This archived article was written by: Kellie Henderson
Commissioner of Higher Education has appointed former College of Eastern Utah President Michael Petersen to explore options for CEU in an uncertain economic future. Working alongside the administration, staff, faculty and community, Petersen will explore different options for the college and present his recommendations to the Board of Regents in May.
According to a press release by the Utah system of higher education, CEU is facing particularly difficult challenges in these economic times. Not only does it receive a higher percentage of funds from the state than other institutions, but the local high school graduation rate has been in continual decline since 1998.
Two major options, though Peterson may choose another route, are to be explored in these discussions. First, the college would be more closely affiliated with Utah State University. A second option would explore sharing resources with Snow College to provide a network of education to promote cost savings and strengthen educational opportunities in rural southeastern and central Utah.
The exact nature of these relationships will be determined as Petersen works alongside the educational institutions and community. “What we’re trying to do is figure out … a way to save money and maximize what we do as a college at the same time, and what’s the best way to do that,”
Mike King, interim president of CEU, explains.
In the past, talks of a possible merger between Utah State and CEU have sparked a heated debate, with many alarmed that the larger, powerful institution would swallow the colorful community college, depriving it of its autonomy. USHE, however, insists that CEU will “remain ‘quasi-autonomous’ in terms of keeping its identity, having its own athletic teams and performing arts, and in seeking state funding of its operations and for building,” as stated in the press release.
“The merger is the term that gets thrown out there, but … that may not be the recommendation. It might be … an affiliation where we’re still an independent campus, we do everything on our own, except that we may report directly to the president of Utah State University. It might even be … an enhanced partnership, with more effort being directed along those lines,” says King.
King continues, “When you look at these partnerships, one goal is going to be to save some money somehow. There are other goals, ultimately, to meet the needs of the people of southeastern Utah and to strengthen the kinds of things that you can do.”
A partnership or affiliation with Snow would be similar in nature, yet the pros and cons of teaming up with an institution of comparable size and structure will need to be weighed for potential benefits. Two affiliated schools in the same region could be cost effective for the college and may alleviate any anxiety of CEU outsourcing positions to a larger school. On the contrary, some argue that the prestige of Utah State would benefit CEU and enhance its educational quality.