SUU Enrollment up yet Again, Renewing Focus on Quality
October 06, 2009
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) student enrollment figures are in, showing a steady growth at Southern Utah University indicative of schools throughout the state. And though USHE is justifiably concerned that such a steady enrollment growth system-wide coupled with budget cuts may prove a challenge, SUU officials are optimistic that the Southern Utah campus can maintain its trademark private school-quality education at its reasonable public school price tag.
When asked of his thoughts concerning SUU’s 7.32-percent enrollment growth from the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2009, President Michael T. Benson said, “We gladly welcomed our largest freshman class ever to campus this fall. Though we are cognizant of the financial limitations placed on our institution due to system-wide budget cuts, we will use these limitations as a reminder to remain focused on our university’s long-term institutional strategy of becoming more selective and concentrated on quality programs and retention toward graduation.”
That said, USHE Commissioner William Sederburg raised a valid concern when, in the official USHE enrollment report, he said, “Campuses are reaching a critical tipping point. Last year our universities and colleges effectively managed budget cuts amidst record enrollment increases thanks to one-time federal stimulus money. Our college presidents report to me that unless something changes, next school year will be far different.”
Benson agrees that state support for higher education is crucial to providing an affordable, quality education.
Though he remains hopeful that at least some funding will be passed to mitigate the increasing costs that accompany a sizable enrollment increase across the state’s higher ed system, Benson and the rest of the University’s administrators are carefully evaluating every campus resource and the demands upon them.
Consistent with what he has oft emphasized, Benson explains, “We will continue to refine the meaning of the ‘SUU Experience’ as something distinctly desirable for students who seek small class sizes, teaching by full-time faculty, individual attention from dedicated and caring staff, and opportunities outside the classroom for service learning and professional exposure.”
He continues, “Our primary focus will be on those things within our control. As I’ve said before, rather than seeking to be all things to all people. In these uncertain economic times, we will remain focused on identifying and buoying those components of our academics and programming that are the heart of all that we seek to accomplish as the state’s premier ‘public-private’ university.”
The Utah System of Higher Education includes all of the state’s nine public colleges and universities: The University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, Southern Utah University, Snow College, Dixie State College, College of Eastern Utah, Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College.
With the 7.32-percent increase to SUU’s student headcount, SUU’s comparative growth lies just above Utah State University’s headcount increase of 4.76 percent and just below Weber State and Utah Valley University, which saw a 7.65 and 7.75 percent increase, respectively.