Now here's an exciting, progressive idea that may be possible in just a few years.

Say you or your child or grandchild decided to take some classes at Utah Valley University. You sign up for a history class at UVU's Thanksgiving Point satellite campus at 1 p.m., an English class at the Orem campus at 3 p.m., and a journalism course at the Payson campus at 7 p.m.

Crazy, you say? Who would want to take courses at three campuses extending from one end of Utah Valley to the other in the same afternoon/evening? Wouldn't the commute be a bear? And who wants to burn a semester's tuition paying for all that gas, for heaven's sake?

Hold on a minute, there's more.

What if you could just climb aboard the FrontRunner commuter rail service next to all three campuses and take a quick 20- or 30-minute ride from Thanksgiving Point to Orem, or Orem to Payson?

"The vision is our satellite campuses would be connected by the commuter rail, so as a student could hop on and move between the campuses," UVU Vice President Val Peterson said.

UVU must expand. Frankly, the state's newest university is lucky enrollment growth stalled a few years ago. After a couple of decades of ridiculous growth, enrollment stagnated at around 24,000 just as school officials made the case to the Legislature and the Board of Regents that its mission should be changed from a state college to a university.

None of the powerbrokers who agreed to give university status to Utah Valley blinked at the lack of growth because it was due to a predictable trough in the number of Utah Valley kids reaching college age.

Now that trough is about to be followed by a bubble of students rising up through the local school districts. That bubble is about to burp out a tsunami of high school graduates who want to take college courses.

The prediction is that UVU's enrollment will mushroom to 40,000 over the next two decades.

The problem, Peterson says, is there isn't room in Orem to swallow that big a bubble. The Orem site has space for 26,000 to 28,000 students.

Enrollment math makes it clear UVU needs new satellite campuses like the one in Wasatch County — one in the north end of Utah Valley, one in the south, both with capacity for about 4,000 to 7,000 students.

Interestingly, this was a vision Bill Sederburg had for UVU. Now that the president who led the transition to university status is packing his desk to take a new job as the commissioner of Utah's System of Higher Education, he'll be in a position to help with a request he made just a couple of months ago that the board of regents buy land on either end of the county with satellite campuses in mind.

The regents didn't care too much for the idea, and Sederburg might not be so gung-ho come Aug. 18 when he starts his new job and has to worry about the welfare of the entire state system of 10 universities and colleges.

But sometime in the next month, the regents will name an interim president, with a permanent replacement due by Jan. 1. In the meantime, Peterson says UVU's four vice presidents have a unified view of the role and mission of the university.

That executive team has plenty of work to do adding master's and bachelor's degrees to UVU's offerings, completing the athletic department's accreditation as a Division I school and dealing with increased enrollment expected this fall.

Those issues won't keep them from dreaming about — and working toward — a day when a UVU student can hop on FrontRunner, log on to the free wireless service and work on an assignment (or, let's be honest, play a game) while speeding to the next class.


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and five children in Provo, their home for 21 years. E-mail [email protected].