In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Utah for 2016.
Utah is well known for its stunning national parks and breathtaking natural views (where else will you find towering mountains, expansive deserts, and lush forests all in one place?), but what about higher education? While college students in Utah can certainly take advantage of the outdoor adventures that undoubtedly await, they’ll also find plenty of reasons to stay on campus. Although Utah might not rank high in total populace, it more than makes up for its low density with top schools like Westminster College and the University of Utah – both of which attract students from many other parts of the country. And then of course there is Brigham Young, a top Utah university that caters to the state’s large Mormon majority (and which is hard to beat when it comes to affordability!).
In terms of value, colleges in Utah aren’t limited to the benefits they afford members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, either. Although there isn’t a huge quantity of universities in Utah to begin with (which is why there are only five schools listed below), the schools that shine, shine bright. Our targeted ranking system has identified the top colleges in Utah based on their ability to straddle that fine line between expense and excellence.
Methodology: Value Ranking the Best Utah Colleges and Universities
Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.
Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, “net price” is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.
Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate – the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.
20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.
After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 95 to 152, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Utah.
5. Southern Utah University
Cedar City, UT
As the official liberal arts and sciences school of Utah, Southern Utah University is the go-to choice for students who value a strong community and genuine commitment to learning. Although the campus functions like a large university in many ways – there are more than 100 degree programs and 160 campus organizations – it often feels like a much smaller college. Small classes, involved professors who act as mentors, and friendly students give this affordable Utah college a laid back but supportive vibe. Thunderbirds, as the students are called, can also appeal to their adventurous side by taking trips off campus to explore nearby deserts, hike through the region’s many natural parks, or even take a trip to Las Vegas.
Net Price: $14,118/yr
4. Westminster College
Salt Lake City, UT
If you’re looking for a collegiate experience that flows left of mainstream, Westminster College might be the perfect fit. This Utah college’s eclectic campus environment combines traditional liberal arts values with a progressive eye toward civic engagement and social responsibility. And like all the best universities in Utah, Westminster sets an example for its students by practicing what it preaches; a recent push toward sustainability has resulted in a beautiful state-of-the-art LEED science center and a growing emphasis on green living across campus. Plus, the surrounding environment does plenty to inspire students love of nature; the nearby Rocky Mountains offer a breathtaking view and convenient access to numerous ski resorts and winter recreation activities.
Net Price: $23,729/yr
3. Brigham Young University Provo
Brigham Young University is well known for its affiliation The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and substantial population of Mormon students. This is in part because BYU offers a whopping 50% tuition discount to members of the LDS church, although tuition across the board is low enough to designate BYU as one of the most affordable universities in Utah – and the United States! But the school has plenty to offer besides low cost and spiritual roots; its numerous artistic performance ensembles and popular language programs lend a worldly feeling to the suburban mountain campus, while its 47% acceptance rate brands it the most selective university in the state.
Net Price: $12,335/yr
2. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
Some universities claim to be for serious thinkers, others for daring dreamers. But the University of Utah is for doers, students who can envision a goal and then take practical steps to transform their ideas into reality. This action-oriented attitude has earned the top university in Utah the title, “Innovation Nation,” a nickname that recognizes the school’s steadfast support of entrepreneurial endeavors – particularly its success at forming startup companies. In addition, the University of Utah’s entertainment arts and engineering programs are some of the best in the country, although students of all majors can be confident in the quality education they’ll receive at UU. PayScale.com reports an average 20-year net ROI of $436k for graduates, confirming that this cheap college in Utah is well worth the investment!
Net Price: $11,277/yr
1. Utah State University
They say you can’t have it all, but Utah State University would argue otherwise! This booming research university has spent the last century cultivating its status as an international powerhouse and vibrant home for curious scholars of all backgrounds and aspirations. But while its reputation continues to balloon, this top college in Utah has maintained its humble small-school feel and holistic approach to education. Students are encouraged to pursue a wide range of interests, which often means taking trips off campus to explore the numerous national parks (including Yellowstone and Arches) and mountain ranges in the area. Utah State has also maintained its small school price; Forbes consistently includes this affordable university in Utah on its list of “lowest tuition” schools nationwide.
Net Price: $12,184/yr
This concludes our ranking of best value Utah colleges and universities.
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.