The University of Utah needs to remain competitive among institutions of higher education if it is to continue providing the same level of economic and cultural benefits the state has grown accustomed to, university President Chase Peterson told the Salt Lake Rotary Club Tuesday.
Peterson detailed the strengths of the school and warned of the problems it faces in his university report."If I was asked to give a general summary of how the university is doing, I would have to say it has never been going better," Peterson said. "But simultaneously, we have never been in a more precarious position, made worse, obviously, by the threat of the tax rollback."
He cited the current dean vacancy in the School of Medicine as an example of the impact the proposed tax rollback is having.
"We've decided we can't recruit for the opening right now because no strong candidate would make a decision to come here until they find out what happens in November," he said.
Peterson detailed four reasons why a good state university is important to maintain. Those reasons include: educating and teaching students for a competitive world, fostering research, cultural enrichment and fueling the state's economy through the technological work of its faculty.
One of the strengths Peterson pointed to was the cost of education at the U. to the average taxpayer when compared to other states in the region. The $110 million raised through taxes, an average of $66 per resident, is multiplied into revenues exceeding $500 million generated by the institution's successful programs.
He said that this 1-to-4 ratio far exceeds the nearly 1-to-2 ratio the University of Wyoming enjoys and the and the 1-to-2 ratio of the University of Idaho. Much of the money is produced through the creation of spin-off industries.
"It took decades to get here, it didn't happen overnight," Peterson said. "It can change in one day in November."
Another plus of the school, he said, is its status as the second largest overall employer in the state. When wages supported by state appropriations are removed from the figures, the U. still ranks fifth among private firms.