Two schools believed to be accomplishing similar goals in the Salt Lake region could be consolidated if higher education officials opt to seek legislation changing its organizational bylaws.

A report released Friday reveals that Salt Lake Community College and the Salt Lake/Tooele Applied Technology College overlap programs and are essentially competing for enrollment and funding resources. Commissioner of Higher Education Rich Kendell believes that consolidating the efforts of the two schools would better serve the region and its needs for career and technical education.

"The consolidation of mission, role and responsibility in this region will maximize resources and best meet the needs of students and employers," he said. "It makes more sense to better utilize our existing community college than continue to support a competing and largely duplicative institution."

Kendell believes the merger would eliminate any overlap of mission and role of the colleges, increase programming availability and access, better use existing facilities and decrease the cost of instruction. The Board of Regents commissioned a study of the applied technology colleges in September 2006, and it started early this year.

If the regents adopt the recommendation, legislation would be sought to rework the organizational bylaws of UCAT, as well as provide a "safe harbor" for six of the institution's remaining eight campuses, barring them from future consolidation.

UCAT officials are willing to comply with what the regents — and ultimately the state Legislature — decide, but Vice President Jared Haines said the recommendation is somewhat a disappointment.

"We've made tremendous progress in recent years," he said, adding that all current partnerships would remain intact regardless of the action taken. "We continue to be committed in UCAT as an institution to providing the best possible career and technical education that can be provided for the state of Utah."

Scott Snelson, acting president at SLTATC, said a consolidation is "really not in the best interest" of the college or its constituents. He would prefer moving the college in the direction of an enhanced strategic alliance with SLCC.

However, Kendell mentioned in a statement released with the report that the current "strategic planning" strategy "has not been fully effective and partnerships and alliances have had mixed results."

SLCC President Cynthia A. Bioteau stands ready to move forward with the community college mission to offer educational opportunities that benefit surrounding industry and economy.

If the regents and lawmakers opt to change the organizational structure, Snelson believes the integration would begin July 1.

"Let's do what's best for students, best for the state and best for the economy," Haines said.

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