SALT LAKE CITY — The state Board of Regents will hold a special meeting Friday to consider allowing more students to earn college credit through job training.
With the policy's likely adoption, the eight campuses of the Utah College of Applied Technology could set up formal arrangements with institutions of the Utah System of Higher Education to convert non-credit training hours into credits toward an associate degree — which may lure more young people into the building trades.
Students completing 900 hours in UCAT's competency-based programs could earn 30 credit hours, which would place them about halfway toward earning a two-year, associate of applied science degree, most likely in general technology.
When legislators gave UCAT autonomy in 2009, removing it from USHE supervision, they tasked the two systems with hammering out an "articulation" framework to guide the transfer of credits. Dixie State College already allows graduates of Dixie Applied Technology College's manufacturing program to transfer, and Weber State University takes nursing students from its local UCAT campuses.
"This formalizes some things that are already in place," said Jared Haines, UCAT vice president of instruction and student services, adding that it would be a "giant leap" toward further cooperation with USHE institutions.
Liz Hitch, associate USHE commissioner for academic affairs, said the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the accrediting body for Utah colleges, has reviewed the policy, but the commission's approval is not needed.
"It allows us to better serve students in the state who have non-credit experience," she said. "It really is nice to have this agreement between the two systems."
Trades representatives are hopeful that allowing students to transfer more easily could bridge a growing gap between applied technology colleges and degree-granting schools — in other words, between what a school like Utah Valley University used to be and what it is now.
"We've been concerned about it for several years," said David Told, a Pleasant Grove plumber who chairs the Utah plumbing board and the state Construction Services Commission. Many young people don't go into trades because they want to get a degree as well, and that has become much more difficult as job training programs have migrated from USHE schools to the UCAT campuses, he said.
"If you've spent all that time in school, it's nice to have a degree you can take with you. … We need to give them a vehicle to do that," Told said. "I feel like we've forgotten our roots and are leaving some people behind."
Under the policy, USHE institutions could also enter into agreements with other non-credit schools, such as for-profit colleges.
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