Utah's community colleges are diluting their role in vocational training in favor of preparing students to enter four-year colleges and universities, the Utah Council of Vocational/Technical Education was told.
The shift has created additional funding inequities between vocational and non-vocational education, said Jack C. Higbee, council executive.Enrollment shifts show the University of Utah and Utah State University with fewer students than five years ago, while community colleges have had significant increases.
Even though the head counts are up, however, fewer students have enrolled in vocational/technical fields that require less training than baccalaureate degrees, Higbee said. Only College of Eastern Utah, Price, has had an actual increase in the percentage of students enrolled in vocational/technical courses.
Higbee expressed concern that students looking for non-degree courses could be squeezed out as the community colleges increasingly provide general education classes for students who intend to transfer into four-year programs.
Higbee acknowledged that a portion of the increase in non-vocational education enrollment can be attributed to reclassification of some courses at both Salt Lake and Utah Valley community colleges. Some classes that had been termed remedial vocational/technical basic classes now are classified general education.
At Salt Lake Community College, computer literacy classes also have been reclassified as part of the general education component, rather than vocational/technical classes.
"Our community colleges are becoming preparatory institutions for higher education," Higbee said. "The University of Utah is advising students to go to the community colleges for two years before enrolling at the U."
Max Lowe, former SLCC official and now vocational/technical staff member for the State Board of Regents, said data on vocational education in the state's higher education system is deceiving. Information on non-credit programs gets lost in the statistics, he said. He is making a concerted effort to compile an accurate reading of all the figures and expects to have them ready before the next legislative session.
Higbee urged the council to keep pushing for funding for vocational/technicaleducation programs.
(CHART) Vocational course enrollment
1983-84 1988-89 Change
U of U 0 0 0
Utah State 269 116 153 (-56.9%
Weber 2,597 2,105 492 (-18.9%
SUSC 296 210 86 (-29.1%
Snow 342 249 93 (-27.2%
Dixie 831 608 223 (-26.8%
CEU 434 554 120 (+27.6%
UVCC 3,937 2,911 1,026 (-26.1%
SLCC 4,726 3,892 834 (-17.7%