This archived article was written by: Jenifer Jones
The proposal to allocate five percent of Carbon County’s mineral lease funds to create scholarships for the county’s residents to attend the College of Eastern Utah was passed by Carbon County Commission on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003.
This scholarship program was approved on the basis that there will be later clarifications and details.
Forty percent of the allocated mineral lease royalties, approximately $150,000 per year will be dedicated to provide 50 local mineral lease scholarships per year. The rest will go to a permanent legacy scholarship fund.
In order for this program to apply, the mineral lease royalties must yield at least $750,000 per quarter.
Commissioner Bill Krompel said that by providing scholarships to in-area students, it would allow CEU to give more out-of-area scholarships. This will bring additional money, about $10,000 per student, to Carbon County that will increase economic development.
Economic development is a concern for many. Commissioner Steven Burge said that because Carbon County’s residents are decreasing and the number of local students is dwindling, Carbon County now has “no choice but to aggressively seek people from out of the area.”
According to Burge, economic development is a puzzle. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and providing scholarships to CEU is one piece to help solve it. The college’s increase of enrollment will bring economic growth to the community.
There are other ways to bring economic development to Carbon County, said Burge, such as the museum and Nine-Mile Canyon, but the college is the easiest place to focus.
CEU president, Ryan Thomas, said if the school had dollars, they could recruit more out of area students. He claims that the recruitments sessions this year is better than ever before. Thomas said the college is “more attractive the more you know about it and the more you experience it.” It is a challenge to get out-of-area students to come to CEU because they will have to leave their home and job. There must be some offset to encourage students to come to the college. “The most powerful tool is scholarships,” said Grady McEvoy, CEU faculty president.
Thomas said that if some of the mineral lease funds were allocated to CEU, they would still seek additional funding. Also, he wants to make sure that the college will get every possible cent from the state.
If the proposal were passed, Thomas would like, if possible, to keep the program to remain flexible and also allow it to be administered by the county’s books, rather than the college’s so that the legislature will continue to give money to the college.
Thomas assured the commission that CEU is “committed to this area.” The purchasing for CEU does the majority of its purchasing, nearly $6 million annually, locally.
Also, local students are given priority to receive scholarships. “We think it’s the right thing to do. That’s why we exist. We’re a community college. But we also think that economic development is important and this program would help.”
There were some concerns from members of the commission about passing the proposal as well as from others from the community.
Former county commissioner, Thomas Matthews, suggested that the commission wait to make a decision. He said he doesn’t think “the county’s aware of what you’re trying to do.” He urged the commission to postpone voting on the motion until the public gets more information.
Another reason to wait, according to Matthews, is to see what the state will do for higher education.
Utah Gov. Olene Walker said that education has a priority over road construction. This could mean that the legislature may bring more funds to colleges in Utah.
Commissioner Michael Milovich also had some concerns about passing the proposal. He supports CEU. It is “the gold or diamond in the rough” and he would like the college to have more money, however, right now is just a bad time. There are debt structures in Carbon County that have not been met.
Carbon County is “1.9 million dollars upside down,” Milovich said. He said “we need to make sure we keep ahead.”
Burge said that Carbon County will always have needs but “we’re going to have to decide what our priority is, then make sacrifices to get there.”
Economists take risks. Right now Carbon County has more money than ever, except once. Now would be the time to take a risk Burge said. If it doesn’t work, the Commission can stop the program.
Burge said, “plan for the future, sacrifice what you need to in the present, and make a solid plan, and make sure we get benefits.”
The proposal was passed with a two-to-one vote, with Krompel and Burge voting for and Milovich voting against.