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From his home in Mumbai a few years ago, Saumya Mukul chose the game design program at Utah's flagship university.

The University of Utah's second-place ranking among U.S. colleges put the school on his short list.

Now as Mukul gets ready to graduate and intern at Salt Lake City's Disney Interactive, his master's program at the University of Utah has moved to first place, according to the Princeton Review, which released the annual rankings Tuesday.

"It's crazy. But it's fun," said 23-year-old Mukul, who hopes to have a job offer by this summer. "It's worth it."

The university took second place among undergraduate gaming programs, partly for its high rate of job placement. The University of Southern California was ranked first.

The two schools and a few others shuffle among the Top 5 in the yearly ratings.

U. Entertainment Arts & Engineering director Robert Kessler said in a statement that the accolades are a "validation of the way our students, the community, the industry and the faculty view our programs."

Last year, the undergraduate program was also No. 2, behind USC. The graduate program was ranked fourth.

Princeton Review chose the top schools based on a 50-question survey of 150 institutions offering game design coursework or degrees in the United States, Canada and other countries.

Schools reported their academic offerings, faculty credentials, graduates' employment and starting salaries.

Students on EAE tracks "are passionate about succeeding in and ultimately improving the game industry," said Mark van Langeveld, professor and director of the U.'s Game Engineering track.

Undergraduate students either graduate with a degree in computer science or film and media arts. Graduate students get a degree in entertainment, arts and engineering.

Roughly 93 percent of the program's graduates find a job within three months of graduation — a statistic that factored into the rankings. Most graduates go to work in the video gaming industry, said Corrinne Lewis, academic program manager.

About 40 percent of the program's students are from Utah. Another 20 percent come from other states. And 40 percent are international students, mostly from China and India, Lewis said.

The U. opened its video game program in 2007. Last year, it turned out 40 graduates with bachelor's degrees and 30 with master's degrees. It accepts roughly one-third of applicants.

U. President David Pershing in a statement praised the "students and top faculty who lead the industry through their drive and creativity."

Graduate student Rachel Leiker praised the "flexibility" of the university's program, saying it allows students to take full ownership of their games.

Leiker is one of a dozen students at work on the game 404Sight, in which players race for net neutrality, fighting off "an evil Internet service provider," she said.

The game features a heroine, Ada, who is named after the British 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace, known as the founder of computer science. Two women work on the 12-member 404Sight team.

"We're all about representation," Leiker said. "There needs to be more women on the front end and back end of games. That, and she just really looks really cool."

After first graduating from the U. with a communications degree, Leiker knew she wanted a career related to her love of video games. It started with long Nintendo sessions playing Mario at a friend's house. After a kidney transplant, she wanted to develop a game that would help kids keep track of their diets and medications.

After she graduates in May, Leiker is hoping to work on user experience at a game studio in Salt Lake City, Seattle or Vancouver.

Twitter: @anniebknox —

Top five undergraduate video game programs:

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)

DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)

Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, British Columbia)

Top five graduate video game programs:

University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)

University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)

Southern Methodist University (Plano, TX)

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)› XX