Presidents from state-funded colleges and universities across the state presented to the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which is made up of members from the Utah Senate and House of Representatives. Pershing showed how the U is working to put the state’s funding and students’ tuition dollars to work.
He emphasized that while the overall tuition income at the U has grown since 2008, the cost of tuition has remained “very, very modest” in comparison to that of other schools and was fed by a larger population of students.
“We have been almost able to hold the student tuition even,” Pershing said.
The budget, he said, is working on a model that moves funding with the students. As departments enroll more students, they receive more funding; similarly, as they lose students, they lose funding.
The U is using the same method to allocate the best classrooms to areas where they are most needed. Professors who produce the most research get the most modern spaces. The U is also using block scheduling, expanding summer and evening class opportunities and focusing on providing more online classes. Pershing said the additional online classes are in high demand and lead to degrees and certificates.
Several of the U’s initiatives are aimed to help hard-working and overloaded students get through school on schedule. According to numbers presented by Pershing at the Capitol, 90 percent of students who graduated from the U last year were working and 50 percent of students were working more than part time.
“Our students are working their way through,” Pershing said, adding that this characteristic makes it imperative that the state and university help students through by offering more financial support.
Pershing pointed to statistics proving that only a small percentage of students at the U take out loans to pay their tuition and only a small part of the U’s student population get help paying their tuition from their parents.
Because of this, the U is rolling out new scholarships to help more students get through school without breaking the bank. Pershing said that this is important so that students can work a little less and focus on their education.
He also compared the U to other schools in the Pac-12.
“The University of Utah is in fact the best value in the Pac-12,” Pershing said.
State Rep. Marie Poulson (D-Salt Lake) implored the committee to consider the impact of the Pac-12 on the U and asked what kind of a benefit the U has gotten from being in the conference.
Pershing said that while the TV funds are helping and the U is able to attract faculty that it never would have been able to before entering the Pac-12, there is an added pressure to compete.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.