Despite being a largely rural western state, Utah is home to several powerhouse schools. The top universities in Utah include public and private institutions 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.
More than 150,000 students were enrolled in Utah's public colleges and universities in 2019, and the system has conferred nearly 270,000 degrees and certificates since 2011. These include associate, bachelor's and graduates awards.
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. The state is also the base for Western Governors University, a major source for online degrees in Utah and across the nation.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Utah
Utah colleges consist of a mix of institution types, from online colleges and public universities to private institutions and more. To find the best schools in Utah for four-year degrees, we used a methodology that considered factors such as graduation rate, tuition and program prominence. According to that criteria, these are the best colleges in Utah for four-year degrees. For an idea of the top Utah schools for two-year degrees, check out the best community colleges in Utah when you're through here.
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. These include a highly respected Bachelor of Fine Arts in ballet and a unique dark sky studies minor.
Students here also tend to follow through with their academic commitments. The retention rate at the University of Utah is nearly 90 percent and 70 percent of students graduate within six years.
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.
As one of the top Utah Schools, BYU is internationally known and draws students from all 50 states as well as more than 100 countries. The university's more than 33,000 undergraduates have more than 180 majors to choose from. Meanwhile, 120 master's and doctoral programs are available for advanced students, including an MBA and a Master of Arts in teacher education.
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.
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 165 undergraduate majors and nearly 140 graduate degrees are offered on campus at USU. The school's most popular declared majors are communicative disorders and deaf education, economics and psychology. USU 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 approximately 10,000 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.
Weber State University is another of larger public institutions among the best universities in Utah. More than 28,000 students attend classes here, and the school offers more than 240 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. Fully online degrees include an associate degree in early childhood, bachelor's degree in health information management and master's degree in criminal justice.
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 15 undergraduate students, and the ratio of eight students per faculty member is significantly better than the national average.
More than 2,200 learners comprise the student body here, with the majority 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.
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. More than 38,000 students were enrolled in the fall of 2019.
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.
There are nearly 250 programs to choose from at UVU, including more than 90 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. As one of the best schools in Utah for distance learners, there are online degrees in three dozen fields including aviation management and dental hygiene.
Unlike other top Utah schools that teach a variety of subjects, Eagle Gate College focuses exclusively on health care education. Its accelerated programs are designed for working adults and non-traditional students and feature online learning for those who need a flexible schedule.
At Eagle Gate's Layton location, students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It's a hybrid program that has three start dates throughout the year. Students complete the first year's work entirely online, and then spend one or two days on campus each week after that to learn hands-on skills. Classes are small and typically have only 20-25 students.
Eagle Gate maintains five campuses in total. In addition to its Layton location, there are two other schools in Utah as well as two in Idaho.
Although now a public institution, Snow College was founded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1888. At that time, it was known as Sanpete Stake Academy. By 1931, the school had changed its name to Snow College and became state-supported.
Today, Snow College is one of the best schools in Utah and was ranked number one in the nation for student success by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It has an 85-percent success rate and is one of the top 150 schools named nationwide for the 2021 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
As primarily a two-year school, most Snow College programs result in diplomas, certificates or associate degrees. However, it does have two bachelor's degree programs: one in music with an emphasis on commercial music and the other in software engineering.
The Murray campus is one of three Eagle Gate College locations in Utah. The school has a specialized focus in preparing students for careers in the fast-growing health care field. In addition to Utah, the college has campuses in Idaho.
At Eagle Gate College - Murray, students can select from three nursing degrees or a diploma in medical assisting. The nursing degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing and an entry master's program for students without a nursing background.
The programs at Eagle Gate run on an accelerated schedule and many have convenient, online classes designed for working adults and non-traditional students. A diploma can be earned in ten months while a bachelor's degree program may be completed in only three years.
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.
Costs, Financial Aid and Scholarships in Utah
You won't have to pay a lot to go to many of the best universities in Utah, particularly if you are a state resident. Even private schools in the state have lower than average tuition rates, thanks in part to deep discounts offered to LDS members by church-affiliated institutions such as Brigham Young University.
The following is a look at the average published rates for Utah colleges and universities in 2017-2018, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
- Public 2-Year Schools (in-state): $3,781
- Public 2-Year Schools (out-of-state): $12,020
- Public 4-Year Schools (in-state): $6,557
- Public 4-Year Schools (out-of-state): $20,168
- Private 4-Year Schools: $7,548
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, also known as the FAFSA. The Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority then administers 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.
For more information on how to cover the cost of top colleges in Utah, see our guide on How to Pay for College.
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Careers in Utah
If you're not sure what to study, consider taking a career quiz to narrow your interests. Students hoping to work in Utah after their graduation may also want to look for a degree program that meets the state's employment needs. Here are some recent facts about Utah careers:
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported Utah has the 5th greatest worker shortage in the nation, as of January 2020, meaning there may be good job opportunities across multiple industries.
- There were 24,241 housing permits issued in Utah in 2018, making it a national leader in homebuilding. However, the construction industry has had difficulty finding enough qualified workers in recent years.
