The Utah System of Higher Education released its 2018 Annual Report, which details the work of USHE and the Board of Regents over the past year.
A college education is more important than ever before, but challenges in college attainment in Utah remain.
95% of new jobs created since the Great Recession require a college education, yet only half of Utah’s population has a college degree or high-quality certificate. Utahns must understand how crucial postsecondary education is for their future as well as its importance for the future of our state as a whole.
Though earning a college education is increasingly important, only 45% of Utah high school students enroll in college right after high school, one of the lowest rates in the nation. While a contributing factor is delayed entry into higher education due to religious service, other factors such as income, a diversifying population, and geography play a significant role in whether students choose college and remain in college until they complete a certificate or degree. Utah has a large number of students who need remediation and also consistently ranks near the top of states with a high percentage of adults with some college but no degree.
The Board of Regents is focused on increasing the educational attainment of Utahns to enhance their overall quality of life and to meet Utah’s current and future workforce needs.
Laying the groundwork: Board working groups
The Board of Regents established strategic objectives in 2015, with subsequent updates in 2016 and 2017. The Board revised its objectives in 2018 to better cover the full scope of its roles and responsibilities. The revised objectives are:
- Affordable Access
- Timely Completion
- Workforce and Research
- Capacity and Growth
Following that, the Board of Regents worked to identify potential areas of state-level effort to improve Utah’s college attainment and completion rates. In early 2018 the Board divided into working groups, each focused on a strategic objective. These working groups collected insights and feedback from a variety of stakeholders: legislators, institutional administrators, state agency heads, business leaders, and elected officials. The Board also conducted a broad-based stakeholder qualitative study, a public opinion poll, and a survey of the state-level higher education landscape across the country.
Honing in on emerging themes
The Board’s substantial work in 2018 has been a turning point, leading to a sharpened approach in addressing Utah’s most pressing issues in higher education today. As a result of this significant effort, the Board has refined its priorities into several emerging themes:
Affordability: Maintaining low tuition, examining costs, and adjusting policy
2018 Board action: Tuition policy changes and study
Access: College opportunity for a diversifying population
2018 Board action: Statewide college access advising program
Transfer and Data: Helping students on the road to completion
Student Safety: Ensuring student mental health and campus safety
2018 Board action: Hosting a conference for Title IX directors and updating mental health recommendations
Notable highlights from 2018
Other highlights from 2018 include:
- Adopting a policy on space utilization at USHE institutions
- Implementation of the Talent Development Initiative incentive loan program
- Oversaw a 10.6% increase in high school students taking concurrent enrollment
- Presidential searches at the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, and Weber State University
- Adopted system metrics in line with the Board’s strategic goals