Utah earned its nickname "The Beehive State" because of the spirit of cooperation and harmony believed to thrive among its people. It may be this spirit of community pulling together that has kept Utah's economy buzzing happily. With unemployment sitting at 3 percent — the lowest it has been since before the Great Recession — Utah is one of the best states in the nation to find a job, according to KSL Broadcasting.
But although Utah leads the nation in job growth, a great many of those jobs require education that too many Utahns simply don't have. The state sits at a crossroad, with high-tech, high-income jobs booming but without enough college-educated workers to fill the demand.
This may be the ideal time to earn an online education in Utah. State investments in online program expansions, combined with the accessibility and affordability of online degrees in Utah as compared to traditional programs mean you can quickly, conveniently complete your needed training and enter the workforce. This guide can show you why.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Utah?
There has truly never been a better time to earn online degrees in Utah. First, more than 10 percent of the state's population resides in rural areas, and only three of the state's 72 colleges and universities are located in rural areas. That means that for one-tenth of Utahns, online degree programs in Utah may provide the only means by which to physically access a college education.
Though the state ranks 11th in the nation for college attainment, at 52 percent, 66 percent of new jobs in the state now require postsecondary education. The state's goal is to reach 66 percent by 2020 in order to fill employer demand. This means the state is working hard to get more students enrolling in and graduating from degree programs. Its efforts have included expanding online offerings — the university of Utah alone offers 84 online programs and about 350 online courses, and growing. Also, the university has developed an online-only tuition schedule that can offer students more opportunity to complete their degrees quickly and affordably.
Not only are online degree programs in Utah more affordable and available than ever, but statistically these degrees provide greater employment opportunities in the state's fastest-growing jobs, and they lead to higher incomes. According to a report by the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE), Utahns with bachelor's degrees are able to earn 40 percent more per year than those with only high school diplomas.
Top 10 Online Colleges in Utah
Recent high school graduates, returning adult students and mid-career professionals can benefit from this list of the top 10 Utah colleges that offer online degree programs, which was developed with data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), with a methodology that factors in number of programs, graduation rates, tuition, student services and more.
Top Online Degree Programs in Utah
The NCES provided data regarding online degrees in Utah to help us offer you with this list of the top online degree programs in Utah at the associate, bachelor's or graduate levels. These degree programs may be offered fully or partially online.
Quality of Online Education in Utah
Utah's leaders have set forth a strategic plan to increase the state's college attainment rate. The plan includes "increasing the quality of the student experience" with improved technological infrastructure and outside support from education advocacy groups, business leaders and elected official to help maintain quality in the educational experience.
As a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an organization of western states established to facilitate the sharing of resources and best practices among member institutions, Utah also is able to help ensure students' success.
In 2016, Utah joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), a consortium of member states that provides voluntary oversight of online education quality.
Individual schools also want to ensure online course quality. For example, Salt Lake Community College's online courses are designed in accordance with Quality Matters, a nationally recognized peer review process for online course quality. And the university of Utah's U Online is developing partnerships with local corporations to support talent and workforce needs, to ensure that students are earning the quality training most needed by employers in the state.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Utah
State leaders have identified low-income, first-generation and returning adult students as those facing the most barriers to completing college. Considering these factors, one important consideration for prospective college students seeking online degree programs in Utah is student support; evaluate whether the school's services (tutoring, counseling, mentorship and more) are able to give you a good shot at success in school.
The National Council of SARA, Quality Matters and other educational organizations also recommend that students consider the following when deciding on online degree programs:
- Academic and professional expectations: What are the program's requirements, both in terms of coursework and face-to-face activities? And what are your expectations for training and completion of the program?
- Learning experiences: What experiences are built into the program, and what types of interaction and assignments are expected? Is this suitable for your needs?
- Affordability: How much does the program cost, how much financial aid do you qualify for and can you afford the program?
- Technology: What are the program's technological requirements, and how much support would be available?
- Outcomes: What are the program's graduation rates? Where do its graduates work? Is a degree from this program valued in the field?
Top Occupations in Utah
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following occupations are experiencing the greatest demand in Utah. This information may correlate to the most useful or popular online degree programs in Utah.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||216,480||$37,500|
|Sales and Related Occupations||145,780||$40,440|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||117,010||$38,220|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||112,750||$24,450|
|Educational Instruction and Library Occupations||92,440||$53,310|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||92,340||$47,520|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||87,320||$65,890|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||68,350||$75,070|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||57,360||$82,340|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||55,590||$48,960|
|Customer Service Representatives||49,070||$34,900|
|General and Operations Managers||47,380||$83,130|
Top Metropolitan Areas in Utah: Industries and Career Prospects
Utah is experiencing some of the nation's robust rates of population and job growth. Overall, the state is experiencing significant job increases in tourism/hospitality, trade/transportation/utilities, education, health services and the information sector, which saw the greatest employment growth in the first half of 2019, according to KSL. Utah students considering online degrees in Utah may want to consider fast-growing occupations by location before deciding on a program.
Salt Lake City: According to the USHE, the Salt Lake metropolitan area is one of four regions in the country where livable-wage, middle-skill jobs requiring postsecondary training would be the primary driver for overall job growth. These middle-skill jobs are projected to account for nearly half of the new jobs. The number of companies calling Salt Lake home is at an unparalleled high, likely due to its location at the intersection of Interstates 15 and 80. Companies such as Amazon and United Parcel Service are just a couple of the major companies choosing to locate here. Business, computer/math, education, food service, transportation, health care and construction jobs are currently employing the high numbers of people.
