What is valued?
Isom, in the governor's office, dismissed the notion that Utah's regional universities have abandoned or will abandon their two-year programs. She said university status has only enhanced the opportunities those institutions provide for students.
"Access has not changed. In no way has access been lessened to these schools simply because they became four-year colleges," she said. "In a way, it opens up greater horizons for (students) because it allows them to continue post-degree to a four-year degree if they so choose."
Asked about the shrinking number of two-year schools in the state, Buhler said there is always the possibility of founding a new college if population growth continues, but it is not something he foresees happening in the immediate future.
Isom said the creation of new community colleges is not a current priority for the governor, but education continues to be his first budgetary focus.
"Right now our current structure is meeting our needs, and there's no point in overbuilding the system if there’s not need there," she said. "We will remain focused on the value added in higher education and invest as needed, but not until it's needed because those resources are limited."
At SLCC, Bioteau said officials have been working to expand through efficiency, particularly in online and hybrid courses that free up classroom space, and increasing the number of courses offered during the summer months.
"We have broadened out our summer term to be almost as robust as our fall and spring term, so we’re a year-round college at this point," she said.
The school also owns 90 acres in Herriman that will house the next SLCC campus, a project that Bioteau said will likely begin in the next five years.
At Snow College, which operates campuses in Ephraim and Richfield, Wright said there is currently room for the school to grow.
"We’re always looking to expand here at Snow," he said. "We have plenty of building space to add classrooms if we get more students."
In lieu of establishing a new community college system, Bioteau said the state should work on adequately funding the programs at existing two-year schools. Extra funding is typically given to a college when it receives university status, she said, but it's equally important that the needs of pipeline schools are met.
"Rather than more colleges, I see a need for equalized funding to keep the community college mission as vibrant as it needs to be in the state," she said. "You can’t just fund migration if you also honor the niche role community colleges play in the state. You can not let that pipeline corrode by negligence."
Bioteau said she often fields the question of whether SLCC wants to be a university when it "grows up." The college, she said, already is grown up and the students, faculty and administration have no intention of becoming Salt Lake Community University.
"We live and breathe the mission of access, success and engagement with our community," Bioteau said. "Our key focus is making sure we are providing a trained and skilled workforce for this state and we’ll continue doing that."
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