Three Utah colleges among top 15 percent of four-year institutions nationwide

Westminster College, University of Utah and Brigham Young University listed among 382 best colleges in the U.S. by The Princeton Review<br>

Many students are drawn to Westminster College because of its close proximity to great skiing, they say, but the intimate class sizes and creative, personable professors make learning just as fun.

The small Salt Lake City school has “great financial aid,” students add, but its size means it lacks some resources. The mostly “white, in shape, environmentally friendly, etc,” students say ”the community is close-knit and supportive.”

These comments by Westminster students to The Princeton Review via an annual survey were part of the reason the private college made the publication’s list of 382 best colleges and universities in the U.S.

“Overall, this ‘wonderful mix’ of students is the ’best-kept secret around’,” students told the publication. “Westminster College is a place ‘where ski bums, overachievers and Mormons collide to make up an awesome, fun residential student body.’”

Lisa Gentile, the college’s provost, said “we’re really honored to be included in these rankings.” 

Westminster is unique in Utah, Gentile added, because “it’s the only private, liberal arts college. We focus on liberal arts, the student population is smaller, the class sizes are smaller and we’re focused on active and engaged student learning.”

Of the state’s eight largest four-year universities, Westminster was one of three — along with Brigham Young University and the University of Utah — to make the 2018 list. That puts the three Utah schools among the top 15 percent of four-year colleges nationwide.

The Princeton Review has published this list annually since 1992, rating scores for all schools in eight categories, including academics, quality of life and demographics. The rankings are based on student surveys.

Westminster has a 94 percent acceptance rate, according to the report. There are about 2,100 students enrolled, the report added, and 49 percent of students graduate in four years. About 71 percent of the student body is white.

The private school also was ranked 16th in the nation for Best Science Lab Facilities, which Gentile said is a new metric for the list.

Though some student comments noted the lack of diversity on campus, Gentile said the school is developing a plan to decrease homogeneity.

Brigham Young University, the other private four-year school in the state, also made the Review’s list. Todd Hollingshead, a BYU spokesman, said school officials “are always pleased to receive outside recognition for our academic quality.”

Hollingshead also pointed to a news release announcing that the school was ranked by the Review as the country’s most “stone cold sober” school for the 20th year in a row.

BYU has a 51 percent acceptance rate, the report states. There are about 31,000 students enrolled, according to the report, and 29 percent of students graduate in four years. The student body is about 82 percent white.

In the survey, students said that BYU is a school that’s “all about putting religion and education together,” adding that the school provides a challenging and high-quality education.

Some said they appreciated that “the school caters ... really well to the average Latter-day Saint student coming in and working with those wanting to get married [or] go on missions,” adding that “we are constantly encouraged to date.”

Though it’s easy to make friends at BYU, one student said, “I can see how it could be hard to fit in if you are not used to the Mormon culture or beliefs.”

The school’s news release notes that 5 million gallons of chocolate milk have been consumed on campus in the past 20 years. BYU Creamery will hold a contest in which students who find a golden ticket under labels of chocolate milk will win a free year’s supply.

The U., based in Salt Lake City, also made the list, and Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for academic affairs, said officials “are proud of the value and experience we offer to our students.”

Students said the U. is a research institution that takes teaching seriously, providing “informative, challenging and genuinely enjoyable” classes. Graduate students teach most general education classes, they added, but at least one student said “90 percent of my professors are fantastic; the ones that aren‘t are usually grad students.”

“There is more diversity here than in any other part of the state,” students added, “However, out-of-state students are uncommon, and ‘those of us not from Utah are definitely in the minority.’”

Watkins noted that the school’s ability to provide high-quality education at a lower cost than other Utah institutions.

Our students have access to high-quality programs and top-performing faculty,” she said. “We use innovative techniques to improve advising and student support, and we provide engaged learning experiences that help our students succeed in their programs and stay on track to graduate.”

The U. has a 76 percent acceptance rate, the report found, and about 23,800 students are enrolled. The report states that 29 percent of students graduate in four years and about 70 percent of students are white. 

The U. also was listed as having the fifth best health sciences offerings in the country.