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 (ASU)

Hayden Library at Arizona State University
Hayden Library at Arizona State University. Photo Credit: Cecilia Beach
  • Location: Tempe, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 51,585 (42,844 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
  • For more information, visit the Arizona State University admissions profile

Brigham Young University

Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Ken Lund / Flickr
  • Location: Provo, Utah
  • Enrollment: 34,499 (31,441 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
  • For a similar alternative in the Mountain State region, consider BYU-Idaho.

Carroll College

Carroll College, Saint Charles Hall
Carroll College, Saint Charles Hall.

Dngvandaele / Wikimedia Commons / CC  BY-SA 4.0

  • Location: Helena, Montana
  • Enrollment: 1,335 (1,327 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

College of Idaho

The College of Idaho
The College of Idaho. Photo Credit: The College of Idaho
  • Location: Caldwell, Idaho
  • Enrollment: 964 (946 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Creative curriculum allows students to earn one major and three minors in four years; 10 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

Colorado College

Colorado College
Colorado College. Jeffrey Beall / Flickr
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 2,144 (2,114 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

Colorado School of Mines

Colorado School of Mines
Colorado School of Mines. Alan Levine / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Golden, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 6,325 (4,952 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public engineering school
  • Distinctions: 15 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

Colorado State University

Colorado State University Fort Collins
Colorado State University Fort Collins. Scott Ogle / Flickr
  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 33,478 (25,962 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 15 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

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott

Embry-Riddle University Prescott
Embry-Riddle University Prescott.

Embry-Riddle Prescott / Wikimedia Commons /  CC0 1.0 Universal

  • Location: Prescott, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 2,776 (2,726 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private aeronautical and aerospace institute
  • Distinctions: 17 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

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech)

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: 1,895 (1,412 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public engineering school
  • Distinctions: 8 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

New Saint Andrews College

New Saint Andrews College
New Saint Andrews College. Dratwood / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Moscow, Idaho
  • Enrollment: 198 (160 undergraduate)
  • 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, visit the New Saint Andrews College admissions profile

Regis University

Regis University
Regis University. Jeffrey Beall / Flickr
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 7,907 (3,961 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student/faculty ratio; institutional emphasis on community service; popular business and nursing programs; stunning views of the Rocky Mountains
  • For more information, visit the Regis University admissions profile

St. John's College Santa Fe

St. John's College Santa Fe
St. John's College Santa Fe. teofilo / Flickr
  • Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Enrollment: 371 (320 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Great books curriculum with a single course of study in the liberal arts and sciences; 7 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, visit the St. John's College Santa Fe admissions profile

United States Air Force Academy (USAFA)

United States Air Force Academy
United States Air Force Academy. PhotoBobil / Flickr

University of Arizona

Campus of University of Arizona
Campus of University of Arizona. aimintang / Getty Images
  • Location: Tuscon, Arizona
  • Enrollment: 44,097 (34,153 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 12 Conference
  • For more information, visit the University of Arizona admissions profile

University of Colorado at Boulder

University of Colorado and Flatirons
beklaus / Getty Images
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 36,681 (30,159 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Flagship 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, visit the University of Colorado at Boulder admissions profile

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jeff Foster / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 13,123 (10,951 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, visit the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs admissions profile

University of Denver (DU)

DU, The University of Denver
DU, The University of Denver. CW221 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Enrollment: 11,952 (5,801 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, visit the University of Denver admissions profile

University of Idaho

University of Idaho
University of Idaho.

Apstrinka / Wikimedia Commons /  CC BY-SA 4.0

  • Location: Moscow, Idaho
  • Enrollment: 11,841 (9,568 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, visit the University of Idaho admissions profile

University of Utah

University of Utah Marriott Library
University of Utah Marriott Library. Ellen Forsyth / Flickr
  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Enrollment: 33,023 (24,743 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, visit the University of Utah admissions profile

Westminster College

Westminster College
Westminster College.

Livelifelovesnow / Wikimedia Commons /  CC BY-SA 4.0

  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Enrollment: 2,477 (1,968 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 8 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, visit the Westminster College admissions profile