Despite national headwinds shaping public perceptions of colleges and universities, the University of Utah is on a path to create a new model for higher education, President Taylor Randall told members of the State Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Jan. 30.
“We have a vision to improve the lives of all Utahns and to advance what we would say is a new higher education model for delivering societal impact,” Randall told the committee.
As part of the Utah Legislature’s annual budgeting process, the presidents of all the state’s colleges and universities get the chance to update lawmakers on their institution’s success and plans for continued improvement. Randall’s presentation focused on how leadership is working to improve confidence in higher education in Utah and evolve to meet the state’s changing demographics.
In the case of the U, Randall said this looks like reimagining education models to better fit student needs.
“The traditional model of full-time student/part-time job is not feasible for many students and it keeps students from coming to college,” Randall said. “We need to flip that model to full-time job/part-time student.”
Randall acknowledged that this shift goes against the traditional wisdom of pushing students through to graduation by reducing the amount of time they spend working on their degrees. Offering more degree paths will lift people in the long term, Randall said.
Efforts to do this include helping students access the U by becoming full-time employees, who receive a tuition benefit. A new partnership between the U and Intermountain Health will provide students with employment and the mentorship needed to earn certificates and degrees related to their health care career goals.
The U is also addressing another obstacle for potential students—the cost of higher education. The U’s net price for in-state students is less in 2024 than it was in 2018, Randall said. Although the list price has increased since that time, the amount of aid students are receiving has increased at a higher rate. Because the amount of aid a student receives varies based on merit and need, Randall said he and Sen. Anne Millner (R-Ogden) have been discussing incentivizing service as another way to provide more funding to students. This fall, the U will pilot a scholarship program where students who complete 120 hours with partner organizations over a semester will receive a $3,000 scholarship and a $2,000 living allowance.
“Our hope is this will be a scaleable model that can be adopted across the state to help thousands of students,” Randall said.
Beyond education, the U also is investing in serving the entire state—specifically, through health care. This year, the university has asked lawmakers for $75 million in support to bring a Huntsman Cancer Institute clinic and research space to Utah County. The project will be completed in partnership with Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University.
In Rose Park, an innovative new population health center is providing people access to physical health care, mental health care and dental care in one place. The goal of the project is to make these essential resources easier for people to access while drastically decreasing the Medicaid cost of serving people.
“We think this is a model for future medical delivery,” Randall said. “And you know what? It pays for itself off of the savings you get out of the health care system.”