Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Students listen to the speakers during Spring Commencement Exercises at BYU Thursday, April 19, 2012 at the Marriott Center.
As new college students prepare to start their first semester, new national rankings are giving students a chance to gauge their campuses before getting there.
BYU made four of Newsweek and The Daily Beast's top 25 lists in their annual college rankings, including most affordable, least rigorous, most beautiful and most conservative.
With current tuition for LDS students at $2,355 and $4,710 for non-LDS students, BYU has long been known as an affordable school. However, in ranking affordability, Newsweek and the Daily Beast looked at more than tuition price. They also factored in the number of students who graduate with debt, how large that debt is, the level of financial aid available and the average starting and mid-career salaries of graduates.
BYU ranked 16th in affordability. Only 31 percent of graduates carry debt, while 66 percent of full-time students receive financial aid.
By comparison, Yale ranked 14th, and MIT topped the list as the most affordable.
For their list of the top 25 least rigorous schools, sure to be controversial in Utah and with BYU alumni, Newsweek and The Daily Beast gathered the top 200 most selective schools based on percentage of applicants accepted and median ACT/SAT scores. Schools were then ranked according to student-generated workload ratings on College Prowler and student-to-faculty ratios.
Newsweek and The Daily Beast explained the system showed "the colleges where accepted students find the workload easiest when normalized by the aptitude of the student body."
The algorithm ranked BYU No. 16 among the 25 least rigorous schools, with a workload manageability score of 6.8 out of 10.
Among the top 25 most beautiful schools, BYU claimed 17th place. BYU's flower beds, lawns and buildings earned it an attractiveness rating of 8.4 out of 10, according to students. Looking beyond campus grounds, the list also took into account ratings of student attractiveness. BYU men averaged a 7.7 out of 10, while BYU women averaged an 8.3.
Pacific Union College, a Seventh-Day Adventist college near Napa Valley, scooped up the title of most beautiful college with an average attractiveness rating of 9.1 and 9.2 for men and women, respectively.
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BYU rounded out its appearances on the lists ranking sixth in the top 25 most conservative campuses. Rankings were based on the percentage of students who claimed their school to be very conservative or conservative on a survey at College Prowler. At BYU, 87 percent of students consider the campus to be conservative, with 38 percent rating it as very conservative and 49 percent ranking it simply conservative.
BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead said college rankings are always fun for students to see and share but should be viewed in context.
"With all the different rankings, you have to look at them with a grain of salt, even if they are good," Hollingshead said. "Looking at these categories, they're definitely trying to cater them to students and to be fun to look at."
Students can see where other colleges ranked here.