To identify the Best Colleges in Wyoming for 2020 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Wyoming anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
If you’re interested in distance learning, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in Wyoming. You can also find out more about college financial aid with our list of the Top Wyoming Scholarships.
University of WyomingLaramie, WY
Traditionally, coal, oil, and agriculture were the cornerstones of Wyoming’s economy, and they still are, along with eco- and adventure tourism. That is still the case, but unfortunately, in the last decade, Wyoming has seen significant population loss as young people move to more promising, less challenging states. The state has begun finding innovative ways to turn the tide back, starting job initiatives (such as Wyoming Grown) to keep and attract young workers. Wyoming’s higher education system is doing the same, investing in technology, health sciences, and other professional programs to nurture a home-grown crop of innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders.
At this time, only one institution of higher learning, the University of Wyoming, has made the College Consensus ranking. This is no commentary on the quality of Wyoming’s higher education, but only a reflection of the simple fact that, as the state with the smallest population (just over half a million people), there are only two four-year institutions in Wyoming. Wyoming Catholic College, while recognized by the Cardinal Newman Society (an authoritative survey of Catholic schools), is not regionally accredited and thus not included in the College Consensus system.
Doing Higher Education in Wyoming
That leaves the University of Wyoming, which, to be certain, is no slouch, ranking among the best national research universities and the top public universities in the US. The University of Wyoming was founded in 1886, while the area was still the Wyoming Territory, when the state was still little more than wilderness. Without gold and silver, and with petroleum still a few years from being a real marketable commodity, Wyoming was not much more than federally protected land and a few rough frontiersmen. But the Morrill Land-Grant Act put a land-grant university in every state, and that included Wyoming.
The land-grant university system focused on agriculture and mechanical engineering, which turned out to be perfect for Wyoming, as the state’s economy came to depend on coal, oil, and natural gas, almost entirely. The strong foundation in engineering ensured that UW would develop into a top STEM research institution, led by top-notch agriculture, natural resources, and engineering programs. Those programs are precisely where Wyoming’s best bets for the future lie, as well. With nearly half of Wyoming’s land made up of federally protected parks, and an abundance of wide-open space, Wyoming has been central to research in alternative energy research like wind and solar power. The Haub College of Environment and Natural Resources is one of the world’s foremost schools of its kind. It’s all the better, considering that Wyoming is one of the most affordable schools in the US to get an advanced degree in STEM.
With a scattered, largely rural population, the University of Wyoming is a model of outreach and accessibility, out of pure necessity. Once called the Outreach School, UW Distance proclaims “The World Needs More Cowboys” (the UW mascot), and then goes out to make it happen. UW runs seven regional centers throughout the state, offering dozens of degree and certificate programs to students where they are. But even more significantly, UW has also made online education one of their priorities, and year after year more degree programs become available either completely online, or in hybrid format. UW’s distance offerings are extensive and comprehensive, going all the way up to doctoral degrees in areas like education and nursing, helping to keep Wyoming’s healthcare and education systems up to the task.
Even though College Consensus doesn’t cover community colleges, it would be a shame to leave out Wyoming’s community colleges, which are crucial to education in the state. With more than 40 campuses and extension locations, Wyoming community colleges educate more than 30,000 students a year and transfer hundreds of students into full 4-year programs, either at the University of Wyoming or elsewhere. They are the rock that Wyoming higher education is built on, and without community colleges, Wyoming might grind to a halt.
The Future of Wyoming’s Colleges
As advanced as higher education gets in Wyoming, the state is still combating “brain drain,” and that is likely to remain Wyoming’s greatest challenge in the coming years. The state has taken steps, though, such as the aforementioned Wyoming Grown initiative. Started by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Wyoming Grown is an ambitious effort combining incentives, civic pride, and good old-fashioned marketing to encourage Wyoming’s wayward professionals to return, and to convince Wyoming’s young people to stay and be the change they want to see in the Cowboy State. What impact it will have, only time will tell, but Wyoming isn’t known for half-measures.