College prepares for applied tech merger, partnership with USU
College of Eastern Utah President Ryan Thomas told faculty and staff Wednesday he believes new opportunities will be created for communities across the eastern region of the state and for faculty at CEU.
Thomas' meeting with faculty came on the heels of a similar message to the college's board of trustees on Monday morning.
"We have some opportunities and perhaps a few minor challenges with the merger with the Southeast Applied Technology College and partnership with Utah State University," said Thomas.
Earlier in the year, Utah lawmakers passed House Bill 371 which merges SEATC with CEU. The merger goes into effect on July 1.
And while the schools will remain separate entities through June, plans are already under way to make the physical merger.
"As the summer progresses, we will look to find the best available space for our faculty and staff on the Price campus," said SEATC president Miles Nelson at the board of trustees meeting.
Legislators also funded $1 million for CEU to form partnerships with Utah State University and offer four-year degrees in business, education and natural resources.
"We are excited for the upcoming year as we restore our comprehensive community college mission and extend our partnership with Utah State University. When residents of eastern Utah want post-secondary services from basic work skills to four year degrees, CEU will be their one-stop shop," Thomas told trustees on Monday.
Thomas said the merger and partnership will allow the college to change how it approaches its course offerings. In the past, CEU has been tied to a semester-based system and state funding had been tied to credit-bearing courses.
Changes allow the college to receive funding for both credit and non-credit courses. Classes can be scheduled using both the traditional semester system or on a short-term basis.
"This creates opportunities to consider our faculty resources in new and creative ways," said the CEU president.
Because of the partnership with USU, faculty at CEU will be given the opportunity to teach upper division courses in their areas of expertise.
Similarly, the SEATC merger will allow faculty to teach more courses in their areas of expertise.
"We have faculty who would love to teach in USU's upper division programs and we have faculty who want to fill part of their teaching load in the non-credit programs that we will offer. This really allows us to streamline academic programs and create the continuum that the president is seeking," said college academic Vice President Mike King.
Thomas also mentioned a similar $1 million in appropriations for Snow College to create a similar partnership with USU. With both schools having partnerships with USU, the college president said Snow and CEU will be further strengthened.
Thomas indicated that the USU partnership should have a positive impact in the communities currently served by CEU.
The college currently operates campuses in Price and Blanding with distance learning sites scattered across eastern Utah.
Thomas explained that many CEU graduates move outside the region to pursue bachelor's and graduate's degrees.
The students also often find jobs outside the region. As a result, much of the academic training offered at CEU is exported.
Thomas noted that the USU partnership creates the opportunities for students to continue education without leaving the area. He hopes the individuals who stay in the region while they work on bachelor's degrees will make contributions to the local economy.
CEU administrators plan to create two committees comprised of faculty and staff at the college to address the day-to-day operations associated with the merger and partnership.
Thomas said the committees will likely gather data in April and work on implementing policy along with procedural changes in May.
Administrators emphasized that the merger should be a smooth transition and he could see no displacement of faculty because of the changes.
"Right now, we know a few things for certain: we have plenty of needs on campus that this merger will address - no one will lose their job or rate of pay as the merger unfolds," said Kevin Walthers, CEU financial vice president.
Thomas also addressed additional funding received by the college toward paying off debts associated with residence halls. By next spring, Thomas said debts on the college's dormitories will by fully paid off.
"This next year we will receive a 27 percent increase to our base funding," he said. As far as dollar amount, CEU's funding increase is ranked sixth out of 10 colleges and universities in the state.