Utah universities and colleges range from big research centers to smaller college-town campuses

Schools are tailoring programs to meet the needs of today’s students and workplaces.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The cheer team celebrates as the Utah Utes host the Florida Gators in Salt Lake City on Aug. 31, 2023. The University of Utah is the state's flagship campus, one of eight public colleges and universities.

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From Salt Lake City’s booming University of Utah — with record-breaking incoming and graduating classes — to small, rural Snow College, public higher education campuses enroll tens of thousands of students statewide every year.

Eight public schools join private Brigham Young University and Westminster University, plus a network of public technical colleges, in building Utah’s celebrated skilled workforce. Gov. Spencer Cox has tapped tech and business executives to set strategy for higher ed, and they’ve pledged to make education affordable, relevant and designed to meet varying needs, from certificates to degrees to opportunities to reskill.

Here’s a look at the 10 universities and two-year community colleges on the team.

University of Utah

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

The University of Utah is the state’s flagship research university, boasting the S.J. Quinney College of Law in a LEED platinum-certified high-tech building and the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, which plans to rebuild and expand with a recent historic $110 million donation.

It’s ranked as a top public university for entrepreneurship, with programs in the David Eccles School of Business and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. The five-story Lassonde Studios building has dorms on upper floors and an innovation space on the first floor. And the new Stena Center for Financial Technology is developing fintech degree programs with a venture fund to support student companies.

The U.’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program is routinely ranked among the top in the country in video game design. A planned new building for the College of Engineering is expected to produce hundreds of additional new graduates a year.

Although the U. has traditionally been a commuter school, it’s in a building surge to add campus living options. And after joining the Pac-12 in 2011, the Utes will head to the Big 12 starting in 2024.

Utah State University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Utah State University launched as an agricultural college, the state’s only land grant school — and has since become its only “space grant” school, as one of the top U.S. universities when it comes to funding for space research.

USU’s Space Dynamics Laboratory works with the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, other agencies and industry, as USU has built expertise over decades in satellites, sensors and other aerospace and military solutions. SDL developed and tested technology aboard OSIRIS-REx, the NASA capsule that traveled more than 200 million miles from Earth to the surface of asteroid Bennu and back to Utah, containing samples that scientists hope contain clues to the origins of the universe.

But USU has also maintained its roots, studying land and water use, air quality and agriculture. Its Jon M. Huntsman School of Business focuses on ethical leadership, analytical rigor and global vision.

Logan wins kudos on rankings as a charming college town. A campus tradition says that to become a true “Aggie,” a student must receive a kiss under a full moon while standing on the “Block A,” a platform that dates back to 1917.

Utah Valley University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Within the state’s largest student body, Utah Valley University serves thousands of first-generation students and adults who are working as they pursue their education. Half receive financial aid and more than a quarter are age 25 or older, reflecting the school’s goal to be affordable, accessible and inviting to people as they are.

All first-generation students are supported with mentoring, events and other help through UVU’s I Am First program. The school offers programs from certificates to master’s degrees, from Fire Science and Fire-Fighting training to a Professional Pilot bachelor’s degree, from popular general education degrees to master’s degrees in business, education, health care and other fields.

UVU has broken ground for a new four-story building to hold its engineering and technology programs.

It doesn’t offer on-campus housing — a decision that UVU says helps to keep tuition low and brings revenue to the local housing market.

Salt Lake Community College

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Salt Lake Community College claims the state’s most diverse student body — and it’s working to earn a federal designation as a Hispanic-serving institution, with about a fifth of its students identifying as Hispanic and Latinx.

Its eight areas of study range from arts, humanities and education to manufacturing, construction, computer science and other STEM fields. At its flagship Taylorsville campus, SLCC is renovating and expanding its business building, home of one of its most popular fields of study.

Other sites include labs for advanced manufacturing, machining and other specialities at the Westpointe campus near the Salt Lake City International Airport; a state-of-the-art Center for Arts & Media and the Grand Theatre at the South City campus; and the Health Sciences Center at the Jordan campus in West Jordan.

And a new Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah program at their joint location in Herriman offers a path for students to earn an associate degree through SLCC and then transfer to the U., if they choose, for a bachelor’s degree — all available at the one location.

In celebrating its 75th birthday in 2023, SLCC noted that it opened in the wake of World War II and many of its initial 246 students were veterans who were using the G.I. Bill to earn a trade at the new Salt Lake Area Vocational School. Today, SLCC has been repeatedly ranked as one of the “Best for Vets” two-year colleges in the country.

Weber State University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Weber State University claims bragging rights for producing more health professionals than any other university in the state, with nursing its top-awarded degree and four other health-related programs in its top 10.

And the Utah Foundation has declared Weber State provides the state’s best 10-year return on investment in an education.

While it gained university status in 1991, it retains a community college mission, and awards more associate degrees than bachelor’s degrees. Its newest graduate offerings include a master of science in data science and a doctoral degree of nursing practice.

