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CEU As an Economic Generator

Sun Advocate publisher

When people think of the College of Eastern Utah they often think of a quality two-year institution but few view it as an economic generator. CEU, like most community colleges, are viewed by the general public as institutions that offer educational opportunities but also as community entertainment centers or cultural leaders.

But recently there is a renewed emphasis on making a better connection between the real business and economic world and the College of Eastern Utah.

CEU administrators are being positioned to play a greater role in economic development. According to President Ryan Thomas, two positions recently had title changes that indicate the new direction CEU is taking. Chuck Foust is now the executive vice president for Enterprise Development while Cliff Coppersmith has the title of vice president of academic affairs.

Along with a handful of other administrators have been meeting with county officials and discussing strategies for economic development.

The question they began asking themselves as they started this process was how do we use the college as an economic development tool? Some answers appear to be obvious because of the positioning of the school. For 65 years now the college has grown and reflected the changing Carbon county and City of Price. The answers certainly have a lot to do with the educational programs and the partnerships that CEU has made over the years. "Our goal is to bring in new business partnerships but continue helping the existing programs," says Delynn Fielding, director of Carbon county's economic development efforts.

A few years ago an impact study looked at the college wages and salaries as well as the financial impact the students have on the community. A multiplier that this group uses lies somewhere between two and six times. This creates a ripple effect and for every out of area dollar there is a 200 to 600 percent return as students invest in cars, clothing, food, and entertainment.

This is increasingly significant," says CEU college president Ryan Thomas.

With a head count of 2800 students and a converted full time equivalent of 1800, most of these students attend classes on the main campus in Price. About 100 students attend college in the Emery county branch in Castle Dale while another 500 live in Blanding.

Students attending CEU come from every county in Utah as well as 27 states and several foreign countries.

CEU is one of the largest employer in Carbon county, staffed by around 200 full-time employees with another 150 part-timers.

In a recent meeting Fielding pointed out that every student brings upwards to $8,000 a year to the local economy. In this sense, even without additional emphasis CEU can be seen as an economic generator.

However there are plenty of ideas being discussed in work sessions and each time a group meets new energy and new ideas are generated. Twelve of the major categories being discussed include continuing education, seminars and conventions, field studies, basic studies, college branding, public relations, program development, endowments, grants, scholarships, enterprise development, and community projects.

Many of these are still in discussion stages and almost all overlap with another category. Each topic will evolve as the committees take shape. Continuing education deals with bringing seminars and conventions to the college by providing the facility and the people who are experts in specific fields to assist or lead the training. Potential examples include training for BLM, forest service, business emergency management training and homeland security. Not only is CEU talking about providing a one stop coordinator for these workshops but the entire process will provide a much needed tourism link bringing additional people into the community.

Field studies include property off campus that can be utilized by the college to provide training or study. One example that will become a reality is the Horse Canyon property. This old mine has been reclaimed and they are offering it to CEU or other institutions as a field study site. The location could be used for recreation or archeological experience.

The basic studies component is an organizational coordination between the school system and the college merging high school students with the college.

College branding and public relations are big topics for CEU as it looks at its image and tries to focus in on CEU as a campus. Increased awareness means increased enrollment and participation.

The college is exploring four-year programs in conjunction with Weber State, Utah State University, and Utah Valley State College offers degrees from these four year universities or colleges but all the instruction is done on the CEU campus.

Often potential partnerships include programs with the coal companies, natural gas development or electrical apprenticeships. In addition to these, the college has effectively partnered with criminal justice, business management and computer science.

The mission for vocational training fits nicely into expanding the economic development of the county.

Outdoor education is a natural with field camps and field schools, coupled with the environmental studies.

CEU also offers a strong premed program and blends well with their nursing degree and elementary education, both part of the extended University partnership.

Partnerships make education more efficient and find new markets for programs.

According to the discussions expanding the paleontology program appears to be a natural for CEU. Because it operates a world-renowned museum, and sits in the middle of a country that offers so many educational opportunities, it appears that CEU is positioned to make a move in this area. Discussions of creating a dino park, further developing the more than 50 dinosaur quarries, and offering advanced degrees in palenontolgy are all on the board. Since we have a world class resource these programs also clearly benefit the tourism efforts and bring additional monies to the local restaurants and motels as well.

Creating an endowment program and expanding the current scholarship base is a very high priority. Utah has established a good tax credit incentive and plans will be launched to create an endowment program for local students. Since interest from these endowments will be all that will be used, the principal keeps on building and provides a never ending stream of revenue to help attract students to the college. "This is substantial," says Fielding. This also frees up scholarship monies to attract other students from outside the area.

"Once we get the students here, they usually stay," says President Thomas, explaining that the comfortable setting Price offers as well as a caring faculty is attractive to most students. Programs are important as well and with the continual reevaluation of jobs and opportunities, students are having a good experience at CEU.

Another circle that is being examined is securing grants from outside sources to partner community efforts. Discussion at this point centers around a community recreation facility as well as a combined library complex. Discussion around these projects are still in very early stages.

Not necessary related but certainly another link to the enterprise development is partnering with area industry to create new revenue sources as well as provide employment. "Our interest or vision is to generate money for the college and offer economic development by networking the community," explained Foust recently. A couple natural areas include mining, water and gas development.

The local college began in 1938 toward the end of the depression. CEU was first called Carbon College and combined with the Carbon high school. It was housed in the school administration building that was recently demolished. Then in the 1950's it was a part of the University of Utah and later became CEU. The significance of the beginnings of the campus to today is that it was originally developed to help the community pull itself out of the depression.

Partnerships and networking seem to be common threads for the college as it works closely with economic development officials to help maximize their assets.

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