hawaii.
BYU is internationally known and draws students from all 50 states as well as more than 100 countries. The university's more than 30,000 undergraduates have nearly 180 majors to choose from. Close to 90 master's and doctoral programs are available for advanced students.
As an official member of the LDS Church Educational System, BYU expects its students to adhere to a strict system of values during their time in college. Known as the Honor Code, the system enforces standards of dress and grooming and forbids alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, dishonesty, swearing and pre-marital relations.
Westminster College was established in 1875 and operates four academic schools: the School of Arts and Sciences, the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business, the School of Education and the School of Nursing and Health Services. All four confer undergraduate and graduate degrees.
This private, comprehensive university located in the eclectic Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City is one of the best schools in Utah for a close-knit learning environment. The average class size at Westminster College is just 16 students, and the ratio of nine students per faculty member is nearly 45 percent better than the national average.
Close to 2,700 learners comprise the student body here, with around 2,100 of them pursuing bachelor's degrees. Online degree programs are available at the graduate level in business, communication and nursing, with one online Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) plan available for undergraduates.
Weber State University is another of larger public institutions among Utah universities. More than 25,000 students attend classes here, and the school offers more than 225 programs that lead to degrees and certificates at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Located in Ogden, Weber State University is an integral part of the local community. It hosts sports camps and coordinates Science in the Parks and Arts in the Parks days to be run in conjunction with the Ogden City School District's free lunch program. The school has other locations in five communities including Roy, Clearfield and Morgan.
More than half of WSU students are enrolled on a part-time basis. Night and weekend classes can help adult learners be successful, and its 10+ study plans in the virtual classroom rank it among Utah's more diverse online colleges.
Utah Valley University features open admission, meaning that all applicants are accepted regardless of their test scores or academic performance. Thanks in part to its inclusive enrollment policy, it boasts the largest student body in the state. Around 37,000 students were enrolled in 2017-18.
The school's campus in Orem is located near the scenic Wasatch Mountains and has a reputation for being one of the safest in the nation. Students who live outside of Orem can also attend UVU classes, at satellite campuses in Heber City, Spanish Fork, Lehi and Provo Municipal Airport.
Undergraduates have nearly 200 programs to choose from at UVU, including more than 80 four-year bachelor's degrees. A selection of master's degrees is available as well, in disciplines like business administration, education, nursing, social work and public service.
Originally founded as an LDS school in 1911, Dixie State University became a public institution in 1935. The institution operated as a community college for many years, before formally becoming a university in 2013. Today, DSU includes six colleges that deliver instruction in science and technology, the arts, education, business, health services and the social sciences.
Around 9,700 students attend classes each year at DSU. The student body is composed of 100 percent undergraduates as of 2018, but the university asserts that accredited master's programs in accountancy, software development and genetic counseling are under construction and coming soon.
DSU's home city of St. George has some great upside as a college town, featuring a population of around 82,000 permanent residents and close proximity to unique outdoor experiences. Canyon hikes, ancient petroglyphs and more await students eager to explore.
Western Governors University is one of the youngest institutions of higher learning in the country, conceptualized by the Western Governors Association in the mid-1990s and officially established in 1997. Its exclusive focus on distance education has helped it thrive in the Internet age, becoming one of the top schools in Utah in just over 20 years since its founding.
The largest student body among Utah colleges attends WGU, reporting enrollment of nearly 97,000 full- and part-time students as of 2018. Although less than 10 percent of those students are Utahans, it's still a Utah school -- its main offices are located in Salt Lake City.
WGU's four academic colleges offer degree plans in business, education, information technology and health care. Each college has programs for undergraduates and graduates alike, with certain crossover degrees containing courses from multiple colleges.
The West Jordan campus of Broadview University is the smallest school on this list by far, featuring total enrollment of fewer than 500 students. The majority of its degree plans are offered online, although the campus hosts classes for an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in veterinary technology.
Broadview was founded in 1977 as a career college. It has been awarding bachelor's degrees since 2006. Online programs here include bachelor's degrees in business administration, paralegal, exercise science and health care management, as well as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in management.
The school's CareerPath initiative delivers online classes in six-week sessions, to provide a better work-life balance for students. The vet tech program at the West Jordan campus is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Most Popular Degree Programs in Utah
While some majors are popular nationwide, others reflect the interests and economy of a particular state. Here's a look at which degrees are top choices in Utah.
In-Demand Careers in Utah
Students hoping to work in Utah after their graduation may want to look for a degree program leading to one of the following careers. These are all expected to see significant growth in the state.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Software Developers, Applications||71.3%||11,040||$99,070|
|Roustabouts, Oil and Gas||69.4%||400||$47,040|
|Private Detectives and Investigators||64.2%||120||$46,310|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||64%||2,120||$141,550|
|Operations Research Analysts||60.3%||1,410||$73,200|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||59.5%||7,860||$57,660|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||59.2%||240||$78,360|
|Personal Care Aides||57%||9,850||$25,740|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||56.2%||860||$52,830|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||56.1%||620||$34,840|
|Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining||55.8%||540||$54,160|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||55.3%||820||$47,780|
|Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic||55.2%||840||$36,120|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers, All Other||55%||150||$67,320|
|Film and Video Editors||54%||310||$54,010|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||53.5%||890||$76,620|
|Home Health Aides||51.7%||3,750||$26,580|
|Information Security Analysts||51.5%||700||$86,790|
|Nonfarm Animal Caretakers||51.4%||1,980||$25,440|
|Biochemists and Biophysicists||51.2%||100||$67,210|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||51.2%||2,270||$39,820|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Utah
Financial aid may be available to qualified applicants to pay for both on-campus and online Utah degree programs. To apply for government assistance, students first need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority then administers the approved federal student loans through its CornerStone Education Loan Services program. Aid may also available through private loans, grants and scholarships, many of which require completion of the FAFSA.
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- Utah System of Higher Education
- Utah State Board of Education
- Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
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- The Beginnings of the University of Utah, Utah History to Go, accessed April 26, 2018, http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/pioneers_and_cowboys/thebeginningsoftheuniversityofutah.html
- Tuition and Fees and Room and Board over Time, Trends in Higher Education, The College Board, accessed April 25, 2018, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-and-board-over-time
- QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed April 24, 2018: Logan, Utah, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/logancityutah/PST045216; St. George, Utah, https://www.census.gov/About Us, UHEAA Accessed May 2017, https://www.uheaa.org/about
- Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-18 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed April 25, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Utah's Public Colleges & Universities, Utah System of Higher Education, Accessed May 2017, https://higheredutah.org/usheschools/
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/