This archived article was written by: Devin Bybee
In the recent months there has been much anticipation, speculation and expectation regarding the highly touted merging of the College of Eastern Utah and Utah State University. This has been a matter of interest for many due to the rich 70-year history of CEU.
According to Brad King, vice president of student services at CEU, there may only be positive results in the long-term of a merger with USU. Reinforcing the concept of a merger, he said, “Maybe there are no cons.” However, there are questions that still remain unanswered that could potentially be cons in this technical and tedious process. There are also various aspects of this merge that are concerning to students, faculty and the administration.
The merging process is not recent news but actually a continuation of negotiations that began over five years ago. Two years ago the issue was once again brought to light as the Utah Legislature proposed a bill that would join the community college with the university.
After much thought, the bill was not passed and instead the Board of Regents was asked to study the situation. The Regents hired a team of three consultants to perform a study of the merge, but it was never finished because of the complexity of issues that were difficult to resolve between the two entities. Such issues as: the name of the school, funding procedures, accreditation, and curriculum.
In an effort to resolve these delicate issues, this past year the Board of Regents developed their own task force, made up by Regents. This task force recommended to the Board of Regents that a merger take place. The Regents then tasked a group, composed of CEU and USU faculty to study the issues and come up with solutions for legislation. The main goal for this task force was to come up with what they called a “Memorandum of Understanding” which would resolve the issues that were not previously answered. As a result of this task force, the Board of Regents decided to go ahead with the merge. They directed CEU and USU to get back together, and in addition, appointed a transition director to be the arbitrator in overseeing the merging process.
There are seven categories that the task force will be studying which include: advancement, business and finance, community engagement, faculty and academic programs, information technology, and libraries. Within each of these categories there are four areas of concern that they are studied by: administrative structure, policies, personnel, and students.
It may be a comfort to many to understand how thorough this investigative study is, and to realize that all facets of CEU are being looked at in order to ensure the best environment for both students and faculty and also to provide affordability and accessibility to all.
Many curious onlookers have been wondering what has caused this merging proposal. King also offered informative reasoning to this proposal. He mentioned that the enrollment rate was “flat” and has decreased over the years with full-time students. This is a problem due to the cost-per-student ratio at CEU which is actually the highest in the state among colleges and universities due to its low enrollment rate.
Furthermore, he pointed out that 80 percent of CEU’s funds come from the state which is much higher than any other educational institution in the state. This presents difficulties in association with the recent economic crisis that has occurred in the nation resulting in budget cuts that directly affect the 80 percent of funds CEU receives from the state.
Next year alone, CEU will lose $1.2 million from the budged cuts.
Finally, he said, “Probably more important than any of those things was the feeling that we need to do something as a system to have more continuity throughout the state and by affiliating with Utah State University that really starts us down a road to strengthening the whole system. I really think that that’s what is going to be the biggest positive out of this thing.”
Despite the causes for the merger, many students and teachers are apprehensive about the change. There are so many questions that are still unanswered and could remain unanswered for several more months. The deadline for these answers is in December.
These questions could include the following: Will tuition rates stay the same or will they increase to that of Utah State’s tuition rates? Will the qualifications for scholarships change? Will the amount of scholarship money increase or decrease? What will happen with the athletic programs? Will the mascot remain the Golden Eagles or will CEU turn into the Aggies? What is going to happen with the structural organization of the CEU staff and faculty? How will this affect jobs? Will the donations of generous contributors of CEU go to Price beneficiaries or Logan recipients?
While these are the questions that remain unanswered, King expressed optimism as he paraphrased USU’s President Stan Albrecht saying, “You’ve got a 70-year history and we do not want to take away from that. You have a clientele that is different than what Utah State serves and there is value attached to your name and we don’t want to do away with any of that. All we want to do is add to that.”
Adding to CEU’s rich history could be beneficial to both student and teacher. More four-year programs could be offered which would not only allow the student more educational opportunities at a small school, but would allow qualified teachers to teach upper-division courses instead of the same basic courses they are teaching now. Being linked to a university would also allow for higher fundraising availability which, of course, would be a huge asset to the financial struggles that CEU is enduring right now. It would also create a smooth transfer process directly to USU for those looking to further their education in Logan.
On the other hand, it is hard to internalize the unknown. King noted that one of the cons to the merging process is the uncertainty of the process. Although the conversations thus far between CEU and USU have alluded to the fact that things won’t change too much, there is always the insecurity that tuition, athletics, scholarships etc. could change, but until the decisions are made and the process carried out, we won’t know how constructive or destructive the merger will be on CEU. But with the taskforce ironing out the wrinkles and resolving the questions there shouldn’t be too many negatives that will be a part of legislation that will legally enact the merger between CEU and USU.
The results, whether productive or unproductive, of legislation are often seen many years down the road. It is imperative for a decision as complex and affecting so many people as this one is, to be productive in the tenure of the decision.
On that factor King offered his final opinion regarding the merger, “There will be people who will now say we won’t talk about closing CEU because it will be a part of Utah State and they are never going to close Utah State or even consider talking about it.” That reason alone should offer solace to CEU alumni, contributors and supporters.
The merger between CEU and USU is a daunting task, but has the potential of being a dynamic transition. There are still many questions under investigation, but regardless of the unanswered questions the merger will take place. Whether or not CEU will remain the Golden Eagles and keep the same standards and procedures that are offered now is up to the task force committees, transition director and various people who will be making these crucial decisions in the next several months.