Monday, March 29, 2010

CEU affiliating with USU, UVSC becomes UVU, and the lack of community colleges in Utah's Higher Education system

I'm very, very frustrated that Governor Herbert signed SB 275 into law, but I'll get back to the ethics initiative tomorrow. I just want to write a quick post because of a Tribune editorial dealing with higher education in Utah. This editorial just about catches what I have been feeling since UVSC became UVU a couple years ago. There are pros and cons about increasing the number of universities in the state, but I feel the negative aspects are often ignored.

Utah Valley really did need a university more focused on locals than BYU, but it also needs a community college. University status means increased prestige (everyone around here was and is very excited by the upgrade), increased local opportunities for postgraduate degrees, and the expansion of other professional degree programs. However, it inevitably cuts out some students and the community college focus and brings greater costs as more is offered and more professors are required to teach more diverse and specialized courses. UVU currently has a high number of adjunct professors and graduate students teaching classes and teaches a high number of remedial courses. Tuition for those classes and all classes is going up and there is and will continue to be friction between the old community college mission and the new university mission. Not because either is wrong, but because it's hard to provide both at the same institution.

As the Tribune editorial said, Salt Lake Community College fills an important niche. And "niche" is probably the wrong word when SLCC has the highest enrollment in the state with all of its campuses. I personally know many local students who could benefit from a lower cost alternative to UVU completely focused on teaching.

I support UVU. I think the demand for university level education was there and it fulfills a huge need. What we really need is another community college in Utah Valley to complement UVU. I think such an institution would both attract many students not enrolled in college classes and siphon off some of UVU's huge numbers to a 2-year program more appropriate for their level--which would only help UVU in my opinion, in terms of growth costs and mission. And that's where I have no solutions, only wishful thinking. Where would we possibly scrape up the money to found a new state college when our current higher ed. and K-12 systems are stretched to the breaking point? I just don't know. But I seriously think that is what is needed to meet our community's needs right now, let alone the needs associated with the huge projected population growth in the county in the following decades.

Comments? Suggestions? Creative funding solutions?



AH said...

Hi, I came to your blog to check it out because I oppose the ethics initiative and was looking around at what people are saying about it. In the process, I happened upon this very interesting post about the valley needing a community college, the challenges of getting another one to replace UVSC, etc. Very interesting reading. Is this an idea that has been talked about a lot? Is this an idea that you are trying to introduce? I assume it came up in the process of creating UVU. Are there any forward-looking plans on this front? Where do you think a community college should be located?

What else can you tell me about this?


UtahTeacher said...

Well, first of all, please reconsider your stance on the ethics initiative. =)

About the community college, I have not heard any proposal or plans for this. When the legislature was considering whether to fund the change to university status for UVU, I did hear some concerns about the change in mission, but no plans.

I have discussed the idea with others informally, and I think most educators would agree there is a need that could be filled in Utah Valley by a community college--a lower cost alternative focused on teaching, general classes, and remedial classes--removing some of the remedial load from UVU. If the new school were planned and opened in coordination with UVU, much of the coursework could be oriented toward preparing the students for programs at UVU.

As for location, I think a community college with a few different campuses like SLCC would best meet the needs of many young people (and older people trying to get back in school) who work and go to school. Maybe start with a Provo/Orem area campus, then one in Lehi near the freeway, and eventually a branch in south valley like Spanish Fork.

However, I am neither a mover, nor a shaker, and have no input into the types of discussions that would be necessary to accomplish something like this. And as I said, I have no answer to where the necessary resources would come from.

AH said...

Very interesting thoughts. Thank you!

I'll reconsider my stance on the ethics initiative if you'll reconsider yours :).