While cosmetology may be a popular program, the prospects of finding a good-paying job after graduation are not great, college officials say.
While it isn't a done deal by any means, there is a possibility that within two years the cosmetology program at USU Eastern may be discontinued.
That word came Monday morning when USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson told the Sun Advocate that a proposal for program discontinuance had been submitted to Utah State University's administration.
"We have been facing two years of declining enrollment on campus and we think we need to redirect some our resources," Peterson said.
The announcement comes on the heels of a disclosure over a month ago that the college's Price and Blanding campuses were facing an $800,000 deficit for next year and that costs would need to be cut to make up for it.
Peterson added that he had spoken with the faculty in the Cosmetology Department about the proposal.
Cosmetology is a long-time program at the school and has graduated many people from the course over the years. But according to statistics from the Department of Workforce Services, those that graduate from cosmetology programs across the state average a starting wage of $8.16 per hour. The median salary for workers in the field is $11.61.
Presently there are a little over 6,700 positions in the cosmetology field in the state. That includes big shops and even one-person shops in their own homes. But there are over 30,000 trained cosmetologists that live in the state.
"The college's mission is to create graduates who can have viable job market credentials," stated Peterson. "We know that some of our programs like welding, nursing and diesel do that. The people who graduate from those departments are able to leave school and get good jobs that move them right into the middle class."
Peterson said that if all the approvals to discontinue the program go through there will be a very long horizon before the program goes away. It could be up to two years after the approval, if it happens.
"We would do what is called teach out," said the Chancellor. "We aren't going to pull the rug out from underneath students who are in the program. They will get the chance to graduate with their certifications."
Peterson pointed out that the process for discontinuing any program, however, is a long one. Many different groups and committees must agree to the idea. The proposal as submitted must go through the curriculum committee, the educational policy committee, the faculty senate, the Board of Trustees and finally the Board of Regents before any changes are made.
There have also been rumors that there may be other programs up for discontinuance on the campus, but both Brad King, vice chancellor at the school and Peterson said none of that was true.
"We are not ending the music program, nor the theater program," said King.
Some of these rumors have apparently come about partly because of the early retirement packages some faculty have taken and the fact others have or are planning to move on.
For instance, the music department is losing its entire full time faculty. Russell Wilson is retiring and Greg Benson has already left to go to work at the Utah State Board of Higher Education. Benson also acted as a vice chancellor on campus along with his instructional duties.
Beyond that a number of faculty and staff people from other departments have also left. During the meeting with Peterson and King, King announced he will be stepping down at the end of the fiscal year (June 30) too.
"Based on those that have left and those that have given commitments to leave, it appears we will make up around 80 percent of the money that we need to save," said King.
With King's retirement, that leaves two vice chancellor positions vacant as of the end of June. What will be done about that is still up in the air, but Peterson said that he would be definitely looking to "find savings in the administration."
There may also be some other changes and other employees that are taking early retirement, but Peterson said he could not announce those yet.
"Those people have a number of days to make final decisions and we owe them the privacy to announce their decisions to family and friends before we comment on it," concluded Peterson.