Utah’s Educational Legacy
Utah became the 45th state to enter the Union in 1896 but its system of higher education was already quite well-established by this time. Its first postsecondary institution would actually come into existence almost a half-century before the territory gained statehood. The University of Utah opened its doors as the University of Deseret in 1850. Its current name would be granted in 1892 and it remains today as the flagship public university in the state.
With 28,000 enrolled, the Salt Lake City school is the largest of the state’s eight public institutions. It is not, however, the state’s largest enrollment tally overall. This title belongs to the privately owned Brigham Young University. With 34,000 enrolled, BYU is reflective of the state’s unique cultural makeup. With more than 60% of Utah’s population belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—a fact which makes it the most religiously homogenous state in the nation—it seems logical that Utah would also be home to the single largest faith-based university in the nation.
Based in Provo, BYU is also the third largest private university in the nation and, since its founding in 1875, has emerged as a perennial Top 100 among American universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Brigham Young is one of 11 private institutions and, in line with the state’s spiritual inclination, many of its best schools remain affiliated with their founding churches. Among them is the Salt Lake City-based Westminster College. Like BYU, Westminster was founded in 1875.
Administered by the United Church of Christ, the small but picturesque liberal arts school is home to 2,800 today. It bears noting that Westminster is the state's only accredited liberal arts school, which makes it quite the desirable destination for those so inclined.
Another feature which makes college in Utah a desirable option, its average public in-state tuition rate of $5,375 is well-below the national average of $8,070 and ranks as the fourth lowest in the nation.
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