How do Utah, BYU, and the other universities in the state compare? About Tuition, Academics, Admissions and more.

As the calendar turns to August, it’s officially back to school.

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the University Selection Data in Utah. Since 1983, US News and World Report has compiled data from hundreds of colleges and universities across the country, which will be our source for most of the data in this article — it’s really nice that they’ve put it all in one place.

Critics have concerns about the data: For one thing, it’s mostly self-reporting. In 2022, Columbia University was caught lying about its self-reported data and was therefore removed from publication entirely. Most of the biggest complaints about the data, however, come from US News and World Report’s ranking of all colleges, which critics say ignores the unique strengths and weaknesses that make each school special and instead presents a linear list of colleges from most to the worst created prestigious. A school may be a “better” school in a vacuum, but every student has different needs.

I think that’s a valid point. So rather than using one of the composite rankings from US News and World Reports, or the sections where researchers ask various academic experts for their opinions, I’ll just stick with the facts. What follows is a series of metrics that describe each of Utah’s eight universities in terms of their student body, academics, costs, and outcomes. Let’s dive in.

school size

Our first task: We look at how big these schools are in different ways.

Utah Valley University has the largest student body in the state with over 40,000 students. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University have a nearly equal number of second-place students after that — but notice how many more students in Utah are graduate students, while BYU focuses much more on the undergraduate group. U’s campus is also much larger than BYU’s.

At the other end of the spectrum is tiny Westminster University – my alma mater. This summer it changed its name from “Westminster College” in hopes of highlighting its doctoral offerings. However, the number of people enrolled has fallen significantly compared to when I was there. In autumn 2021 there were only 1,166 students. When I enrolled in 2008, there were 2,131 students there.

While small, this means more personal attention in class than at other Utah schools.

In Westminster, 83% of classes have fewer than 20 students. I remember that sometimes my math classes there were only five hours. The school has a student to faculty ratio of 8:1 which really means I got to know my professors well! Meanwhile, at the University of Utah, you are most likely to get courses with 50+ students.

Still, it was interesting to see how BYU’s courses differed from those of the other seven Utah universities in one key respect: faculty gender. Only 22.4% of BYU’s full-time faculty members are women. For comparison: 35% at Southern Utah University, 36% at UVU, 39% at the University of Utah, 40% at USU, 47% at Utah Tech, 48% at Weber State and even 55% at the Westminster.

student body

There’s no doubt about it: BYU is the most selective school in the state.

BYU accepts 59% of applicants, and those that are accepted have an average ACT score of 29. Thanks in part to its ability to be selective, BYU is also better at achieving the degrees of its enrolling freshmen than any other Utah school; 79% of BYU students graduated during their six years of study.

The other major universities in Utah generally accept almost anyone who applies. With this in mind, the University of Utah does a pretty good job of delivering degrees to its students. I was surprised to see such low graduation rates at SUU, Utah Tech, UVU, and Weber State. Prices below 50% disappointed me.

Campus life is also quite different at each school. While the school reports that 99% of BYU students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 66% of these students are from outside of Utah and 17% live in on-campus housing. At Westminster, about a third of students live on campus and about a third are from abroad. Meanwhile, the University of Utah and Utah State University have relatively similar numbers of on-campus students (15% and 13%, respectively) and students from outside of Utah (27% and 31%, respectively).

Only the University of Utah and Weber State have fraternities or sororities – although less than 10% of the students at each college belong to one.

Utah Valley has no on-campus housing, while Utah Tech has not reported its on-campus percentage. At both schools, about 80-90% of the students are from Utah. Only 3% of Weber State students live on campus and 88% are from Utah.


OK, but let’s look at how much colleges cost across the state. BYU and Westminster, as private universities, have the same tuition fees for domestic and international students. At the other six Utah colleges, you get a significant discount if you are a Utah resident. Some of these tuition figures are for the 2022–23 school year, while others are for the 2021–22 school year.

Unlike Westminster, state school rates are broadly similar everywhere; You spend about $6,000 to $10,000 on your annual tuition bill. And while Westminster’s tuition is absolutely staggering compared to other Utah schools — probably the main reason for the drop in enrollment — I’d note that it’s actually much cheaper than most other Western private liberal arts schools in its sector. I also want to note that I’m not sure I would have written that sentence if I hadn’t been a Westminster alum desperate to defend his school’s reputation.

However, BYU remains just a ridiculously good deal. They understand why out-of-state LDS children would want to choose the combination of a really solid academic record and a relatively low price.

Housing and meals are relatively similar across the state, with Salt Lake City’s colleges being slight outliers when it comes to cost of living. Honestly, given the high value of the Sugar House and East Bench properties, that makes sense.

But I also found it interesting to see how different the financial support packages were for each school.

While Westminster and the University of Utah are the most expensive schools in the state, they also award significantly more need-based and non-need-based scholarships and financial aid than the other six schools, although USU and UVU have not released scholarship data. Students at Westminster typically owed $23,000 in federal student loans by the time they graduated, students at U of U had about $19,000, and students at BYU had about $11,000 in debt after graduation -Dollar. The other five students all had debts between $13,000 and $16,000.

In general, I would advise everyone to research their scholarship and financial aid options intensively, no matter which school they attend. In particular, I ask sixth form students to take the PSAT/NMSQT – the three-hour test is the National Merit Scholarship Program eligibility test, which has enabled me to receive a full tuition scholarship to hundreds of colleges across the country (including (then Westminster ).

return on investment

The federal government also reports the delinquency rate on these student loans, but the most recent data is from 2018. This allows us to get an idea of ​​where student loan debt is most onerous likely to take place.

In 2018, only 1.3% of BYU students were bankrupt, compared to 1.7% of University of Utah students. Even with the highest loans of any Utah school, only 1.5% of Westminster students defaulted. Meanwhile, 3.6% of USU students, 4.1% of Weber State students, and a whopping 8.3% of Utah Tech students have defaulted on their student loans. Wow. (We had no data on UVU students.)

You can also easily compare salaries. Payscale tracks massive amounts of salary data from thousands of companies, including 52% of the Fortune 500. Payscale shares its data (as of 2021) with US News and World Report to show how different majors at different schools produce different average starting salaries.

I chose four different majors in four different industries—these four were chosen primarily because the majority of Utah colleges had data in each of those majors.

In general, BYU’s returns have typically been the highest. Accounting students at BYU earned an average of $63,300 in their first job out of college, while accounting students at other colleges made between $44,000 and $55,000. Only in nursing were Westminster students able to outperform BYU students in salaries, which totaled approximately $63,000. BYU student salaries were also typically higher than University of Utah students in over 90% of majors, with the exception of sociology and fine arts students. Utah Tech and Utah Valley students, on the other hand, tended to have the lowest salaries of all.

But there is no one size fits all, especially when it comes to education. These statistics are intended to provide an overview to give the audience a general idea of ​​what is going on in each school. If you decide to study, make sure you deal with the things that are important to you.

Andy Larsen is a data columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can reach him at

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

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