This archived article was written by: Mike Overson
Recently a proposal for the merger of The College of Eastern Utah and Utah State University has come to light. In the February 08, 2008 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune the story broke to the general public.
This proposal, which started to gain speed during CEU’s fiscal trouble, had been put on the back burner once CEU managed to turn around its finances. According to President Ryan Thomas the legislature is happy with recent fiscal spending. The suddenness of these new proceedings has caught many off guard.
Members of the Price business community called USU’s President Stan Albrecht to arrange a meeting between the two parties. Although CEU’s President Ryan Thomas was not involved, many parts of this meeting are pertinent to the future of CEU and the community as a whole. The details of the meeting are not publicly known, which has led many of CEU’s faculty to speculate the reason for the closed door meeting. Sen. Mike Dmitrich of Price has worked with Legislative staff in drafting the bill, but a sponsor has yet to be named. Many of the details are unclear but Sen. Dmitrich assured CEU leadership that the College’s core mission would be retained.
As a result of the article President Ryan Thomas held an emergency campus meeting to discuss the issues associated with this combination of schools. Thomas pointed out that while the jump to being an extension of USU might mean that faculty and staff would receive wage increases the source of this money is not assured at this time. CEU is very community oriented because of the location and size of this college.
CEU, USU: merger or mayhem? Thomas noted the majority of enrollment comes from people living in Carbon and Emery counties, creating a strong need for CEU to maintain a community college mission. This means protecting the specialized courses now offered such as welding, automotive and diesel mechanics, outdoor recreation and mining. Other schools in Utah have abandoned these programs as they moved to four year status.
Many on CEU’s San Juan campus worried they might lose the community college dimension that has been able to help the area with education. While a switch to university status would again increase the availability of higher learning, the trade off might be that the majority of students now attending that campus might be unable to afford an increase in tuition. Tougher enrollment guidelines might also make it harder for people to be accepted into the programs. San Juan’s graduation rate nearly triples the national average (by 65 to 22 percent). This success is more impressive given San Juan currently has 55 percent of its student population coming from Native Americans – a population that nationally graduates from college at a rate of 7 percent.
USU President Stan Albrecht in a Feb. 9 press release on USU’s webpage indicated that USU would be supportive of the proposed legislation if it can be demonstrated that the action would benefit both institutions and the constituencies they serve. Albrecht specifically indicated that the merger should benefit students in the CEU service area as well as the greater Carbon community.
Should the merger occur Albrecht noted that USU would be committed to: expanding educational opportunities for the region, including adding new undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas that would most benefit the communities of Southeastern Utah; retaining and enhancing cultural and athletic activities currently offered by CEU; maintaining CEU’s open enrollment, community college and ATC functions; and maintaining the current tuition structure for lower division course work.
He wrote students choosing to matriculate into bachelor or graduate programs would then pay USU tuition for their program or degree and maintain and enhance all other educational, cultural and economic functions that CEU provides to the local region.
He also noted the new opportunities to expand USU programs in energy resource development and to extend benefits to more rural areas of the state that come from USU’s participation in the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) program that was created in the last legislative session.
“The proposed legislation provides for a transition plan that would address questions of governance and administration structure, faculty qualifications and compensation, career and technical education, student support services, program development funding issues and other issues relating to the potential merger,” Albrecht wrote.