July 1, 2011

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Higher Education

Utah Business Staff

July 1, 2011

BASSIS: Where do you get the most leverage for your investment? If we invest in the old models, that will be wasted money. So if I were going to make a targeted investment, I would make it in supporting people who are on the cutting edge, developing new methodologies for making education more effective at a lower cost.

NADAULD: With a million dollars invested in internships at our shop, we could accomplish a lot. We could send a message about what is relevant. We could stimulate a lot of other young people to realize they could get positions if they were willing to go out and intern and get into the workforce early enough in their career that they could prepare well.

BENSON: We can learn a lot from the past; and if you look at the two most wrenching experiences that the United States went through in the last two centuries, the Civil War and World War II, right in the middle of both of those crises, our forefathers had the foresight to sign into law two monumental pieces of legislation that forever changed education. The first was the Morrill Act, which was signed in 1862 by Abraham Lincoln, and the second was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1924, which is the GI Bill. That threw open the doors of public and higher ed to people who otherwise would never have had the opportunity to pursue fields that they didn’t think they had access to.

So if I had million dollars, I would say to the first-generation students, minority students, this will transform your life and future generations by giving you access to something that heretofore you did not have the opportunity to have.

BOUCHARD: Because I’m an executive in a publically traded company, I’m going to carve the money up a little bit: I would take $800,000 at $5,000 a student, which is 160 students, and I would go to160 seventh graders at a few of these Title 1 areas where kids are going through tough times, and my commitment to them would be every year I will fund you a scholarship to go to the university. And I would handpick 160 students from these most difficult areas. I would look at Hispanic areas; I would look at homes with single parents.

Then I’d take the other $200,000 and, the last four years that they’re in high school, I would subsidize them for certain financial needs to make sure that they stay on the right track in school. That would be both basic needs and education needs. I would impact the lives of 160 kids who might not otherwise go to college or be encouraged to go to college. Because I was raised in that home—I was raised by a single parent who worked two jobs, and we never had a discussion about college. We had a discussion about, “It will be nice when I’m old enough to earn a living to bring a little bit of money in our house.” My father died when I was 11, my mom never remarried, and I’ve been working my whole life.

Those kids’ dreams are snuffed out, not because their parents don’t love them, but because of society and what goes on. And that’s what’s happening in Utah with the diversification of our population. It has become a societal issue. It’s just not an issue any longer about the traditions of our forefathers in this state, because the family environment has changed. A lot of those kids that are in seventh grade today aren’t even thinking about going to college. They’ve already given up on that dream. They’re trying to figure out a way to buy a new dress or a new pair of sneakers in two years. Impacting 160 kids’ lives and making sure that dream resonates with them would be a good thing.

My daughter is going to tour the University of Utah and maybe some college campuses. Do you know how excited she’ll be when she comes back from just doing a tour? Do you know how excited young people get when they see the opportunity? Most of them never even visit your campuses; they’ve never been there before they graduate high school. They don’t know what it’s like. I want to tell you, it’s an energetic moment for kids to be able to go through that experience and think, “I can do this. I can live a dream. I belong here.”

MILLNER: I would invest in a program at Weber State called Dream Weber, which is focused on disadvantaged students that come out of households with $25,000 or less in their family. If they’re Pell eligible, we will guarantee them we will close the gap on the rest of their tuition for eight semesters at Weber State University, which says they can come and they won’t have to pay any tuition. That way, we’re able to leverage the federal financial aid support to create that message that says, “You can come to college.”

And then we go out to high schools and start to work with them. We help them apply for financial aid, we carry them through the process. In one year, we’ve been able to increase by 60 percent the number of students at Weber State who come to us in that category. At commencement this year, I asked the students to stand who were first-generation graduates—and this program isn’t working yet because they have not been there four years and we haven’t been doing it that long—but 25 to 30 percent of our students at Weber State are still first-generation graduates.

And you’re right, Mark. We know you’re making a difference not only in their lives, but in the lives of their families and changing them for generations to come. We have the opportunity to have that kind of impact individually, but then we also win as a state because we have the talented workforce that we need to inspire others to build a great community and a really strong economy.

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