“You can’t teach if you have seven-eights of a degree. You cannot go to Ernst and Young with two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree. You’ve got to finish.” –Rich Kendell, Education First board member
About half of Utah students who enroll in training or college after high school complete their certificate or degree. The state’s percentage of adults with some college but no degree is among the highest in the nation, highlights a new report by the Utah Foundation.
Education First, its spokesman Rich Kendell, Prosperity 2020, and Utah Foundation conclude the failure of Utah’s education system to train workers is holding the state back. The three groups list five “game changers” for improving Utah higher education:
- Create clear graduation requirements,
- Increase support for remedial education,
- Streamline course schedules,
- Encourage students to take a full 15-credit course load each semester, and
- Boost performance-based funding for schools.
The call for more investment in higher education comes after the announcement that Utah generated almost three-quarters of a billion dollars in surplus tax revenues this year. Lawmakers and policy makers have also discussed altering Utah’s tax laws to generate more revenue.
Investment in higher and public education dipped since the one-two punch of a tax cut in 2007 and years of recession, which for higher education has meant a greater share of costs being shifted away from state funding and onto students, according to Stephen Kroes, Utah Foundation president. Utah currently appeals to businesses because of the low costs of land and labor and a light regulatory burden, Kroes said. The state will need to invest more in benefits in order to sustain growth in the future, he believes. “We can’t always be the low-cost location,” he said. “At some point we’ve got to turn our attention to being the high-quality location.”
Horizonte, Salt Lake School District’s alternative high school and adult education provider, is rescuing those who haven’t finished high school. Accepting them, encouraging and coaching them to successful high school graduation and providing privately funded college and training scholarships, goes far in helping Utah toward its higher education goals.