USU-Eastern not Just Here to Stay, but Here to Thrive

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With a second straight year of enrollment declines, USU-Eastern is facing some budget issues. An e-mail was sent out to faculty and staff last week outlining an option for a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP).

In the e-mail it was stated that the Price campus could be facing up to $800,000 in budget cuts. Blanding campus would be looking at an additional $300,000. These will be painful and could require eliminating some programs and positions.

The rumor mill around town was buzzing again about the possible demise of the college.

USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson was asked to address this and the VSIP. В He felt there were some divided messages floating out. The biggest thing he wants to stress is the fact the college is partaking in its biggest recruiting drive ever.

Four in Four is not just a campus wide goal, but he is hoping will be a community wide goal. It is looking at increasing the enrollment of the campus to 4,000 students by 2017, or in four recruitment cycles. В Meeting that goal will not only strengthen the college, but bring in a wealth of benefits to the Carbon/Emery area.

More students translate to more spending. Students that have a positive experience here while they attend classes and then more out of the area become some of the greatest ambassadors for promoting the area. Increased local students also provide the area with a better-educated community that will attract businesses.

The college aims to stimulate economic development, increase quality of life and create community vitality. They know that these are the same objectives the community has and want to work together to achieve them.

In that light, resources are being directed into that goal. Recently hired Director of Enrollment Management, Greg Dart has been focusing heavily on the recruiting drive. It is too early to know the direct impact of his efforts, but by early February, applications to attend USU-Eastern were as high as they normally would be by the start of the next year in August. Applications are only the first step and as many as 50% who apply may choose not to attend. Dart is confident that he can increase the applicants to 2,000 by the start of the next term. If only half of those did attend this fall, that would still translate to a significant jump from last year’s enrollment figures.

Why has USU-Eastern’s numbers been sliding for two years? Peterson attributes some of it to the counter cyclical nature of enrollment versus the economy. In 2010, the economy was down and the college enrollment was at a record high. As the economy recovers, people chose employment over training and enrollment drops.

2010 saw record numbers for the college. 2011 was 89% of that high. But 2012-13 was 85% of the 2011 numbers. With that drop comes less revenue. Which brings the discussion back to the VSIP.

Peterson is adamant that there is not an ongoing plan to “force” anyone out. They are looking to give a little boost of incentive for some who are close already to retirement, but may need a little financial help to bridge the gap between now and when they would naturally retire.

The e-mail contained a paragraph that explained “the primary purpose of the VSIP is to bring forth any naturally-occurring possibilities for retirement-related savings. The VSIP invites individual employees to contribute their unique aspirations and life-trajectory preferences to the overall budget decision process. The VSIP is a kind and sensitive way to bring individuals into the budget process.”

Peterson, who grew up in this community, wants Price and the surrounding areas to begin to identify themselves as a college town.

“Where would Logan be without USU? Where would Price be without USU-Eastern? Well they would still be nice communities, but the campus brings vitality to the community that is immeasurable.”

He is excited about the direction the campus is headed despite the challenges ahead.

“USU-Eastern is not just here to stay, but here to thrive” he added, “Count on 4000 students on campus in 2017!”

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