In early 2009, the Board of Regents established the following priority strategies to improve higher education in the state of Utah. The more education a person receives, the more they contribute to the economy rather than takes from it, consider the following:
- They are more likely to earn sufficient income to be self-sustaining and have health insurance,
- They are less likely to need public assistance or be incarcerated.
- They are more likely to vote, volunteer and be civically engaged.
- Not only do college graduates typically earn more than high school graduates, but statewide, college graduates add over $450 million annually to Utahs economy in increased wages and taxes contributions over those with only a high school diploma, repeating each year those graduates are employed thereafter.
As a result the following three priorities have been identified by the Baord of Regents to align the Utah System of Higher Education more effectively to the needs of the citizens, businesses, and communities of Utah:
1. Increase successful student participation in higher education
The current enrollment growth on Utah campuses masks the fact that the proportion of Utahns going to college after high school is declining. Utah must increase participation rates, especially among minority populations.
- Since 1992 participation rates among 18 to 24 year-olds in Utah have declined 7 percentage points from 41% to 34%.
- Utah is the fastest growing state in the nation for minority populations. It also has the largest participation gap between Hispanics and their white counterparts.
- Utahs public schools and colleges and universities must meet the needs of this ever-diversifying population, which will require new and innovative teaching methods and funding.
- Many students graduate from high school ill prepared for serious college coursework. Only 25% of Utah students who take the ACT meet the benchmark score in all four applied learning categories English composition, algebra, social science and biology.
- The Board of Regents is pursuing a K-16 approach to education, where higher education partners with public education to ensure a more seamless transition from high school to college.
2. Leverage higher education skills and resources to increase economic activity statewide.
Higher education is one of the few policy levers that can fuel sustainable economic growth immediate job creation and a ripple effect of economic activity spilling into other industries.
- Utahs has a unique entrepreneurial spirit in higher education programs such as USTAR, and Utah Tech Ventures are fostering a stronger connection between research and the business community. Dozens of businesses have been established in the few years since these programs have been established.
- The Board of Regents has established economic development as one of its top three priorities because Utahs college and universities provide the critical tools for training tomorrows professionals, employees and entrepreneurs.
- In todays knowledge economy higher education is the primary avenue in transforming our future talent force into a knowledge force.
3. While enrolling in college is important, completing college is critical.
While high school graduation rates are high and rates of students enrolling in college are noteworthy, Utah suffers from low completion rates in certificates and degrees.
- Utahs population who hold a bachelors degree is declining. Young people in Utah have far fewer college degrees than their parents generation.
- Utah ranks 12th in the national for bachelor degrees among the 45-64 age group, and 31st in the nation for the 25-34 age group.
- Utah is unique with a population where many 18-21 years olds taking a 18-24 month pause in their collegiate experience as well as start families at a younger age effecting overall completion rates, especially among females.
- The overall quality of a students collegiate experience (advising resources, minority outreach, etc.) directly impacts retention rates. In tight budget times, these services suffer the most.