Provo-Orem: USHE says that since 2001, the Provo-Orem area has been one of the top three regions that have led the country in job growth in health care and IT, in positions requiring community college training. Some of its faster growth has been in manufacturing and durable goods, as well as information.
Logan: In the northwest corner of the state, Logan is becoming a hub for manufacturing. It was chosen as a site for Proctor and Gamble's new state-of-the-art paper products manufacturing facility. Its manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs saw extraordinarily high growth in early 2018.
St. George: Located in Washington County in Southern Utah, St. George is situated in what many consider one of the nation's most scenic areas, near Zion National Park. It recently was ranked "most dynamic metropolitan" by the Walton Family Foundation, in part for its "staggering" tourism growth. It has a large and growing health care system and is seeing large growth in government, leisure and hospitality and retail jobs.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Utah
Utah colleges already have some of the nation's most affordable college tuitions. Additionally, the USHE has developed an online-only tuition schedule, which is $260 per credit hour starting in 2020 for students pursuing fully online degrees in specific, eligible undergraduate online programs.
Southern Utah University has developed the Finish Line Scholarship to help students with some college education finish their bachelor's degrees. The scholarship offers up to four semesters of resident tuition funding at SUU for qualifying students.
Other financial aid offerings to Utah college students include the following scholarships:
Utah Promise Scholarship: This is the first-ever, statewide, need-based scholarship program in Utah. It's available to recent high school graduates and adult learners at Utah public postsecondary institutions and technical colleges. It covers tuition and fees for up to two years.
T.H. Bell Education Scholarship: This scholarship may be used at private or public institutions in Utah that offer approved teacher education programs, and is intended to support students who wish to enter the teaching profession.
Regents' Scholarship: This academic scholarship may be used to cover tuition and fees and may be used at USHE and Utah System of Technical Colleges institutions.
New Century Scholarship: This merit-based scholarship may be used for tuition and fees by eligible students who have earned associate degrees in high school or complete a specific math and science curriculum and wish to earn bachelor's degrees at public USHE institutions.
Tests You May Need To Take
Utah schools don't require a specific entrance exam score in order to be admitted to one of its colleges. Utah colleges that offer online degree program usually accept either the ACT or SAT for admission or have no exam requirement. You should consult your prospective school to determine its individual admission requirements.
To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance education
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- A Stronger Nation, State-by-State educational attainment, Lumina Foundation, February 2019, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2019/#nation
- Clearing the Path: A Strategic Student Success Agenda, The university of Utah, January 2018, https://academic-affairs.utah.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2018/01/Clearing-the-Path.pdf
- College Navigator: Utah, Institute for Education Studies, National Center for Education, accessed June 25, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=UT
- Employment Update: May 2019, Utah Department of Workforce Services, accessed June 25, 2019, https://jobs.utah.gov/wi/update/index.html
- ELearning Faculty Resources, Salt Lake Community College, accessed June 25, 2019, https://faculty.slcc.edu/elearning/course-review.aspx
- Jasen Lee, "Utah unemployment rate steady at 3 percent, with job growth expected to remain strong," KSL Broadcasting, KSL.com, April 19, 2019, https://www.ksl.com/article/46535074/utah-unemployment-rate-steady-at-3-percent-with-job-growth-expected-to-remain-strong
- "Logistics & Distribution: Delivering the Goods in a Real-Time Economy," Business Facilities, June 19, 2019, https://businessfacilities.com/2019/06/logistics-distribution-delivering-goods-real-time-economy/
- May 2018 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 29, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm#N
- Mary Brown Malouf, "Behind the Beehive," Salt Lake Magazine, May 2, 2016, https://www.saltlakemagazine.com/behind-the-beehive/
- "New Resource Helps Students Find the Right Online Program," NC-SARA, June 6, 2018, https://www.nc-sara.org/content/new-resource-helps-students-find-right-online-program
- Ryann Richardson, "St. George garners top-10 rankings for 'most dynamic metropolitan' in Walton Family Foundation study," St. George News, June 12, 2019, https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2019/06/12/arh-st-george-garners-top-10-rankings-for-most-dynamic-metropolitan-in-walton-family-foundation-study/#.XRKbTI97mM8
- State of Utah Scholarships - 2019 Updates, Utah System of Higher Education, accessed June 25, 2019, https://higheredutah.org/home-page/state-of-utah-scholarships-2019-updates/
- The Finish Line Scholarship, Southern Utah University, accessed June 25, 2019, https://www.suu.edu/online/finish-line.html?utm_campaign=finish-line-scholarship&utm_medium=press&utm_source=release
"Trending in higher ed: Major online growth," Utah System of Higher Education, April 11, 2019, https://higheredutah.org/trending-in-higher-ed-major-online-growth/
- Tony Semerad, "University of Utah's next president already has detailed plans for the U.'s future," The Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 2018, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/01/19/university-of-utahs-next-president-already-has-a-detailed-plan-for-the-us-future/
- "Utah joins national consortium to improve availability of online classes and programs," Utah System of Higher Education, August 30, 2016, https://higheredutah.org/utah-joins-national-consortium-to-improve-availability-of-online-classes-and-programs/
- "Utah ranks 11th in educational attainment, 8th in quality of education," Utah System of Higher Education, May 24, 2018, https://higheredutah.org/utah-ranks-11th-in-educational-attainment-8th-in-quality-of-education/
- Utah, Rural Health Information Hub, November 5, 2018, https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/states/utah
- Utah: A State of Opportunity, Utah State Board of Regents Strategic Plan 2025, Jan. 22, 2016, https://higheredutah.org/pdf/agendas/20160122/TABCC2016Jan.pdf