As of 2014, 28% of Utah’s adult, working population held a bachelor’s degree, as reported by HigherEdUtah.org. The state’s primary higher education goal is, by 2020, to have 66% of its working age population, with an emphasis on 25-35 year olds, hold a postsecondary degree or credential. It will take considerable work to achieve such a goal, namely a steady, annual increase in the number of degrees awarded.
Due to their flexibility and affordability, fully online degrees are considered one of the best measure to achieve what the state has dubbed the “Big Goal.” In fact, researchers have praised the state’s proactive emphasis on distance learning. A number of Utah’s institutions have responded in kind, upping their online offerings with a mix of fully online programs and dozens of one-off online courses.
But before we dive into our list of the best online colleges in Utah for 2016, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Utah today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Utah
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Utah had 42 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 8 public schools, 4 nonprofits and 30 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 15,237 at public schools, 12,728 at private nonprofits and 632 at private for-profits.
- 8 public
- 4 non-profit
- 30 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $6,360, the fifth lowest average amongst states, while the out-of-state average was $19,330.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Utah awarded $2.77 million in need-based grants and $7.45 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 1.3% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. Over the same year, Utah awarded $81.8 million in tuition waivers and $1.7 million in loan assumptions/forgiveness. Utah students interested in learning more about financial support in the state should turn to StepUpUtah.com and the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA), the state’s premier sources for aid support.
With particularly low in and out-of-state tuition and copious aid services, beyond somewhat limited grant support, Utah remains a premier state for higher education in the western U.S.
The State of Online Higher Education in Utah
The NCES estimates that at least 22% of students enrolled in Utah’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 81.6% were reported to be undergraduates and 24.8% were found to be living in Utah.
A report on the Utah System of Higher Education’s (USHE) distance learning efforts suggests the sizable presence of distance learning in the state continues to grow at a rapid clip. As of fall 2014, the system offered 81 degrees and certificates entirely online. More than one in four students were reported to be “enrolled in at least one online course.”
In 2015, the USHE kicked off its “UOnline Initiative,” which is committed to bringing more courses and programs online and making a concerted effort to help students finish online degrees once they’ve been started. New, fully online programs being offered in conjunction with the launch of UOnline include bachelor’s in business admin, economics, nursing, psychology and social work, with more to follow over the next two years. This sort of effort demonstrates the state’s investment in its online offerings and its commitment to its distance students.
Utah is also part of the SARA regional education compact known as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The WICHE Internet Course Exchange (ICE) offers opportunities for state residents, through their local college or university, to access high quality distance programs offered at out-of-state WICHE institutions, often at greatly reduced rates.
Best Online Colleges in Utah
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Utah. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Utah, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Utah or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
Western Governors University
|Salt Lake City||$$$$$||4001 East 700 South, Suite 700|
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
WGU’s competency-based curriculum enables its students to focus on the gaps in their education to earn a degree. Each student designs their own personal degree plan that acknowledges previous learning and experiences, saving a great deal of time and money. Successful completion of timed and proctored exams permit students to move on to the next course without spending time on material they already know. Remote forms of assessment, such as research papers or presentations, are submitted for evaluation through TaskStream.
Online Undergraduate Degrees
Online Graduate Degrees
The large number of programs available helps make WGU the top online school in Utah. As the virtual classroom, the MyWGU Portal provides access to all course materials and tools. Online degrees at WGU can be earned up to 30% faster than a traditional degree, depending on how many credits a student can garner from previous life and work experience. One-on-one support from faculty and from student mentors helps to ensure online students feel continually connected and involved in the online learning community.
Utah State University
|Logan||$$$$$||Old Main Hill|
Logan, UT 84322-1400
USU Online offers three styles of online courses. Semester-based courses follow the format of traditional, on-campus courses, while condensed online courses follow a 4- or 7-week format requiring daily logins. Open entry courses let students start whenever they like, so long as it's at least 4 weeks before the end of the term.
The course management system Canvas is used to deliver USU’s distance courses. Student Success Webinars have been designed to give online students the ability to make the most of the virtual experience, in addition to a Distance Education Orientation for those new to online learning. Instructors and students primarily interact via email and discussion boards on the Canvas platform, which is also where students submit homework, find assigned readings and collaborate with classmates on group projects.
Online Undergraduate Degrees
It is suggested that undergraduate students with a fully online course load take no more than three classes per semester, totaling 12 to 15 credits, as every credit hour of online coursework necessitates three hours of offline study.
