State leaders say they want to address what some describe as a disappearance of concurrent enrollment classes at Utah colleges and universities.

Last week, Patti Harrington, state superintendent of public instruction, sent a letter to the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education expressing concern about the elimination of important concurrent enrollment classes, some of which are needed for students to graduate from high school with both a diploma and an associate's degree.

Some of the state's colleges and universities have started insisting that high school students can only access the concurrent classes on their campuses, dropping distance learning and online courses, while others are considering eliminating the associate degree as a possibility for concurrent enrollment students.

State Board of Education members discussed the issue during a Friday meeting.

In the letter, Harrington indicated some colleges do not believe concurrent enrollment is part of their mission and "deny a statutory responsibility to offer the program."

She reminded interim Commissioner Dave Buhler of the agreement made three years ago, between Harrington and Rich Kendell, former commissioner of higher education, that called for "holding concurrent enrollment courses steady in the midst of financial changes."

"This is absurd," said Dennis Morrill, state board member. "It has got to be resolved ... (concurrent enrollment) was an important piece of the education program in the state and for universities to unilaterally say 'well, we're not going to do it anymore' is absurd."

Associate state superintendent Brenda Hales said she attributes the issues to funding. Moreover, she said, the players have changed since concurrent enrollment began, and new college leaders don't have the same commitment to the programs that their predecessors did.

In response to the letter, Buhler sent out a letter this week to the presidents of Utah's public colleges and universities asking them to work to resolve the concerns. But Harrington also plans to take other action, asking superintendents who sit on the boards of trustees for the colleges to address the issue.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com