Task force favors merging CEU, USU
During a public meeting on Monday at the College of Eastern Utah, a regents panel indicated the members would recommend that CEU become a "comprehensive regional campus of Utah State University."
The panel will submit the recommendation to the entire board of regents at a regularly scheduled meeting at Utah Valley University.
The recommendation has come after almost two years of reviews by panels, a study by a former CEU president, a debate in the Utah Legislature over the fate of the college and numerous meetings of faculty, staff, administation and the community.
The recommendation will be forwarded to the regents, who are expected to adopt it.
The board will then recommend the 2010 Utah Legislature's passage of proper legislation to finalize the merger.
"We have developed a timeline for this recommendation, too," said David Jordan, the regent who headed up the panel. "We hope to have the two institutions deal with the thousands of details that must be worked out between the two schools from August to December of this year. Then there will be legislative action on the plan during the session and we hope the implementation will begin on July 1, 2010."
Jordan pointed out that the plan was a broad vision and the devil would be in the details, but he hoped the two schools could find common ground on the issues that need to be resolved.
"If we can get an agreement that works for everyone, that is the best way to do it," said Jordan. "That is a lot better than giving it to the Legislature and saying to them 'here you figure this out.'"
Jordan indicated he hoped that there would be a great deal of input along the way to work out the plan, including hearing from faculty, staff, students, community members and legislators.
Utah Sen. David Hinkins from Emery County and Rep.Patrick Painter from Nephi were at the July 13 meet along with two Carbon County commissioners and local dignitaries.
The panel presented a significant amount of information, including facts and figures, as well as the options the members had been charged with looking at to resolve what the state considers as a problem of decline at the CEU main campus.
The members of the regents task force also presented a general idea of what they are recommending as broad points of working plan for the implementation.
The general concept included the following:
â¢Utah State will be charged with responsibility for the governance, personnel, finances and facilities management of CEU through statutory amendments and board of regents policy changes.
â¢CEU will be led by a chancellor.
The chancellor will be the resident chief executive officer of the USU/CEU and will report directly to the president of USU.
â¢Lower community college tuition rates for lower division and career and technical education programs will be maintained.
â¢A diverse range of student activities, cultural, social and athletic programs will be supported.
â¢CEU will be overseen by USU's board of trustees.
The current CEU Board of Trustees will transition to a regional advisory council.
â¢The governor will be encouraged to appoint a southeastern resident to be a member of the USU Board of Trustees.
If necessary, the size of the current USU board will be increased to facilitate that representation.
After the presentation on Monday, the task force panel left the floor open for comments from people in attendance at the meeting.
Painter asked a number of questions including what might happen with positions that could be eliminated from the present CEU campus by handing over the duties to USU employees.
Jordan responded that there could be some of that, but it would probably be a gradual phase out.
"However, that would be part of the way to straighten out the financial problems of CEU," he said.
Painter also asked if some of USU's budget would be headed toward CEU.
"We anticipate that some of that will happen, but not directly," said Jordan. "It would, however, come more in the way of cost shifting than direct dollars. For instance USU doesn't have a criminal justice program and that would be valuable to them on their campuses. With long distance learning technologies CEU may have more students than are just sitting in a classroom here on this campus."
Mixed feelings were voiced by various people in the audience.
Some attendees applauded the recommendation. Other people were suspicious of the plan and still others believe the college could stand on its own legs without becoming part of USU.
"I am a biology professor here at CEU and originally a farm kid from Loa," said Tyson Chappell. "I was thankful all those years ago that I was able to take long distance learning classes from USU. I think what we need to do here is to do what is best for the students and I think this would be beneficial to them. I would feel that way even if I was one of those whose job was eliminated by this move."
But Jordan Hatch, heavy equipment and trucking instructor at CEU felt differently.
"I think we are operating on the false premise that this school is broken," said Hatch. "We are presently operating on the budget we were given and are doing just fine. We had to cut but I would rather have the people who work here swinging the ax rather than having someone at Utah State do it. I am sure our faculty would be willing to do what it takes to keep this school going. The problem is that you (directing his comments to the regents panel) are looking at this from the outside. We are on the inside looking out."
Longtime CEU faculty member Ross Sacco took a more middle, but cautious ground.
"Part of the problem here is that we all realized a long time ago that we were a part of the Wasatch behind and not the Wasatch Front," said Sacco as the gathering erupted with laughter. "We are holding back because of our past experiences in dealing with things from upstate."
"I think, if the Legislature could have your vision as to what could happen, it would be fine. But in a way, I feel we might be used by USU. They may use their tie to us (energy related programs) to get money and then we might not any of that money here," added Sacco.
The panel listened to everyone's comments and answered questions but in the end it came down to a statement that commissioner of higher education, Bill Sederburg made almost at the end of the meeting.
The panel members explained that they came to the recommendation because of the changing world of education and how CEU needs to fit into the picture.
Sederburg reinforced the conclusion with what he indicated is the reality of education today.
"Some schools have found niches they can fill, like the University of Phoenix," said Sederburg. "They are successful and growing. The truth is that small schools like CEU need a senior partner to complete in the marketplace for students."
The plan the task force has come up with will be presented to the entire Utah Board of Regents during a public meeting on Friday at UVU between 1 and 3 p.m.
Legislators have indicated that they would like to hear from constituents about the CEU-USU issue so they can make a balanced decision on how to vote if the matter before the 2010 Utah Legislature.
The lawmakers may be contacted through email.
Patrick Painter's email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Hinkins' email address is email@example.com.
Christine Watkins may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kay McIff's email address is email@example.com.