The Board of Regents, Boards of Trustees and presidents from all eight USHE institutions recently participated in a joint meeting of higher education leaders to discuss some of Utah’s most pressing higher education issues. This once-a-year coordinating meeting occurs in conjunction with the Regents’ regularly-scheduled July meeting.
Governor Herbert also attended a portion of the meeting and spoke to higher education leaders, “We want to make sure people are getting to an end – a certificate or a degree. High school is not enough, there are many options for college. It’s important for our society and the economic benefits that come along with it. We want to make sure students, when they come to college, make an informed decision that benefits them; not just to make money.”
He continued, “We want to make sure we help them find a pathway to success. I am committed to becoming the best education system in America.”
Topics covered during the daylong meeting:
Long-term demographic projections
Dr. Pam Perlich, Director of Demographic Research, from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute presented newly published long-term demographic and economic projections for the state of Utah, including college-aged population projections.
Higher Education Governance
This year’s meeting of Utah higher education leadership was of particular importance with the passage of SB 238 (Higher Education Governance, Sen. Millner) during the 2017 Legislative Session. The legislation revises the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Regents and Boards of Trustees, and changes how Regents are appointed by the Governor. The legislation also transfers a significant portion of the approval authority of academic programs to the Boards of Trustees of USHE institutions and defines the primary missions of USHE institutions. Dr. Liz Hitch, Associate Commissioner of Academic and Student Affairs, facilitated a discussion of the legislation and associated policy changes being implemented over the next several months.
Student safety has become an issue of primary concern for colleges and universities throughout the country, in particular regarding sex discrimination, sexual violence and harassment. Dr. Jared Tippets, Vice President of Student Affairs at SUU, and Geoffrey Landward, Assistant Commissioner for Policy and Law provided an overview of this complex and sensitive issue that has become a central higher education issue in the past decade
The Board of Regents recently adopted a Student Safety policy in January 2017 to ensure consistency at all USHE campuses as well as strong collaboration. The policy standardizes and strengthens how the state’s colleges and universities address campus sexual assault, requiring stepped-up training, information-sharing about transfer students who’ve committed sexual violence, and regular climate surveys.
Dr. Tippets and Mr. Landward also discussed the ongoing challenges related to mental health of college-aged students. The need for mental health support and treatment has dramatically increased in recent years for both public and higher education. Last fall, the Board of Regents established a working group of Regents, administrators and practitioners to address the issue. In addition, the Legislature approved a resolution declaring mental health issues to be public health crisis on college campuses. Recommendations from the working group are expected this fall.
Paying for College
The cost of college continues to be a top issue for students and families. David Feitz, Executive Director of the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, provided an overview of the trends related to how Utahns are paying for college including the Utah Educational Savings Plan—the state’s 529 plan—and Pell Grants and student loans.