This archived article was written by: Heather Myers
This semester President Ryan
Thomas held his first all-cam
pus meeting with a preliminary report on the Utah legislature. On February 15, faculty, staff and a few students gathered in the JLSC multipurpose room to hear what was happening on the hill. The meeting was also broadcast via the ED-NET system to the San Juan campus. Thomas stressed that all the numbers are preliminary and subject to change in the next two weeks the legislature is in session.
Six pieces of potential legislation was what Thomas felt important to CEU. The first was an increase in salary for all state employees; this includes the faculty and staff of Utah colleges and universities. The projected numbers include a two and a half percent increase in salary and a one percent increase in benefits. According to Thomas this is not enough. The projected increase in health costs is 13 percent and six percent in dental costs.
Another piece of legislation that might benefit CEU is an adjustment in fuel and power. There is a $17,000-$19,000 deficit for fuel and power at CEU’s San Juan campus and even more at the Price campus. According to Thomas “Everyone [colleges and universities] is being treated badly. The cumulative deficit for fuel and power at the University of Utah is close to $5 million … this is a problem that the legislature didn’t feel they were in a position to address fully this year. I’m grateful for some effort but it would be wonderful to see more [funding] this year.”
The third legislative issue to affect CEU is unfunded operations and maintenance on building constructed in the last few years. There are several buildings at CEU that are under funded, but none that are not funded at all. Thomas is “cautiously optimistic” about the new fine arts complex.
The Department of Facilities Construction and Maintenance came to inspect the Geary Theatre and Music Building. According to Thomas, spending time in the makeup room in the theatre convinced them to put the new building higher on the priorities list. “A good wind would blow the roof right off [the Geary Theatre] … fire is also a concern, everything in that building is made of wood,” Thomas said. He said that since CEU is asking for 10 percent of the funding for the complex, the legislature should give it at least some consideration.
There is also the possibility of an energy grant. It would be federal money that would be used for conservation. The grant could be as much as $1 million for training and conservation as well as research. This grant has received a lot of support in the higher education committee.
One legislative issue that Thomas did not bring up is increases in tuition. However a three and a half to four percent increase in first tier tuition has been discussed in the legislature. Tuition is divided into two tiers, the first is decided by the legislature and the individual colleges decide the second. CEU has had about a seven-percent increase over the last few years, but nothing has been discussed about this year. According to Vice President of Academic Affairs, Mike King, the second tier is not discussed at CEU until there is a final decision by the legislature on the first tier.
Some schools in the state have increased second tier tuition by much more. For example, last year Southern Utah University and Utah Valley State College both increased tuition by nearly 20 percent.
Another problem facing CEU that Thomas brought up in the meeting had nothing to do with the legislature, it had to do with CEU’s accreditation. The Northwest Accreditation Association had a problem with the way CEU assesses its programs. According to Thomas it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
He said things like diesel and automotive programs are easy to tell if students are learning what they need to, “If you tell the students to fix an engine and when they are done it runs, then you know they learned the necessary material.” Programs like nursing and cosmetology have standardized testing that makes it easy, but that is not the case with other programs such as literature, creative writing, philosophy and history.
This was the reason for all of the evaluations last semester. According to Thomas, “It is an agonizing process, but it is necessary to understand better what students are deriving from our institution.”