September 2, 2014

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Article

Higher Education

September 2, 2014


The role of higher education in Utah has become more important than ever as colleges and universities strive to reach the state’s Prosperity 2020 goal. Educational institutions across the board are working to bring non-traditional students to their campuses, whether it’s to earn a certification at a tech college or begin the pathway to a master’s degree. Preparing students for the working world is another goal these institutions have—a challenge they’re meeting head on through STEM and hands-on teaching.

We’d like to give a special thank you to Mary Ann Holladay, former director of the Utah Women and Education Initiative, for moderating the discussion.

Participants:

Back Row:

  • Rob Brems, Utah College of Applied Technology
  • Bill Crim, United Way of Salt Lake
  • Mary Ann Holladay, Utah Women and Education Initiative
  • Jonathan Tibbets, Tooele Applied Technology College
  • James “Cid” Seidelman, Westminster College
  • Vic Hockett, Dixie Applied Technology College
  • Sally Johnstone, Western Governors University
  • Clay Christensen, Mountainland Applied Technology College

Front Row:

  • Jana Scott, Prosperity 2020
  • Deneece Huftalin, Salt Lake Community College
  • Larry Smith, Utah State University
  • Collette Mercier, Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College
  • Tami Goetz, STEM Action Center
  • Alex Lawrence, Weber State University
  • Angela Franklin, Holland & Hart
  • Larry Richards, LDS Business College
    Not Pictured: Ruth Watkins, University of Utah

What is the role of higher education in shaping our Utah workforce and economy?

BREMS: That question needs to immediately go to the current goal we are all involved in, which is Gov. Herbert’s goal of 66 percent of Utahns of working age holding either a certificate or a degree by 2020. In my 36 years of working in education, it’s probably the most significant thing I have ever seen an executive leader do within the state of Utah. At the Utah College of Applied Technology, we are working very diligently to achieve those numbers that Gov. Herbert has asked us to do. Our partners in the system of higher education on the degree side are working very diligently to do that as well. Because Utah has that goal, we are all working together to achieve a good workforce and good economy.

SCOTT: That goal has become a shared goal of the Board of Regents, the UCAT board of trustees, the State Board
of Education and the business community. There’s remarkable power in shared vision.

Prosperity really starts with education. Higher education is at the heart of economic development. Companies that have educated workers can be more innovative, productive and successful. In terms of the economy expanding, an educated workforce draws more high-paying jobs, more family-sustaining wages. There are all kinds of other impacts on the economy that come from higher wages over a lifetime. Those with higher education are less likely to be unemployed or in poverty. Think of the social impacts of that. It goes all the way to children with educated parents who get off to a great start with education.

Rob mentioned the 66 percent goal. It’s 2014 now—the clock is ticking. How well-positioned are we to meet that goal?

JOHNSTONE: Utah isn’t alone in this. Governors in a number of states around the country have set these high-reach goals. There’s a realization in many states that they can’t do business as usual. The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems has done an incredible job of mapping out what would be required to meet those goals state by state. It’s frankly stunning when you look at it. If every institution in the state worked at maximum capacity, they could never reach that goal. The only way to reach those goals is to embrace different ways of working in the higher-education realm.

HUFTALIN: We have to find students that have never imagined going to college, whose parents never went to college. We have to find working adults who thought they could never come back to college and have them come back to college successfully. Never before has a system of alternative education been more important. The fact that we have a diverse group of higher-education folks in Utah has to be embraced by the Legislature. We have to be funded for our diversity so that students can access whatever makes sense to them. A small liberal arts school is not for everyone. Salt Lake Community College isn’t for everyone. UCAT isn’t for everyone. Unless we partner and work collectively, we are never reaching that goal. Unless we pay attention to the young people in our population who need English language learning, who need adult education skills, who need to get up to level for college readiness, I don’t know that we will meet it.

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