- Utah's technology sector accounted for one in seven state jobs in 2018 and continues to fuel demand for skilled workers who can fill high-paying jobs.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||71.3%||18,480||$101,380|
|Roustabouts, Oil and Gas||69.4%||320||$46,600|
|Private Detectives and Investigators||64.2%||130||$64,440|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||64%||2,360||$144,740|
|Operations Research Analysts||60.3%||1,690||$74,830|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||59.5%||8,370||$57,730|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||59.2%||340||$82,790|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||56.2%||800||$55,130|
|Medical Appliance Technicians||56.1%||450||$38,080|
|Service Unit Operators, Oil and Gas||55.8%||360||$60,560|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||55.3%||890||$47,870|
|Molders, Shapers, and Casters, Except Metal and Plastic||55.2%||1,080||$35,800|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers, All Other||55%||140||$74,040|
|Film and Video Editors||54%||250||$50,420|
|Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists||53.5%||1,350||$70,910|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||51.7%||14,080||$27,430|
|Information Security Analysts||51.5%||930||$88,480|
|Biochemists and Biophysicists||51.2%||150||$59,740|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||51.2%||1,690||$45,260|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||50.5%||500||$37,790|
|Structural Iron and Steel Workers||50.2%||1,230||$46,960|
|Physical Therapist Aides||50.2%||900||$23,300|
- 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 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points, and each school was then scored on a 100-point scale:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- The average amount of aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2017-18
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2016-17
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- 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 2018-19 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed April 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=GA&ic=1
- Data, Utah System of Higher Education, accessed April 2020, https://ushe.edu/data/
- Average undergraduate tuition and fees and room and board rates charged for full-time students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by control and level of institution and state or jurisdiction: 2016-17 and 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed April 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_330.20.asp?current=yes
- Utah facing 5th greatest workforce shortage in America, U.S. Chamber study finds, January 14, 2020, Utah Policy, accessed April 2020, https://www.utahpolicy.com/index.php/features/today-at-utah-policy/22660-utah-facing-5th-greatest-workforce-shortage-in-america-u-s-chamber-study-finds
- Utah Construction is Booming. But With High Demand And Not Enough Workers, Competition is Fierce, Jon Reed, November 14, 2019, KUER, accessed April 2020, https://www.kuer.org/post/utah-construction-booming-high-demand-and-not-enough-workers-competition-fierce#stream/0
- Utah's tech sector accounted for 1 in 7 jobs in the state, bringing high wages and fast growth, Tony Semerad, July 31, 2019, The Salt Lake Tribune, accessed April 2020, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/07/30/utahs-tech-sector/
- Article Sources
- School pages, accessed April 2020: About, The University of Utah, https://www.utah.edu/about/; Major Exploration Program, The University of Utah, https://advising.utah.edu/majors/quick-look/index.php; Fast Facts, The University of Utah, https://www.obia.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Fast-Facts-vDec2017.pdf; About, Utah State University, https://www.usu.edu/about/; USU Eastern Blanding Campus Housing, Utah State University, https://usueastern.edu/blanding/housing/index; Price Campus, Utah State University, https://usueastern.edu/about/price; Find a Degree, Utah State University, http://www.usu.edu/degrees/index.cfm?browse; Online Degree Programs, Utah State University, https://online.usu.edu/degrees/; Location, Utah State University, https://www.usu.edu/location/; Southern Utah University, https://www.suu.edu/; University of the Parks, Southern Utah University, https://www.suu.edu/news/2016/02/university-of-the-parks.html; Southern Utah Thunderbirds, Southern Utah University, http://www.suutbirds.com/; About, Brigham Young University, https://www.byu.edu/about; Facts and Figures, Brigham Young University, http://news.byu.edu/byu-numbers; Church Educational System Honor Code, Brigham Young University, https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=26; About Us, Westminster College, https://www.westminstercollege.edu/about; Undergraduate Life at Westminster, Westminster College, https://www.westminstercollege.edu/undergraduate/life-at-westminster; Online Programs, Westminster College, https://www.westminstercollege.edu/online/programs; About WSU, Weber State University, https://www.weber.edu/AboutWSU/; 125 Facts in Honor of the University's 125th Anniversary, Weber State University, https://www.weber.edu/WSUToday/125Facts.html; Flexible Degree Options, Weber State University, http://departments.weber.edu/ce/options/flexible/default.asp; WSU Online, Weber State University, https://continue.weber.edu/wsuonline/; Why UVU, Utah Valley University, https://www.uvu.edu/whyuvu/; Degrees and Programs, Utah Valley University, https://www.uvu.edu/catalog/current/departments/degrees-programs.html#graduate; Visiting Campus, Utah Valley University, https://www.uvu.edu/visitors/visitingcampus.html; Layton Campus, Eagle Gate College, https://www.eaglegatecollege.edu/locations/layton/; About Snow, Snow College, , https://www.snow.edu/pr/quickfacts.html; Murray Campus, Eagle Gate College, https://www.eaglegatecollege.edu/locations/murray/; The Beginnings of the University of Utah, Utah History to Go, 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 2020, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-room-and-board-over-time
- QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau : Logan, Utah, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/logancityutah/PST045216; St. George, Utah, https://www.census.gov/About Us, UHEAA Accessed April 2020, https://www.uheaa.org/about
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2017-18, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
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