College ranking

SALT LAKE CITY — Both the University of Utah and BYU slipped slightly in this year's U.S. News & World Report America's Best Colleges rankings.

The U. fell from 126 to 129, and BYU dropped from 71 to 75 after jumping 42 spots last year.

That puts BYU in a tie with the University of Indiana, University of Delaware and Marquette University, while the U. is matched with the University of Kentucky and the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Utah State University is ranked 170.

The list, criticized by some as being little more than a popularity contest, this year includes the opinions of high school guidance counselors for the first time. Among those counselors, BYU was ranked 74 and the U. came in at 146. Graduation rates are also more heavily weighted than in previous years.

BYU was ranked the 20th best value in the country and came in No. 4 for students carrying the least debt. The 24 percent of the 2009 graduating class who had debt owed an average of $10,730. Tuition this year is $4,420.

By comparison, 40 percent of the U.'s 2009 class had an average debt of $15,201. In-state tuition there is $6,274.

Individual programs at BYU and the U. were also recognized. BYU's undergraduate business program was ranked 34, and the engineering program was 78. BYU's Marriott School of Management was ranked No. 3 for accounting, 17 for international business and 21 for management. The U.'s College of Engineering was ranked 65, and the David Eccles School of Business was 67.

Westminster College is ranked 23 for regional universities in the West, followed by Weber State University at 56 and Southern Utah University at 75. Westminster is also listed as the 14th best value in that group.

Harvard University took over the top spot among national universities after sharing it last year with Princeton University, which is now No. 2, just above Yale University.

The top two national liberal arts colleges are both in Massachusetts: Williams College and Amherst College. Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, is No. 3.

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— Paul Koepp