November 24, 2020

Utah attempts to improve number of college graduates

Commissioner Richard E. Kendell of the Utah State Board of Regents stated at the summer board meeting in Ogden, that the United States no longer leads the world in higher education graduation rates . He said that this information should be a call to action from the higher education community. Utah is ranked 32nd in the nation for graduates at a baccalaureate level.
The minutes of the meeting quoted Kendell as discussing global issues as well as local issues. In order to improve the level of education within the state, higher education needs to connect with K-12 in a more significant way by agreeing on a set of expectations for access and success.
He noted that high school graduation requirements, such as math requirements, correlate directly with completing college degrees. He believed that encouraging young people to go to college should be the joint responsibility of the Utah System of Higher Education, the State Board of Education, parents, and cultural and religious organizations in the community.
Kendell stated, that more data will be required to complete this process. It will help answer questions relating to the correlation between concurrent enrollment and graduation rates. He noted that public education has developed a common numbering system to gauge success.
A K-16 task force would be helpful in identifying necessary improvements within the education system at all levels. He said an assertive agenda about improving education in the state needs to be adopted.
President Ryan L. Thomas stated that to begin this type of analysis, uniform data collection will be necessary. He noted that a systematic way of collecting retention and graduation rates should be considered, particularly when referring to transfer students.
Regent James S. Jardine noted that in order to be successful, good data and a way to measure improvement will be necessary.
Utah Valley State College President William A. Sederburg said enrollment growth should be considered, as well higher education’s role in economic development needs. This is a time to think outside of the box in terms of innovation and creative partnerships with industry. The regents and presidents agreed that innovative distance education should be explored, also.
Southern Utah State College President Steven D. Bennion recommended that faculty retention, salaries and inflating operating & maintenance costs be considered. He suggested that the institutional research component be considered as well.
The regents and presidents discussed counseling tools. Commissioner Kendell noted an increase of student advisors at UVSC to improve tracking and retention. He pointed out that remedial education studies will be important to the success of developmental education. A study of the delivery and effectiveness of remedial education may help determine the direction of higher education.
Commissioner Kendell discussed the graduation rates of minority and disadvantaged students and said finding more effective ways to make financial aid available is imperative.
Regent Chair Nolan Karras recommended that the types of programs offered be considered. Educating students regarding career paths and available options for employment is necessary to this process.
The regents and presidents agreed that one plan, rather than varying plans at each institution, be adopted. It can be a unified statement if it is programmatic, not regulatory. The plan will include all 10 institutions and cover all degrees or certificates to postgraduate education. They agreed that presenting overall initiatives to the legislature is helpful.
Commissioner Kendell reviewed the three pieces of the proposal: economic development, finance and K-16 collaboration.
Chair Karras concluded by stressing the importance of support from the community, religious leaders, and trustees.

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