Enrollment and new degrees discussed by Regents

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The most recent Utah Board of Regents meeting in August focused on strategic planning, long-term enrollment projections and new degrees. Also discussed were the roles boards of trustees play in presidential selection and evaluations, program quality reviews, audit committees and institutional roles and missions.

Meeting at the governor's mansion, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. addressed the group by telling of a need to improve student achievement. "Our future is with you." Economic development is "inexorably linked" to higher education.

Regent Chair, Nolan Karras, agreed with the governor and pledged to work with Huntsman and follow his lead in advancing higher education in the state.

Commissioner Richard E. Kendell added that higher education has "big issues" to face, including the fact that over the past decade, the percent of 19 year olds enrolled in college has declined from 41 percent to 31 percent, and Utah, in terms of bachelor degrees as a percent of population has declined from 12th in the United States to 32nd.

Karrus discussed the importance of having clear institutional missions and roles, even though there is often local pressure to go beyond those roles. "We're all better off if we have a system of higher education," He pledged his continued efforts to "be open, communicate and be fair."

The board approved the following new degrees: an associate of science degree in health sciences at Weber State University and an associate of applied science degree in traditional building skills at Snow College.

Commissioner Kendell reported on possible action items to implement the strategic directions identified by the board in the April and June meetings and asked for input and comment. Directions include increasing student expectations and success, increasing student retention and graduation rates, increasing access and participation rates particularly among minority students, increasing the ties between higher education and economic development, and linking funding to institutional roles and missions.

The Board adopted its annual update of long-term enrollment projections for the nine traditional USHE institutions, and reviewed the latest seven-year history and 10-year projections for UCAT. The projections are for slower enrollment growth than was predicted a few years ago, and yet a possible increase of 54,414 FTE (47.3 percent increase) over the next 20 years, or 2,720 FTE per year (2 percent increase) for USHE. UCAT is projecting an increase in head count of 6,920, or 22 percent over the next 10 years. The board asked the commissioner's office to prepare two projections, one that is optimistic or aggressive and one that is more cautious or pessimistic.

In other business, the Board approved a new mission statement for Southern Utah University; issuance of revenue bonds for renovations of the Shephard Union Building at Weber State University; a Student Recreation Center at the University of Utah, to be funded by non-state funds (student fees and private donations), subject to legislative approval; purchase a research building for the University of Utah in Delta, Utah; purchase land adjacent to the Uintah Basin Campus of Utah State University; a Center for Digital Design and Development at Utah Valley State College.

The next Board of Regents meeting will be on Sept. 15-16, at Utah State University.

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