Online Graduate Degrees
Online resources such as eTutoring, Banner, a proctor system, AggieMail, online advising, IT service desk and on-campus Little Aggies Childcare serve students throughout the duration of their course or program. In addition, professional education licenses, endorsements, certificates and minors can be taken fully online through USU.
Weber State University
|Ogden||$$$$$||3850 Dixon Parkway Dr. Dept. 1031|
Ogden, UT 84408-1031
Student-centered online courses are delivered through the learning management system known as Canvas. A student demo course demonstrates how to navigate through the online syllabi, course modules, assignments and quizzes. WSU offers two styles of online courses: semester-based and self-paced. Semester-based courses are taught in an interactive, web-based format, starting and ending in conjunction with traditional semesters. Self-paced courses allow students to enroll at any time, so long as they complete the course within six months.
Support in the form of student advising, technical help, canvas tutorials, faculty training and professional development are accessible to students at any time.
Online Undergraduate Degrees
Students should note that the professional sales program, the only four-year professional sales program in the western U.S., does require a one-time, three-day visit to campus. Any lab components of the online medical degrees can be completed concurrently with the course, at the laboratory in which the student is employed. Associate programs and certificates in the field of health and general studies are also offered online for those wishing to quickly advance their careers or professional skills.
Southern Utah University
|Cedar City||$$$$$||351 West University Blvd|
Cedar City, UT 84720
Once registered, SUU online students are granted access to the Canvas learning management system, through which they communicate with their instructors and classmates, submit assignments, take part in discussion threads, receive feedback from professors and take tests. A Canvas Orientation as well as an Online Help Center aim to prepare students for the online environment and troubleshoot any technological issues that may arise. On Canvas, students will find their course syllabus, and a list of asynchronous modules with a significant amount of reading tasks.
Online Undergraduate Degrees
Students entering the undergraduate program are required to have 60 credits from an accredited institution prior to declaring a major. Currently, two undergraduate degrees, in accountancy and management, are under construction for online delivery. An online associate program in paralegal studies is also offered online.
Online Graduate Degrees
Hybrid or blended courses with significant online components can be searched and registered for through the Banner Course Catalog. Applicants should note that the sports conditioning and performance program requires students to attend three intensive summer courses containing 1- to 2-week long on-campus clinical workshops.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Utah
Below you’ll find the best online colleges in UT, sorted by affordability.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Utah
Alumni Association Achievement Scholarship
Provided by the University of Utah Alumni Association, the Achievement Scholarship is offered in conjunction with the Founders Day Scholarship. It is open to current undergraduate students who have overcome challenging circumstances and have served the University of Utah and the community. Multiple awards of $5,000 are available.
Alumni Association Non-Resident Scholarship for Incoming Freshmen
This scholarship is available to out-of-state freshmen entering the University of Utah. To be eligible, students must be the child or grandchild of a University of Utah alumnus/alumna. Selection is based on academic merit and financial need. The award totals $5,900 per year for 4 years.
Alumni Legacy Scholarship
This scholarship is provided by the University of Utah’s Alumni Association. It is available to entering freshmen and currently enrolled students whose parent or grandparent graduated from the university and is a dues-paying member of the Alumni Association.
Beehive Honor Legacy Scholarship
The Beehive Honor Society Legacy Scholarship is available to current students at the University of Utah. Applicants may be A) a Beehive Honor Society member; or B) the child or grandchild of a Beehive Honor Society member.
Beehive Honor Society Undergraduate Scholarship
This scholarship is available to current undergraduates at the University of Utah. Students of any class standing may apply. Selection is based on academic merit and financial need. The award is $2,000 per year.
Josephine Beam Scholarship
Provided by the University of Utah for engineering students enrolled in the College of Engineering and the College of Mines. Priority is given to applicant with highest financial need and competitive GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students of any class standing may apply. The maximum award is $2,000.
Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP)
This grant is available to undergraduate students attending a college or university in Utah. The grant is administered by the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority. However, individual universities are in charge of setting award amounts and distributing funds. Interested students should check with their school’s financial aid office for application details.
Weber State University Presidential Scholarship
Weber State University offers the Presidential-Aletheia Scholarship to incoming freshmen who are residents of Utah. Recipients are selected based on academic excellence, which is measured by high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores. The scholarship covers full tuition and fees for 4 years.
Youth Activist Scholarship
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah offers multiple scholarships to high school seniors who have demonstrated a commitment to civil liberties through activism that addresses issues including equality, racial justice, free speech, and religious freedom. Applicants must be Utah residents. Other requirements include a GPA of 3.0+, and financial need.