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Support from Utah’s Legislature will be necessary to increase the number of Utah women holding postsecondary certificates or degrees. Several key issues concerning higher education were discussed in the 2012 General Legislative Session.  There are six primary issues which need to be addressed: Enrollment Growth Funding, Flexible Attendance and Credit Maintenance, Expanded Financial Aid Options, Women’s Resource Support, Guidance and Counselor Expansion, and Utah Women and Education Initiative Ongoing Funding. Each of these issues is described briefly in the following sections.

1. Enrollment Growth Funding

According to the 2012 Legislative Fiscal Analyst report, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) expects 22,111 FTE (full-time equivalent) students above funded target levels for the 2012-2013 academic year. The result is that many of Utah’s colleges and universities have experienced soft enrollment caps because students cannot get into the classes required for graduation. The Utah Women’s College Task Force has recommended separate funding be provided for K-12 and higher education in an effort to offer the support needed to hire more faculty, expand class offerings, and improve concurrent enrollment options and offerings.

In 2012, the State Board of Regents requested $10 million to address a portion of the enrollment growth. Click here for the USHE 2012 Enrollment Growth Issue Brief.

2. Flexible Attendance & Credit Maintenance

Currently there are too few options available to students who juggle their education, family, and work. As the student demographic has evolved to include more individuals who support themselves and families throughout their educational endeavors, it has become more important to adjust the education settings in which they participate. Students need more flexibility in scheduling classes during non-peak hours, online classes, concurrent enrollment programs, and greater consideration for courses previously taken where credit has “lapsed” under current guidelines.

3. Expanded Financial Aid Options

Utah is 48th in the nation for state grants and federal work study programs.  The Task Force has recommended that additional funding be identified to support new and continuing students in the form of need-based success stipends, additional need-based and academic scholarships and grants, a greater allocation of federal work study opportunities, and funding supplements in order to alleviate the need for student loans. Visit UtahFutures.org for more information on the different financial options available to students.

4. Women’s Resource Support

Utah Women’s College Task Force believes special efforts should be made to identify funds that would benefit women in their unique family and work situations. Women often face unique challenges in completing college such as dealing with child care or family care issues. The Task Force has asked for support in sharing and creating strategies across college campuses related to issues including child care, women’s support groups, student retention efforts, campus resource centers, and outreach to high school students and community members.

5. Guidance and Counselor Expansion

Each Utah high school counselor currently serves an average of 363 students with some counselors providing support to more than 500 students. The American School Counselor Association recommends a counselor to student ratio of 1:250. The Utah Women’s College Task Force recommends that additional funding be provided for high-school based college counselors who can encourage students to attend college. A bill was introduced in the last session to boost funding for high school counselors. It was sponsored by Representative Patrice Arent (H.B. 65 Bill Documents), and an article was published in the Salt Lake Tribune that explained this bill. Unfortunately, this bill failed in the House.

To assist in the work that guidance and counselors do to assist students, the Task Force also recommended that funding be provided for technology to expand resources and tools available on UtahFutures.org.

6. Utah Women’s College Task Force

Based on the work of the Utah Women’s College Task Force, Governor Gary Herbert recommended a $100,000 funding allocation to support the work of the Utah Women and Education Initiative. This recommendation was approved in the 2012 Legislative Session. It is through this funding that this Initiative was started and many resources have been made available. We are grateful for this funding and for the services we are able to provide as a result.

The funding allocation was outlined in the Utah Legislature State Budget Overview (see page 8). It was also discussed in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune.