Stan Albrecht addresses faculty and students at the CEU campus.
Despite enduring five budget cuts in two years, Utah State University has protected its core of research and teaching.
Now that there a some signs of an economic recovery, that academic strength will make its presence felt across eastern Utah.
That was the message USU President Stan Albrecht delivered to a crowd of students and faculty at a campus forum in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center Tuesday.
"It would be a major mistake to declare victory too early on the economic front," Albrecht warned, noting that USU has lost about 17 percent of its base budget during the recession.
Despite that, USU now has the largest enrollment in its 120-year history, the president said.
Much of that growth has come about because of distance learning, an electronic network that has been augmented by the merger between USU and the College of Eastern Utah.
USU has also accumulated about $300 million of its $400 million goal in raising outside funds, Albrecht told the group.
As a nationally-recognized research institution - it is in second place for space research grants - USU is intensifying its involvement in clean coal technology and mine safety, he said.
The university recently dedicated its flagship facility in Vernal, the Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center.
This center aims to encourage business and technology innovation through energy development and applied research.
In answer to a question from the faculty senate, Albrecht replied that faculty and staff compensation will be the number one priority this year.
"Students will flinch to hear this," he said, but a tuition increase is on the table.
While the cost may increase, scholarships - including emergency scholarships - are available, he said. As part of the USU system, that financial aid is available to CEU students now.
"(Higher education) is still a bargain here, but the price is going up," he said.
"I worry about student debt," he added, noting that student debt has exceeded credit card debt in this country.
However, the overwhelming bulk of that debt is incurrect at private, for-profit colleges, not at state schools.