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Website asks for public input on higher ed plan

Published: Sunday, Oct. 24 2010 9:23 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's higher education leaders want your input. The Utah System of Higher Education has launched a new website, www.higheredutah2020.org, where the public can like, dislike and comment on more than 70 ideas included in its 2020 Action Plan.

The plan, part of the state's push to get 55 percent of the adult population a college degree or certificate in the next 10 years, focuses on five areas: increasing the number of college-ready high school graduates, improving retention and completion rates, expanding quality opportunities, increasing efficiency and using higher education to grow Utah's economy.

The ideas range from adopting college-readiness standards to measuring learning outcomes to increasing financial aid for underrepresented groups.

Another key element is "mission-based funding," a budget approach that moves away from per-student funding and instead supports the unique mission of each state college. For example, a growing regional school like Utah Valley University, which is adding satellite campuses, would receive funds to keep up with increasing enrollment, while the University of Utah, which has no plans to add more students, would have other initiatives funded.

The plan raises the possibility of creating a state-run virtual university that would combine online courses with traditional classes, or even bringing in online-only Western Governors University as a state-affiliated institution.

To help fund the goal of educating 100,000 more people at the college-level, the plan also proposes a local, voter-approved tax to provide a tuition credit to students that could pay for their first two years of college.

The website will be available until the early part of next year to help refine the plan before higher education officials present it to Gov. Gary Herbert.

— Paul Koepp

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