Utah governor takes his education message to Congress

He says no to tax increase in favor of economic development

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 7:15 p.m. MST

"The programs they do have are full," he said. "They need to increase capacity. We often have people lining up for those."

The Utah College of Applied Technology reached record highs for both program completion and job placement in 2012, according to school officials. The campuses of UCAT reported that 87 percent of students who earned a certification were hired in their field or placed in additional education. Eighty-one percent of enrolled students completed their programs, up six percent from 2011.

“These completion and placement rates are a reflection of UCAT's success and focus on training for the jobs and skills that Utah companies need most," UCAT President Rob Brems said in a prepared statement. "Our campuses are on track with our mission to meet the needs of Utah's employers for technically skilled workers."

PACE also calls for investments at both the grade school and post-secondary levels for expansion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — collectively known as STEM — programs.

Herbert's budget seeks a $20 million investment into higher education STEM courses —  science, technology, engineering and mathematics — with the understanding that institutions of higher learning will match that figure internally.

"The college and university presidents all recognize how important STEM education is as far as alignment goes with the demands of the marketplace," he said. "They themselves, voluntarily, are realigning their own budgets to put up another $20 million to match with my $20 million, for a total of $40 million for STEM education starting this next year."

He said education officials are looking at a number of innovations to get the most out of the state's available funding, such as expansion of concurrent enrollment, online and remote learning programs to give students a head start and access to higher education. He also highlighted computer adaptive testing, which is designed to better enable teachers to tailor instruction to individual student's needs.

Is it enough?

If Herbert's funding plan for schools is approved by the Legislature, it will not change  Utah's place as the lowest per-pupil spending state in the country. But Herbert said the per-pupil figures do not paint a complete picture of the quality of education in the state and do not account for the gains Utah has made in responding to and navigating the recession.

"We actually are hiring more teachers," he said. "Other states are laying teachers off because they have an economy that’s growing smaller, not growing larger."

Herbert said that Utah's large families and young median age skew the numbers on a per-pupil basis, but represent a strong and productive labor force.

"It's young, it's energetic, it's productive, it's technologically advanced and it's bilingual," he said. "We are developing, and have developed, really, the workforce of the future, which businesses are coming here to, in fact, take advantage of."

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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