Chantel Hall, Shayla Winder, and Chantelle Mott enjoy lunch outside the CEU student center earlier this semester. Students come to CEU from all over the country and even from foreign lands.
In a spot of good news that has eluded the College of Eastern Utah (CEU) in the last couple of years, the school's student enrollment for the fall 2009 semester increased 91 students over last year's third week report.
More importantly, the Full Time Equivalents (FTE) increased 174 over last year, which is an increase of over 12.9 percent.
This figure is important because funding decisions in higher education are often determined by FTE rather than head count. The FTE is calculated by dividing the total number of credit hours taken at a college by 15, which is an average class load for an undergraduate student.
Other positive news from the enrollment picture for CEU is the reported enrollment includes only budget related and self support figures. About one third of CEU's enrollment comes from its workforce education division and is not included in this report. These students are enrolled in classes, which were formerly part of the Southeast Utah College of Applied Technology that merged with CEU in 2007.
Last fall, workforce education students totaled over 800 for the fall semester and will be included in the end-of-term count. End of term is the official enrollment report.
Also not included in the third week report are a number of distance delivered and concurrent enrollment classes, which were not available until after the third week deadline for the report.
This second year of significant student growth comes on top of an unexpected 17 percent budget cut coming from the 2009 legislative session. Last year CEU was directed to cut $3.2 million from its budget. One-time federal stimulus funds were given to fill approximately half of the mandated cut. Without the stimulus money this year the remaining $1.5 million will have to be eliminated from the budget.
"We are excited to see the significant growth in our student population," said interim college president Mike King. "This year that excitement is tempered by the reality of budget cuts that will result in the loss of jobs and programs at CEU. The fat is long gone, along with some of the muscle. Future cuts will be from the bone."
Enrollments are increasing rapidly throughout the Utah system of higher education. Bill Sederburg, commissioner of higher education for the system noted that not only are there more students on campuses, but they are taking larger course loads.
"We hope that these figures drive home the critical point to state leaders that higher education is the lifeblood to our state," said Sederburg. "Our campuses provide a valuable opportunity for those impacted by today's tough economic climate, highlighting the critical role higher education plays in the economy of our state."
The College of Eastern Utah's service region includes three counties in southeast Utah. This region of the state traditionally has higher than average unemployment rates, but unlike most of the state, the three county area has actually bucked the state and national trends this past year. From July of 2008 to July of 2009 the three counties added over 500 non-farm jobs, which increased non-farm employment by just over 3 percent.
Utah's unemployment figures for the period of July 2008 to July of 2009 increased by 4.2 percent. Usually, growth in unemployment and college enrollment is highly correlated. The College of Eastern Utah seems to be the exception this year.