Recent action by the Utah Legislature has caused some heartburn among state agencies in every corner of Utah. But the actions the lawmakers took had greater repercussions on College of Eastern Utah than on others in recent days because of a news report in the Salt Lake Tribune on March 21.
In that report the largest newspaper in the state reported that the college "made promises it could not keep, handing out $600,000 in scholarships without the bucks to back them up." The reaction of many people who read the account thought that the college had reneged on it's agreement to fund hundreds of students tuition and other costs.
"Not so," said Charles Foust, vice president of academic affairs for CEU. "That first paragraph (in the story) is totally incorrect. Every student who was promised a scholarship received 100 percent of what was offered. Instead we ran up a deficit in honoring those commitments, but that is a very different thing from not honoring what we promised."
The article came out on the morning of the job fair in the CEU student centersponsored by the college and the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce. It was one of the main topics of conversation on the floor of the activity room where the booths were set up.
People at the college's financial aid booth at the fair sat with dozens of high school students and other youth passing by for different attractions.
The CEU administration is concerned that the article sent the wrong message to not only the local community, but students who have already been promised college scholarships next yea.
"Todd Olsen is contacting all the students we have already made offers to," said Brad King, the college's dean of student affairs. "We're worried they will see this and think we are backing out on them. Those commitments are solid. They don't have to worry."
The fact is that the legislative budget actions not only impact CEU, but institutions across the state are facing similar problems.
Utah State University and Dixie are looking at big cuts and several reports indicate that Southern Utah University will be forced to eliminate 16 full programs due to the budget shortfall.
Colleges and universities in the state have been left to develop the devices necessary to cover the financial deficits that Utah's higher educational institutions are currently facing.
Some colleges and universities are eliminating programs, others are decreasing staff sizes and still others are reducing the number of scholarships or cutting scholarship monies.
Several higher education institutions, including the College of Eastern Utah are doing all of the things to varying degrees.
"We have consolidated 12 positions, all of which were vacated as employees have left for various reasons," pointed at King during an interview at his office last Friday morning. "That means if someone leaves we either have to cut back a program or change it."
Every academic area at the college has faced cuts to scholarship funds as well.
"We have had a lot of departmental scholarships in the past," stated King. "We are bring a lot of those under a single umbrella, a more general academic scholarship fund."
One of the things that could have been misconstrued in the article is the difference between scholarships which are usually college or privately affiliated and grants which are funded privately or by government agencies outside the college.
People can continue to apply for grants and many of those will still be available.
Scholarship dollars, on the other hand, will be harder to come by and the waivers as well as the allowances may be reduced in numbers or the amount of money involved may be decreased.
Regardless, the funding will be harder for students to obtain.
"There will be $200,000 less in scholarship money next year," indicated King. "But that doesn't affect current students or ones we have already made promises to. It only affects newcomers who haven't had commitments made to them."
"But we still plan to offer scholarship money to as many students as we can," empasized the CEU official.
The positions that have been eliminated at the college include three deans.
"We are cutting administrative costs as much as possible to keep money going to the student areas," said King.
The community needs to be concerned about the cuts at the college.
Unlike many other campuses in the state where the local college is just one of many large employers, CEU is the second largest single employer in the Carbon County area.
"Almost every department is losing money during this crunch," said King. "For instance, next year there will be no track team or scholarships. The emphasis is going back to overall academic scholarships."
One of the programs being cut that was mentioned in the Tribune article was the debate program at the college. However, the debate program has not officially been eliminated at CEU.
"Joe (Carver) is leaving to go to another school," said King referring to the present debate coach. "I assume his position falls within those not being refilled. I am not sure what will happen in that situation."
The college now faces the chore of filling the financial void with other sources of funding to help students.
"First we need to look at our programs," explained King. "We need to eliminate the high cost programs and concentrate on the lower cost, high demand programs. Right now we are looking under every rock to find ways to cut costs."
The obvious answer to the scholarship dilemma is to find additional funding from private rather than public sources.
"It's up to us now to find new sources of funding for scholarships. We will be looking for more private money to do so," concluded King.