The College of Eastern Utah is now officially part of the Utah State University system as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 69 by the Utah State Legislature March 4.
Pending the governor's signature, the passage of the bill marks the first higher education merger between two long-standing institutions in the state's history. CEU's new name will be Utah State University-College of Eastern Utah.
The new union is being praised for the way it secures and advances the missions of both institutions. USU is the state's only land-grant university, with a mandate to provide higher education opportunities statewide. The College of Eastern Utah is a deeply rooted regional college with a community college mission that is a vital force in eastern Utah.
Commissioner of Higher Education William A. Sederburg praised both USU and CEU for stepping up, under the urging of the Utah State Legislature and the Utah State Board of Regents, to create this new alliance. He said the result is a new and exciting combination that will strengthen both institutions and greatly benefit the southeastern region of the state.
"This affiliation will bring a host of new higher education opportunities for this region," said Sederburg. "As the state's land-grant institution, Utah State University is well equipped to continue the momentum that has been initiated by the board's leadership, especially Regent David Jordan who chaired the taskforce behind this initiative."
USU President Stan L. Albrecht said the merger increases USU's reach in southeastern Utah, from Price to Blanding. CEU students will find an easier transition once completing their first two years to continue their studies toward four-year and graduate degrees.
"I am excited by the doors this opens for both USU and CEU," Albrecht said. "I have always taken great pride in USU's statewide education role. This move assures more Utah students the chance at a high-quality higher education."
He said USU's land-grant role is the reason behind its strong statewide educational presence and the tremendous growth in recent years of its regional campuses in the Uintah Basin, Tooele and Brigham City. He noted that USU already has a strong upper-division, regional campus presence in Price that will now be combined under the new merger.
A search is currently underway for a chancellor at USU-CEU who will report directly to Albrecht. The USU president said his goal is to make the transition of CEU into the USU system as seamless as possible. Key to this, he said, is to respect and recognize the distinctive strengths of both institutions and to maintain a laser-sharp focus on what will benefit students most in every decision made.
Technical career educational opportunities unique to CEU will remain, such as its widely recognized automotive technology, welding and heavy equipment and trucking programs. The college's athletics offerings in basketball, volleyball and baseball will also continue, he said.
In addition, USU will remain responsive to the community through local advisory boards and local representation on the university's Board of Trustees, Albrecht said.
Mike King, CEU interim president said he welcomes the new affiliation with USU. He said early concerns about the merger have largely dissipated following numerous faculty and community public meetings that he, Albrecht and Sederburg have hosted.
He said enrollment is up significantly at CEU despite thinly stretched resources. By joining the USU system, he said the quality of education for students in eastern Utah will be enhanced rather than compromised, and access to educational programs for all of southeastern Utah will be improved. CEU faculty will have new opportunities to provide upper-division classes. He also sees new opportunities for research, particularly in the energy development realm.
Raymond Coward, USU executive vice president and provost, said the new affiliation is considered an investment that will result in value-added initiatives on all of the campuses in the USU system. It promises CEU students access to dozens of new degree offerings and expanded opportunities within USU's four core strengths in academics and creative arts, research, student engagement and outreach.
USU students will have new opportunities to access CEU's highly successful nursing program. They will also be able to tap into a deeper and richer research vein afforded by CEU's strengths in natural resources, archeology and paleontology, including the world-class College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, a fully certified natural history museum.
He said USU students will have increased access to the geological wonders of southeastern Utah and knowledgeable professors, particularly in relation to the unique geology of the San Rafael Swell. In addition, they will be exposed to greater cultural diversity, including the state's largest Native American higher education learning environment.
In addition to the Price campus, CEU operates the San Juan Campus in Blanding that enrolls more than 500 students, more than half are Native Americans. This campus provides educational opportunities for students living in the southeastern portion of the state and offers a wide range of educational options, including health related programs and distance education. The San Juan Campus, along with USU's Moab Education Center, have enjoyed decades of educational offerings in cooperation with CEU.
Brad King, CEU vice president of Institutional Advancement and Student Services, said combining the two institutions provides a synergy that would not otherwise exist. He said the general feeling around the campus and the community is that of excitement and anticipation.
The unprecedented union of two Utah institutions at this level and scope is groundbreaking and therefore not without its share of uncertainties, concerns and complications, said Neal Peacock, mayor of Castledale, former chair of the CEU Board of Trustees, member of the newly formed CEU advisory board and a USU graduate. But he said he has been encouraged early on by the seamless transition.
"It's a very big positive," he said. "Really good things can happen as a result of this new affiliation. I can see how this is going to work."
Key to the transition has been Albrecht's approach and attitude and Mike King's support, he said.
"They are showing true leadership," he said. "Whenever they've encountered bumps in the road, they have demonstrated the attitude that 'we can solve any problem' by taking the necessary time and talking through it."
Albrecht's commitment to maintaining the identity of CEU's culture and distinctions is also viewed as very positive for the local communities in the region, Peacock said.
He echoed the general sentiment that the students are the winners as a result of this new union. The strengths of both institutions, now combined, offer higher educational opportunities in southeastern Utah at unprecedented levels.
Between its 12-acre campus in Price and the San Juan Campus, CEU enrolls 2,173 students. Now in its 72nd year, it is a comprehensive community college offering more than 400 courses in 60 areas of study with a faculty and staff of 230. Ninety percent of the courses are taught by full-time professors.
USU, in its 122nd year, evolved from a small, agricultural college to one that is nationally and internationally recognized for its intellectual and technological leadership in land, water, space and life enhancement. As Utah's sole land-grant institution, it has more than 850 faculty who provide education to more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including 10,000 in its Distance Education sites located throughout the state of Utah.
USU notable mentions:
* USU has eight academic colleges.
* The university offers more than 170 undergraduate majors, 130 research-related classes and more than 140 graduate degrees.
* USU is a top-50 research institution in the nation that attracted more than $138 million in research revenue last year.
* USU counts 11 Goldwater Scholars and a Rhodes Scholar among its graduates in the past 10 years. It boasts nine Carnegie Professors of the Year – more than any other school in the state.
* USU research in animal cloning led to Popular Science magazine naming USU one of the top 10 "smartest schools" in the nation.
* USU has been ranked in the top 2 percent of prestigious graduate schools of education in the United States for the past decade.
* USU is the only higher education institution in the state with a professional string quartet in residence.
* USU is recognized for its student engagement as the oldest residential campus in Utah with more than 200 student clubs and organizations.
* USU's statewide reach includes three regional campuses and nearly 40 education centers.
* USU Extension is located in all 29 Utah counties.
* Located in northern Utah's Cache Valley, USU is an hour and a half from Salt Lake City and is within a half day's driving distance of six national parks.
Preparations are now underway to celebrate the new union of the two schools on April 29 in Blanding and April 30 in Price. More information will be provided in the coming weeks.