If surveys of local high school seniors on their post-high school plans are accurate, many will not be where they want to be next year.

The reason: Most say they want to attend a four-year college, and there is little room at the state's four-year colleges. In fact, higher-education officials are considering placing enrollment caps on most state colleges.But even more important to local educators is the statistic that shows most Utah County seniors want to attend a local four-year college.

This is confirmed by surveys by the State Office of Education and Utah Valley Community College. Both surveys show that a majority of local high school seniors hope to attend Brigham Young University next fall. But if history repeats itself, the number of those who say they want to attend BYU will not match the number who actually enroll there next fall.

Local educators and legislators are using these statistics as the basis for the push to convert UVCC into a four-year college. They say BYU is not serving the needs of Utah County. In Utah's second-most-populated area, local students wanting a four-year degree deserve an option other than attending BYU or leaving the area, they say.

UVCC's survey shows the number of students who would like to attend UVCC increased if it were converted to a four-year college. A survey last year by Geneva Steel showed about 70 percent of Utah County residents support converting UVCC into a four-year college. Also, more than half of UVCC's students are general-education majors who intend to transfer to a university.

Nancy Smith, UVCC director of institutional research and planning, said no four-year degree options are available for those who work full-time locally. The only option is to commute to the University of Utah.

"I think it's sad that they have to leave home," Smith said of those who can't get a four-year degree in the county.

Meanwhile, local high school counselors say they must help students be realistic about their post-high school options. At some time during the school year, each senior meets with a counselor to discuss future education possibilities.

"The counselors spend time with each student and make them aware of what is there for them and what's not there for them," said Larry Kimball, Nebo School District director of secondary education.

John Williams, counselor at Orem High School, said many seniors want to attend a four-year school but don't qualify for admission to BYU and cannot afford to attend college away from home. The lack of a local university other than BYU gives local seniors few options and makes a counselor's job difficult, he said.

"When they say what they want to be, then we give them a list of schools that have what they want," Williams said. "We try not to pick their schools for them, but we always tell the students about their options. We give them a place to go where they can succeed.

"But UVCC has to be expanded to a four-year college. It has to be done. There are just too many local kids being turned away from college," he said.

Even though they failed in their attempt to pass legislation that would have converted UVCC to a four-year school, local legislators and UVCC officials say they got the Board of Regents' attention. The regents will spend about $350,000 this year to create a University Center at UVCC. The center will offer four-year-degree programs in select areas, with the degrees coordinated through the state's current four-year colleges.

Smith said the center will help satisfy the needs of many local seniors. However, it will not provide an educational experience comparable to a university.

The regents have also agreed to study Utah County's educational needs and determine the feasibility of converting two-year colleges into four-year colleges. Kerry Romesburg, UVCC president, said it is inevitable that UVCC will someday become a four-year college.


(Additional information)

What student survey shows

In November 1990, Utah Valley Community College surveyed the post-high-school plans of 2,184 high school seniors from Nebo, Alpine, Provo and Wasatch school districts.

- 65 percent said they would probably or definitely attend a four-year college.

- 70 percent said it is important to graduate from a university.

- 30 percent said BYU is their first-choice institution, 15 percent their second choice.

- 22 percent said one of Utah's four other four-year colleges is their first-choice institution.

- 43 percent said they will likely attend BYU within the next two years.

- 50 percent said they will likely attend UVCC within the next two years.

- 63 percent said it is important to live at home or close to home while attending college.

- 21 percent said UVCC is their first-choice institution, 17 percent their second choice.

- 22 percent said UVCC would be their first-choice institution if it becomes a four-year college and 30 percent said it would be their second choice.