Top Mountain State Colleges and Universities

Despite its relatively low population density, the mountain state region of the United States has a wide range of options for higher education. The colleges and universities below were selected from the Mountain State region of the United States: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. My top picks vary in size from one of the country's largest public universities to a tiny Christian college with under 200 students. You'll find some familiar names here as well as a few less well-known schools. The colleges and universities below were chosen based on factors such as retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, student engagement, and value. I have listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions that separate #1 from #2, and because of the futility of comparing a large research university to a small liberal arts college.

Arizona State University
Arizona State University. kevindooley / Flickr
  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 51,869 (42,477 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; one of the largest universities in the country; other campuses in Phoenix and Mesa; member of the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference
  • Explore the Campus: Arizona State Photo Tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Arizona State University profile
More »
Brigham Young University - BYU
Brigham Young University - BYU. DOliphant / Flickr
  • Location: Provo, Utah
  • Enrollment: 34,240 (30,979 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Distinctions: Largest religious university in the U.S.; excellent value; large percentage of students do missionary work during college; member of the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Brigham Young University profile
More »
Carroll College
Carroll College. sheadonato / Flickr
  • Location: Helena, Montana
  • Enrollment: 1,380 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic liberal arts and pre-professional college
  • Distinctions: Excellent value; 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio; many options for outdoor activities; institutional focus on service and volunteerism; students can choose from 42 majors and 8 pre-professional programs
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Carroll College profile
More »
The College of Idaho
The College of Idaho. Photo Credit: The College of Idaho
  • Location: Caldwell, Idaho
  • Enrollment: 971 (953 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Creative curriculum allows students to earn one major and three minors in four years; 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 11; diverse student body from 30 states and 40 countries
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the College of Idaho profile
More »
Colorado College Science Center
Colorado College Science Center. Greverod / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 2,114 (2,101 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; breathtaking location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains; creative one-class-at-a-time curriculum; 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Colorado College profile
More »
Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines. rkimpeljr / Flickr
  • Location: Golden, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 6,069 (4,610 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public engineering school
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student/faculty ratio; high average starting salaries for graduates; excellent value; highest admissions standards of any public university in Colorado
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Colorado School of Mines profile
More »
Colorado State University
Colorado State University. ecopolitologist / Flickr
  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 31,856 (25,177 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 17 to 1 student/faculty ratio; students from all 50 states and 85 countries; member of the NCAA Division I Mountain West Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Colorado State University profile
More »
Embry-Riddle Flight Training Center
Embry-Riddle Flight Training Center. Elliott P. / Flickr
  • Location: Prescott, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 2,439 (2,377 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private aeronautical and aerospace institute
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 21; one of the world's top institutions for aeronautics and aerospace engineering; students from 50 states and 25 countries; facilities include many flight simulators and training aircraft
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the ERAU Prescott profile
More »
Headquarter for the Very Large Array are on the New Mexico Tech campus
Headquarter for the Very Large Array are on the New Mexico Tech campus. Hajor / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Socorro, New Mexico
  • Enrollment: 2,135 (1,569 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public engineering school
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; excellent value; high average salaries for graduates; many strong engineering programs; numerous research opportunities through affiliated science and engineering research centers
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the New Mexico Tech profile
More »
New Saint Andrews College
New Saint Andrews College. Dratwood / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Moscow, Idaho
  • Type of Institution: Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Classical great books curriculum modeled after Harvard in the 17th-century; exceptional value (one-half what most similar schools cost); students from 35 states and 8 countries; highly regarded among Christian colleges, conservative colleges, and colleges for home-schooled students
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the New Saint Andrews College profile
More »
Regis University
Regis University. Jeffrey Beall / Flickr
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 8,368 (4,070 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student/faculty ratio; institutional emphasis on community service; popular business and nursing programs; stunning views of the Rocky Mountains
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Regis University profile
More »
St. John's College Santa Fe
St. John's College Santa Fe. teofilo / Flickr
  • Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Enrollment: 400 (326 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Great books curriculum with a single course of study in the liberal arts and sciences; 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio; small seminars taught by two faculty members; no textbooks; excellent placement rate for law, medical, and graduate school; ability to take a semester at St. John's Annapolis campus
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the St. John's College Santa Fe profile
More »
United States Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy. GretchenKoenig / Flickr
More »
University of Arizona
University of Arizona. Aaron Jacobs / Flickr
  • Location: Tuscon, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 43,161 (33,694 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; member of the NCAA Division I Pac 10 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Arizona profile
More »
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder. Aidan M. Gray / Flickr
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 33,977 (27,901 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: fFagship campus of Colorado's university system; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; member of the NCAA Division I Pac 12 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Colorado at Boulder profile
More »
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jeff Foster / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 12,559 (10,619 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Rapidly growing university; stunning location at the foot of Pikes Peak; strong engineering school; popular programs in business, communications and nursing; NCAA Division II athletic programs
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs profile
More »
DU, University of Denver
DU, University of Denver. CW221 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 11,614 (5,754 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; campus has easy access to both outdoor activities and urban culture; popular business programs; member of the NCAA Division I Sun Belt Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Denver profile
More »
University of Idaho
University of Idaho. Allen Dale Thompson / Flickr
  • Location: Moscow, Idaho
  • Enrollment: 11,780 (9,586 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; students from all 50 states and 77 countries; skiing, camping, rafting, hiking, and biking in the immediate vicinity; member of the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Idaho profile
More »
University of Utah Mascot Swoop
University of Utah Mascot Swoop. HeffTech / Flickr
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Enrollment: 31,860 (23,789 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; students from over 100 countries and all 50 states; excellent value; member of the NCAA Division I Pac 12 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Utah profile
More »
Westminster College, Salt Lake City
Westminster College, Salt Lake City. JonMoore / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Enrollment: 2,694 (2,127 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; students from 39 states and 31 countries; located in a historic neighborhood; high level of alumni satisfaction; good grant aid; the only liberal arts college in Utah
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Westminster College profile
More »