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Mormon mission age drop not as significant as feared on Utah colleges and universities

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013 3:50 p.m. MDT

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, agreed with the importance of encouraging college completion. He said that for many students, failing to complete their education results in financial repercussions they carry for years.

"Accumulating debt without a degree is a road to financial difficulties for a lot of people in this country," he said.

State Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, questioned why economically beneficial degrees like science or engineering typically carry surcharges in the form of lab fees and supplemental costs that students in other degree fields are not required to pay. He said that model encourages students to pursue careers that are not in demand in Utah's growing economy.

"I would say that the social science degrees, that don’t line up with the kind of employment that our economy needs, are a much higher cost per student to taxpayers than those engineering degrees," Stephenson said. "I would charge those 25 percent more and not the engineering degrees."

Buhler responded that schools offer scholarship opportunities in science and engineering and that for the most part, students in those fields are not impeded in choosing one degree over another due to cost.

The earning potential of science and engineering careers is also typically higher than careers in the humanities and social sciences.

Buhler also spoke about the efforts of Utah's colleges and universities to increase the amount of summer semester course offerings. But he said one concern is the administration of federal Pell Grants, which can only be used for two semesters in a calendar year and deincentivize students from studying during the summer month.

He said he and Utah's college and university presidents had written a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging a reconsideration of Pell Grant funding.

"The way that they’re doing accounting in Congress, it’s really silly," he said. "It would be in their interest to say, 'Use it as quickly as you can,' not 'You’ve got to take the summer off.'"

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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