Utah Business Staff

August 1, 2012

So those 60 credit hour students that are coming in and out of the system are not captured here?
MARTIN: They’re captured in that “some college category.” They are clustered into: Did they get a certificate? No. Did they finish an associate’s degree? No. Could they have? Yes. And part of our strategy is to capture those individuals and help them complete out.

SHUMWAY: Look on page 62 of the magazine [Utah Business June issue], and you will see a table of educational obtainment in Utah. It’s a fascinating set of numbers that show how attainable our 66 percent goal is with the right kinds of efforts.

In the report, it details those with “some college degree, an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, graduate or professional degree.” Those four bottom numbers add up to 65.7 percent. But of those 66 percent, perhaps 40 percent of it is in that “college but no degree” category—people who perhaps have a full semester or a full year, but it didn’t add up to anything. That creates a great opportunity for us in public education to be more successful in academic guidance and in higher education to be more successful in academic counseling.

If you add that 27 percent, we’re very close to being there. These numbers on the one hand give me great reasons for optimism and on the other hand make me have some real thoughts about how we change our transition from public education to higher education, and how we help people think about higher education and their purposes there.

BAYLE: In our work, we are working to get kids through high school and then on to some postsecondary education. When we talk about certificates, I’m always confused as to whether that means a certificate from a beauty school, or if those are all incorporated into these numbers, or if it’s just certificates from higher education institutions.

MARTIN: You’re absolutely right. We need to improve our counseling structure so that students are better informed of what opportunities lie ahead, given their selected choice of study, whether it’s cosmetology or something else.

What we’ve tried to do in the messaging of this report is position certificates that lead to livable wages, to career opportunities, versus those that just simply augment a household income. If you want to look at household incomes, they’ve got to be over $28,000 a year, otherwise you’re on food stamps for a household of four people.

So if you study cosmetology, do you know what the end result is? Is that enough to sustain life or is it just enough to augment the other income that you have in the house? If it’s the primary income, you are in a heap of hurt given the odds of what that annual income is.

ALBRECHT: I have in my office a big cartoon that shows a little king standing up on a tower with all his great masses below and he says something to the effect that, “I’ve learned that educational credentials are important so I confer upon all of you a degree.”

We have to be just a little bit careful with what we are doing in this conversation. In terms of my own institution, we’re working very aggressively to address issues of participation and retention, and we now have almost as many students outside Logan as we have in Logan.  We are now using much more sophisticated information technology, online education, etc. All of this is important and it’s allowing us to address, in a very positive way, some of the participation issues. Our most robust growth is occurring at our regional campuses, and it’s occurring because we are taking education to students who do not have the opportunity to move to Logan or Orem or to Salt Lake City.

I appreciate the fact that we start on the goals and not get hung up initially on the costs, but we simply have to talk about the costs. And unless we’re willing to do that, to talk about 66 percent as a meaningful goal, not just the king standing up and saying, “I confer upon you a degree,” but a 66 percent meaningful goal is going to require a substantially larger investment in education in our state. And I’m concerned about our willingness to do that.

Let me just give you an example. Our greatest bottleneck at Utah State University in terms of playing our participation role at the mother ship at the Logan campus is undergraduate science teaching laboratory space. We are meeting needs in so many other areas, but our ability to admit students—we’re running labs from early morning to late at night and on Saturdays, but our capacity is maxed out. In order for us to continue to address that role, it’s going to require some investment on the part of the state in helping us build undergraduate science-teaching laboratory space.

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