A bill that paves the way for Utah Valley Community College to become a four-year school forces the two-year institution to grow up too soon - at least in the eyes of the State Board of Regents.
The board held a special meeting at the State Capitol Monday to officially oppose SB114, which would require higher education officials to prepare a 1993-94 budget detailing the cost of UVCC switching from a two-year to a four-year school.At first the board's opposition was to be in the form of an open letter to the Legislature, governor, media and citizens of Utah. The letter called SB114 "premature and not necessary."
But regent Mike Leavitt suggested approving the letter but keeping it under wraps unless the bill begins to advance through the Legislature. He said he believes that bill was only intended to send a message about needs and that the sponsor doesn't really plan to advance it. The board shouldn't pick a fight if there is no reason to fight, he said.
Leavitt, several other regents and Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr had lobbied a caucus of Utah County legislators, including bill sponsor Sen. C.E. "Chuck" Peterson, R-Provo, before the regent meeting.
In the end, the board abandoned its letter but approved a motion that contained many of the letter's elements.
The regents agreed that:
- Establishment of its University Centers on community college campuses, including UVCC, is a more reasonable, less costly response to increasing demand for baccalaureate programs than converting community colleges to four-year schools.
- Legislators should be urged to fund the $341,700 requested for the implementation of University Centers next fall. The program would offer high-demand, selected upper division courses at UVCC, Dixie College and College of Eastern Utah. The courses would be taught by university instructors, including some offered via the statewide educational television network.
- The board's task force which is developing an enrollment action plan should receive greater attention. The task force is looking at the feasibility of converting two-year schools to four-year status and will report to the regents in June.
Peterson, after the regents meeting, said he hasn't decided if he will advance his bill, which now sits in the rules committee. Peterson, who is chairman of the powerful rules committee, will hold onto it for now, but he said it isn't dead.
Brigham Young University, which has an enrollment cap, no longer serves the baccalaureate needs of Utah County students, he said. The state senator said BYU took only about 400 out of 4,400 Utah County high school graduates last fall.
He doesn't see - at least at this point - how the University Centers are the answer.
Later, UVCC President Kerry Romesburg told the Deseret News that neither he nor the UVCC Institutional Council have pushed for four-year status. He believes the University Center concept is viable and an immediate solution to meeting short-term needs.
However, Romesburg also said "this state's four-year needs will do nothing but increase." He called UVCC's conversion to a four-year school "inevitable," perhaps within three to five years.