The Utah Board of Higher Education’s 2021 Strategic Plan will serve as the fundamental guiding charter for Board and System work over the next five years. Two main themes guide the strategic plan:
In 2020, Utah’s two higher education systems merged, creating a single system of 16 colleges and universities. The newly-created Utah Board of Higher Education adopted a strategic plan in May 2021 to guide the new System for the next five years.
To develop the strategic plan, the Board and Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education engaged in a rigorous, collaborative, and creative process that built on past initiatives from previous boards and incorporated feedback from institutions, state leaders, students, and other stakeholders. Feedback groups included:
The Utah Board of Higher Education aligned several disparate systemwide measures into a single cohesive measuring system to track progress toward statewide attainment goals. This includes alignment between the state’s attainment goal, institutional performance measures, and the Board’s five-year strategic plan.
10-year statewide attainment goals
The 10-year statewide attainment goals were set in 2020 by the Utah Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission. These statewide attainment goals align with the Board priorities of Access, Completion, and Workforce Alignment. The measures are linked: increasing success in access will call for more effort in timely completion; increasing success in completion will call for more effort in workforce alignment.
5-year strategic plan goals
The Board’s five-year goals, outlined in this strategic plan, will serve as the midpoint measure toward the statewide ten-year attainment goals. The strategic plan includes goals for underrepresented population success within each priority. The goals are set at rates that address closing statewide equity attainment gaps.
Year-over-year institutional goals tied to performance funding
The Board’s five-year strategic plan goals will guide institutions’ goals for performance funding. The Commissioner’s office provided data to institutions showing their historical data for the attainment goal measures for subgoals. Institutions will work with their boards of trustees to set five-year and annual performance funding goals.
Utah’s higher education landscape continues to see significant structural and systemic gaps reflected in postsecondary enrollment and completion rates when disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. When comparing Utah college enrollment numbers of Utahns ages 18 to 35, enrollment rates of students of color are as much as 40% below that of white students. Similar gaps exist in the completion rates of students at USHE institutions: postsecondary attainment of students of color is as much as 35% below that of white students.
The Utah Board of Higher Education is committed to utilizing the newly-adopted equity lens framework to identify and address barriers to equity of opportunity for all Utahns. The equity lens framework begins with the shared belief that every student has the ability to learn. With that understanding, the Board recognizes its position to ensure structural barriers are removed so that all students have access to equitable, safe, and conducive learning environments. To guide the Utah Board of Higher Education in its adoption of policies, initiatives, and strategies, the Board is committed to implementing the practical exercise of the equity lens framework to ensure all efforts are focused on closing attainment gaps for Utah students.
Measuring for equity
The strategic plan includes goals for underrepresented population success within each priority. The Board has a full definition of “underrepresented” in the Equity Lens Framework: “Any student group that has traditionally held a smaller percentage of the total higher education population. For the purposes of this framework, these are student groups who are disproportionately represented in comparison to an equivalent counterpart.” Subgoals within the strategic plan focused on underrepresented students are aligned with currently available data and are defined as those populations that are underrepresented within each of the following priorities:
By centering equity in the strategic plan, the Board has committed to question and disrupt how things have always been in order to reimagine a postsecondary education system that fosters equitable access and success, creates pathways for economic mobility, and work towards a high quality of life for each student and their communities.
The Utah Board of Higher Education governs and supports the Utah System of Higher Education to equitably provide accessible, valuable, innovative, and affordable higher education for students to expand their economic mobility, enhance their cultural awareness, and improve their overall quality of life.
The Board will ensure the System provides every Utahn—in every place and every circumstance—an affordable certificate or degree at a USHE institution that will meaningfully improve their lives through economic opportunity, civic engagement, and personal fulfillment.