Lawmakers are asking officials in higher education, public education and career and technical education to put their heads together to come up with a solution for the governance of specialized training and certification in Utah.
"If you don't, the Legislature will do it for you or do it to you," said Sen. Curtis S. Bramble, R-Provo, co-chairman of the Higher Education and Applied Technology Governance Committee.
For several weeks and through multiple meetings, a committee made up of legislators has been hearing arguments from all sides of the table regarding how career and technical education is offered to secondary and post-secondary students in the state.
"Both sides have made pleas for some kind of change in the system," said Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, another of the committee's co-chairmen. "It doesn't have to end in a big fight."
Since the Utah College of Applied Technology was formed by legislation in 2001, there have been numerous policy changes and revisions.
UCAT administrators still feel they "don't fit" within Utah's System of Higher Education and are asking to be set free "to grow how the system intended," said Bridgerland Applied Technology College President Richard Maughan. The college's eight campus presidents believe they can offer more to students on their own and are asking lawmakers to give them an independent governing board, free of the Board of Regents.
"We need to have a body that can govern the ATCs, provide guidance, give us direction, give us a family and home, so we don't feel like Bedouins anymore," Maughan said.
Interim Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler, representing the Board of Regents, said they have been the "anchor" for UCAT, adhering them to the mission and role set forth by the 2001 Legislature, which charges UCAT with "providing noncredit, short-term career and technical education."
The colleges offer noncredit education and have been working with local institutions of higher education to give students a pathway to various degrees. However, students receive only a certificate of completion for work done at UCAT campuses, and their leaders want to change that, giving them "currency" to use in getting a job or continuing in education.
"It makes much more sense to work in a partnership," he said, adding that giving UCAT its own board would essentially create a system of eight community colleges, resulting in significant costs for the state and is "a move in the wrong direction."
"Let us keep working together within our system for the benefit of all Utah students," Buhler said. The Board of Regents, he said, has had "no meaningful control" over UCAT, only acting in a supervisory role.Garn asked the involved parties to "get your heads together, smooth things out and make a recommendation to the committee." The group is expected to meet sometime in the next month to discuss options of credit and degrees, costs and governance.