U Ranks Favorably Among Other Universities


Presidents circle at the University of Utah Monday September 14, 2015. (Chronicle Archives)

By Elise Vandersteen Bailey, Investigative Coordinator

On the University of Utah’s website, its education and institutions are touted as “expansive,” and the faculty is called “some of the world’s greatest thinkers and academic minds.” How does it really stack up against other universities in the United States?

Schools.com, a website dedicated to identifying the best four-year schools in the U.S., ranked the U third in the country, which is ahead of Ivy League schools. The list takes into account data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Education and the schools themselves. To determine each university’s rank, it focuses on cost, graduation rate, numbers of degree programs available and flexibility for students. The website specifically pointed out the large number and wide range of degree programs at the U.

The U is known for research — a reputation that isn’t unmerited. Nonpartisan economic think tank Milken Institute called the U the best research institution for translating research and innovations into commercial ventures. It considered patents, start-ups, licenses and licensing income generated. Behind the U on this list were schools like Columbia and Stanford. The institute noted that in 2015 alone, the U received $417.2 million for research. Between 2012 and 2015, research at the school led to the creation of 69 start-ups, and the school made $211.8 million from licensing.

The U’s video game design program was recently ranked second in the U.S. by Animation Career Review. Criteria included costs vs. benefits, academic reputation and quality of the program itself. Similarly, the Princeton Review rated the U third in the country for both its undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

This past September, Greatist.com, a website dedicated to helping over 9 million monthly readers live a healthy lifestyle, called the U one of the nation’s healthiest colleges, noting the school’s Center for Student Wellness, use of biodegradable food packaging and composting food waste. They considered campus food, fitness facilities, mental and sexual health care for students and quality of life.

The Princeton Review rated the U’s graduate and undergraduate programs for student entrepreneurs 15th and 18th, respectively.

Although the U may not be Ivy League, its law school is tier I. U.S. News and World Report ranked the U’s College of Law in the top 50 law programs overall. To support that, National Jurist magazine called the U’s College of Law the 12th best in the nation for practical legal training and second best for sustainable practices. The legal program includes simulation courses, a low-income tax clinic, Pro Bono Initiative clinics and other opportunities for hands-on experience before graduation. The school’s new building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designated, which means that it creates jobs, provides a healthy environment, reduces carbon emissions and uses low levels of water and energy.

The dean of the College of Law, Robert Adler, said “We are excited to receive recognition for two areas that are at the core of our mission at the College of Law — fostering opportunities for practical training and serving as a role model to the community in terms of green practices.”

The U’s health programs are frequently ranked high across the board. In March, U.S. News and World Report ranked the U’s School of Medicine 40th in research and 34th in primary care, and that is 20 spots higher than last year’s 54th ranking in primary care. The College of Pharmacy’s Pharm.D. program is 17th in the country. The master’s program at the College of Nursing is 31st in the nation, and its doctorate program is 22nd. The physical therapy program is 20th . The physician’s assistant program is fifth in the nation, and the nursing midwifery program is ranked ninth in the country.

The success of the school’s health programs seems to translate into its healthcare system. Vizient, a member-owned healthcare services company, called University of Utah Health the best in the nation for quality and accountability after a seven-year run in the top 10. The ranking is based on safe care, low readmittance rates and low mortality rates across all areas of treatment. The U’s system ranked above well-known hospital systems like the Mayo Clinic.

“It’s always nice to have outside groups and organizations confirm what we already know — that the University of Utah is one of the top public universities in the world,” said Chris Nelson, director of communications at the U.

Nelson explained that improving the school’s rankings benefits students, faculty and staff.

“From a faculty and staff perspective, these types of national and college-specific rankings are a helpful way for the university to measure itself against its peers,” Nelson said. “From a student perspective, these rankings help strengthen the reputation of the university nationally and enhance the value of having attended and graduated from the U.”

He added, “More important than rankings though, is the pride the University of Utah takes in making sure our students receive a high value for their tuition and an exceptional student experience. The U’s tuition is 50 percent lower than the average of our peer institutions, and our students have access to high-quality, innovative programs and top-performing faculty. And we’re always looking to improve.”

[email protected]