Following U.S. 89 through Utah's midsection, you could miss Snow College completely if you didn't know it was there. Its campus is off the main road in a town whose appearance bespeaks a long history of farms and farmers.
That's OK with Snow President Steven D. Bennion. In his opinion, bucolic is beautiful and small is special. The qualities combine on the Snow campus to provide a special kind of educational opportunity for many students, he said.With 1,400 students (1986 head count), Snow is the smallest of Utah's nine institutions of higher learning. It will never be huge, but steady growth is anticipated over the next few years, Bennion said, probably reaching 2,000.
Bennion believes his college is ideal for high school graduates who want more education but aren't ready or willing to deal with the impersonality and bureaucracy of a large university.
"A college in a rural setting is actually a strong selling point," he said. "We are perfect for the
late bloomers. If there were not places like Snow to help them bloom, what would happen to them?"
Not all of the enrollees at Snow, however, fall into that category. A growing number are tranferring from the four-year schools for the sake of a less hectic atmosphere.
"After only one semester of the crowded sidewalks at a big university, I knew I needed something else. At Snow College, I'm becoming the best person I can be," was the comment of Ofa Kinikini, who was born in Hawaii and graduated from Spanish Fork High School.
The low student/teacher ratios are an opportunity for more personal instruction. Ninety percent of those on the faculty have advanced degrees.
While most students come from along the Wasatch Front and the Sanpete area, 10 percent are from out of the United States. Seventy percent are anticipating a transfer to a four-year institution. Of the 30 percent who enroll in a career training program, 80 percent graduate, and of that number, 75 percent are placed in jobs in their areas of study.
Bennion shares with pride the comments from recruiters representing such prestigious companies as Sperry, Litton, Evans and Sutherland, National Semi-Conductor:
"Snow's electronics program is the best in the state."
"After comparing recruits from New Jersey, Chicago, Phoenix and other places, we have found Snow's graduates to not only be superior in technical preparation, but their cultural experiences and people skills strengthen their position as the best . . . ."
The college has a strong vocational component and works with its communities to try to anticipate and meet employment needs, Bennion said. It also has an essential role in trying to attract new industry to the area.
Bennion sees potential for a "mini-Silicon Valley" in the Sanpete Valley, and a critical part for the college to play in bringing about an increase in business and light industry.
Sanpete has some other natural potentials that could be exploited, he believes. Preservation of the state's heritage could become a productive business. Festivals and folklore already being promoted through several local events need further exploration, he said.
"This area has produced a disproportionate share of talented artists," he noted, dropping the well-known names of Glade Peterson, Leroy Robertson and C.C.A. Christensen.
Snow is the least expensive of the state's colleges, with a resident tuition/fee total of $873 per year and $2,304 for out-of-state students. A 6 percent increase is expected for the upcoming year to supplement an extremely tight state budget.
Small doesn't mean subpar, Bennion emphasizes. He has a list of Snow accomplishments he is proud to wave for anyone who wants to see:
It was the first two-year college in Utah to initiate an honors program with full transfer into the junior year honors programs in the state's four-year institutions.
A study by Brigham Young University shows that Snow transfers perform better on average than any two-year college on their list.
The top three students in Utah State University's engineering program started at Snow College. One had an "almost unheard of perfect score on the graduate record examination."
Five Snow students enrolled in the University of Utah's high-ranking School of Pharmacy are among the leaders in their groups, first in one case. Each of the five is well above the 50th percentile in their groups.
The school has had several junior college All-America athletes in recent years, and in 1985 the Badger football team won the national championship.
"We are proud of the academic accomplishments of many student athletes as well," Bennion said. "We've had several academic All-Americans in the past few years. In the last decade, three of our valedictorians have been football players. One was also student body president. Twenty-two of our football players received scholarships to play at four-year colleges or universities this past year."
In a letter to the college, noting its 100th anniversary, President Reagan congratulated the institution for a proud legacy.
"The best measure of (the faculty and staff's) admirable record of achievement can be found in the lives of the many alumni who are today contributing to community, state and country," the president wrote.
"You have my very best wishes for continued success over the next 100 years."