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Salt Lake Community college is playing an important role in making sure everyone has access to an affordable education. Here is how.

SLCC: Supporting Utah’s Economy through Affordable Education

With a strong economy and hardworking residents, Utah is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live. It’s hard to pick up any publication focused on the economy and not see Utah lauded for our continued job growth and young, growing population. But while there is no doubt that a strong economy produces many positive effects, it does present challenges.

For instance, we are struggling in Utah to meet the demand for well-trained workers. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, there are nearly three workers for every four available jobs in Utah, and while analysts don’t believe the state is headed for another recession, some predict our economic growth could level off. This means that now, more than ever, we need a stable, skilled labor force — and quickly.

SLCC, in collaboration with our local industry and business partners, is committed to supporting Utah’s economy by educating and training as many students as possible. We do this by embracing the principle that higher education should be accessible to anyone who desires it. This has been fundamental to our mission since our founding in 1948, and today we are proud to be the state’s largest open-access higher education institution.

Our pledge to provide educational access to all is supported by our constant efforts to build high quality programs and training opportunities at a reasonable cost. Students seeking short-term workforce certifications can do so for less at SLCC, and students who are working toward baccalaureate degrees can save up to $10,000 by first earning an associate’s degree with us and then transferring to one of Utah’s four-year universities. These savings help students minimize loan debt, enter the workforce on financially stable footing and make immediate contributions to our local communities and economy.

Salt Lake Community college is playing an important role in making sure everyone has access to an affordable education. Here is how.

 So how do we do it?

Three years ago we debuted an initiative called SLCC Promise. The Promise program is designed to entice students to attend full time by promising to cover the cost of tuition when federal grants fall short. To date, SLCC Promise has awarded over $2.75 million to more than 2,000 students, removing a significant economic barrier to obtaining a college education.

Beginning in fall 2020, we’ve committed to help even more students manage the cost of college by lowering the SLCC Promise minimum semester credit requirement from 12 to nine. We believe this change will persuade even more students who can’t carry a full-time credit load to enroll and take advantage of our financial support. We know many of our students must work full-time to meet their family obligations. This expanded SLCC Promise will help them balance work and school and get the financial assistance they need to finish their certificate or degree.

And have you priced a textbook lately?

While tuition is often cited as the most signficant financial barrier to a college education, it is not the only cost faced by our students. Required textbooks can cost $1,200 per year for a full-time student. Our research shows that some students take fewer classes as a result of these costs or enroll in the course but don’t buy the textbook, significantly impairing their learning and success. Given these facts, and in conjunction with our remarkably innovative instructors, we launched Open SLCC in 2014. This initiative replaces traditional textbooks with comparable, high quality, free online educational resources. We are proud to report that since launching Open SLCC, more than 133,000 of our students have taken advantage of these options, saving students $11 million in textbook costs.

In addition to affordable options, SLCC continues to offer students an exceptional educational experience. During their time with us, students have the opportunity to study in state-of-the-art facilities, with an average class size of 20, taught by experienced, world-class and caring faculty.

 High quality, high touch, low cost.

The critical connection between a state’s higher education system and its economic health is undeniable. A college certificate or degree has a transformative effect on the lives of students by providing them with opportunities to prosper, both professionally and personally. SLCC plays an indispensable role in educational access, and our institution will continue to seek creative, innovative and daring solutions to prepare our students to launch successful careers and achieve their dreams. Our goal is to educate students, who, in turn, will lift their families, their communities, and, ultimately, the nation.

Salt Lake Community college is playing an important role in making sure everyone has access to an affordable education. Here is how.

Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin serves as president of Salt Lake Community College, a diverse institution that educates and trains more than 60,000 students a year in Salt Lake County. Her service on community boards and committees includes the Salt Lake Chamber, EDCUtah, Envision Utah and the Women’s Leadership Institute. Nationally, Dr. Huftalin serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Salt Lake City Branch Board of Directors and the LeaderShape Board of Trustees. She earned a master's degree from UCLA and a doctorate in Education, Leadership, and Policy from the University of Utah.