Regents form CEU study report panel
Former College of Eastern Utah president Michael Petersen's report on the school was placed in the hands of the board of regents on Friday during the panel's regular meeting at Weber State.
Petersen presented the report much like he did to the CEU Board of Trustees two weeks ago, but the reception was was much different.
While overall the trustees took issue with some of what Petersen had recommended in his study, the regents found the report to be illuminating, but not to point that the members wanted to immediately adopt his recommendations.
"I think the regents have a few options concerning CEU here," said higher education commissioner Bill Cedarburg toward the end of the meeting. "They can either stay the course, create a statewide network of community colleges, resolve the issues that can be solved by granting more funding to CEU or find a stronger partner for the school to work with."
As reported in the May 19 issue of the Sun Advocate, Petersen is recommending a quasi-autonomous relationship be developed between CEU and Utah State University which presently offers classes and a limited amount of bachelors degrees on the Price campus.
How that propsed relationship would be formed still remains to be seen. The matter is one of the things everyone from the employees at CEU to the Utah Board of Regents members are struggling with.
"We want CEU to be around forever," said the college's interim president, Mike King, as he addressed the regents after Petersen's presentation to the board.
"This school has 70 years of history in the community. The community college mission is very important to us and our area is very concerned about what is going to happen. All we want to do is to meet the needs of our community. We hope we can come out of this process better and stronger," noted King.
CEU's interim president said the uncertainty that has been going on for two years has created somewhat of a crisis on the campus and in the community.
"We need this settled because a lot of our faculty and some of our staff are looking for other jobs since they don't know what is going to happen to us," he said.
No regent was directly critical of Petersen's report, but some had concerns about what such a partnership would do to the Price school.
"I don't see how this (Petersen's recommendations) solves the problem," said one regent, who referred to the fact that under a partnership CEU would be able to offer more bachelor and advanced degrees. "Higher levels of education are certainly a plus, but that doesn't address the basic problem."
Cedarburg pointed out before Petersen's presentation that the school faced three challenges and they had to be solve quickly.
"There is the problem of enrollment decline, budget shortfalls and the basic size of the school," he said. "We need a clear plan before the legislature convenes next year."
The legislature has been expecting some kind of solution for two years and some legislators are getting concerned about what is going on.
Petersen, who spent 16 years at the school (11 as president) and grew up in the area took on every question the regents had and confronted them head on.
"I talked to over 70 people at the school, in the community and in leadership positions in the area," said Petersen. "I spent time with trustees, faculty, staff and people in the community. I also visited the Blanding campus as well. It was clear to me that that the most important objective of my report was that the community college function be protected."
USU President Stan Albrect also addressed that objective because some have felt that the USU, as a major sized university with a large academic program would not be a fit partner to team up with CEU.
"We already have community college responsibility in other campus that we we serve ( Uintah Basin, Tooele, Brigham City)," said Albrect. "I can give you my assurance that we would fulfill that assignment."
USU officials say that 60 percent of the work done at their satellite campus' are performed in the lower division and that last year they graduated 250 students with associate degrees. They say they can also develop four year programs for students that will fit the employment needs of the community in which the campus' area located.
Presently, depending on the degree, some of the instruction at CEU by USU is done through electronic means, but USU officials say that if they were to work with CEU most of that instruction would be done with face to face instruction, using broadcast as a backup.
"Maybe expanding the four year program isn't the answer," said one regent. "Maybe we need to look at downsizing the school or right size it" to the enrollment that is coming into it, suggested one regent.
Kevin Walthers, vice president of finance at CEU gave King some figures during the meeting that supported the fact that the school will probably decline in enrollment unless something is done. Most of the students at the school come from southeastern Utah and projections show that while Carbon county is expected to graduate 10 percent more students in the next 10 years, Emery will decline two percent, Grand county will decline eight percent and San Juan county will be hit with a 20 percent in high school graduations.
One of the things that has been suggested is that the school recruit more heavily along the Wasatch Front but one regent thought that suggestion would be counter productive because it would take students away from state schools in those areas to support another institution.
At the end of the meeting the regents set up a committee to look at the recommendations and come up with a plan by their next meeting which will be held in July. The motion to do this included statements that the committee study would be a process (which is not yet finished) and that the regents would be holding some public meetings in the area to get the feelings of the people in southeastern Utah about that process.
King says he welcomes a finish to the process, because it has be a difficult two years.
"The key question is if this will answer the questions of enrollment, budget and will it make for a more stable environment," said King."