While few students live on campus, Weber State welcomes them with traditions — like noshing on purple pancakes served by university leaders at the popular fall semester Block Party and hiking Mount Ogden during Homecoming Week. Heading into a test? For luck, rub the bronze foot of Louis F. Moench, the first principal of WSU forerunner Weber Stake Academy, whose statue stands on the northwest side of campus.

Weber State has vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and is 10 years ahead of achieving that goal.

Southern Utah University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Southern Utah University has prided itself on keeping its tuition costs flat as its enrollment has boomed, including a growing number of virtual students who study online.

Business, nursing, biology and psychology are among its most popular programs, with its new, first doctorate degree in clinical psychology “focused on training ethical and culturally sensitive psychologists.” Its performing arts students gain experience via events that include the annual Utah Shakespeare Festival, a professional company that has helped Cedar City build a reputation as an arts town. The Southern Utah Museum of Art also is on campus.

SUU also offers aviation maintenance training and what’s considered the highest altitude university flight school in the country.

As freshmen, students walk west to east under the Carter Carillon bell tower to symbolize the rising sun and the start of their university career. Legend says they aren’t allowed to walk underneath the tower again — at the risk of being struck by lightning or other bad luck — until graduation, when they’ll walk east to west.

Utah Tech University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Utah Tech University is becoming the state’s polytechnic university, as it rebrands from its recent past as Dixie State University and earlier years as a college. As a polytechnic, it emphasizes hands-on learning, career preparation and collaboration with industry. Its Atwood Innovation Plaza includes a maker space, a business incubator and other support for student and community entrepreneurs.

Since becoming a university in 2013, it has added 204 programs across all academic disciplines, built or renovated 42 different spaces, and seen a 42% enrollment increase. It’s adding more campus housing to help meet demand.

Its previous name was a tie to the community’s history, when early pioneer families with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established a cotton mission there beginning in 1861 and came to call the area “Utah’s Dixie,” due to its warm climate that reminded them of the American South. A few were slave owners.

Confederate imagery, including the flag, a soldier mascot and occasional student use of blackface, was part of the school tradition for decades before the symbols were formally retired in the late 1990s and 2000s. Debate over retiring the Dixie name caused division in the community for years before it became official in 2022, with the change to Utah Tech. Its blue and red colors represent the blue skies and the red sandstone cliffs of southern Utah.

Snow College

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Snow College is the smallest public college in the state, with a rich rural legacy and a unique two-year focus.

Many Snow College students study general education or visual arts or music — and its School of Music offered its first bachelor’s degree. It now also offers a bachelor of science in software engineering.

But its mission remains providing vocational technical training programs and associate degrees, touting its ability to provide a low-cost education and, for those who want to continue, its transfer agreements to universities in the U.S. and overseas.

Both campuses, in Ephraim and Richfield, offer college-town living in friendly, walkable communities, the college says, and it now offers student housing on the Richfield campus.

Utah’s private universities

Brigham Young University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Brigham Young University was founded, and today is supported and guided, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That shapes its culture from its dress requirements to a ban on “same-sex romantic behavior” to its relationship with faculty, with expectations set out in its strict Honor Code for both students and employees.

The flagship school in Provo has satellite campuses in Idaho and Hawaii, along with Ensign College in Salt Lake City (formerly known as LDS Business College). In Provo, the Marriott School of Management is ranked No. 36 in the nation, according to U.S. New and World Report, and BYU Law came in at No. 22 among law schools, two of the school’s high marks in the 2023–2024 rankings.

BYU also is known for its excellence in language education and offers courses in more than 60 languages; the church’s Missionary Training Center also is in Provo and trains missionaries for service around the world.

While the school reports that 99% of undergraduates are part of the church, 66% are from outside of Utah. Its tuition is famously affordable, set at $3,248 per semester for undergraduate church members for the 2023–24 academic year, with students who are not members paying twice the listed rates.

Westminster University

(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Westminster University is the new incarnation of the former Westminster College, a change the small liberal arts school in Sugar House hopes will highlight its graduate programs.

Nursing was by far the most popular program among 2022 graduates, followed by biological and biomedical sciences, neurobiology and neurosciences, and public health. It offers graduate degrees in its College of Arts and Sciences, which includes the School of Education; the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business; and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

At Westminster, most classes have fewer than 20 students, according to data compiled by U.S. News and World Report. About a third of its students live on campus; about a third are from out of state. Its undergraduate enrollment was just under 1,000 students in fall 2022, with a total enrollment of 1,287, the news outlet reported; ten years earlier, in fall 2012, it had 3,355 total students.

Its 2023–24 tuition for undergraduate students, at $41,416, is far steeper than other Utah schools. But Westminster says its tuition is considered less expensive or comparable to other private schools nationwide, and that financial aid increases along with tuition costs.

Source notes: Enrollment figures for public schools are from Utah System of Higher Education data for fall 2022. Tuition and fee data for public schools is from 2022; Gov. Spencer Cox asked schools not to raise tuition in 2023. Private school enrollment and tuition data is from school websites and U.S. News and World Report.