Main Navigation

How higher education benefits Utah

As higher education institutions face declining public support and debates about the value of a college degree, Utah’s tech schools, colleges and universities are leaning into the discussion.

The data is clear: Higher education in Utah yields deep, tangible results for both individual graduates and the population of the state as a whole. Utah’s education leaders say they will continue to make the case.

“[Higher education] has this remarkable transformational power in individuals,” said University of Utah President Taylor Randall, at a panel on higher education hosted by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute earlier this year. “It starts with ideas in the minds and the hands of the next generation. You give them ideas and you give them confidence, and suddenly the trade-offs in society aren’t seen as trade-offs.”

June 6 is National Higher Education Day and the U is joining with its peer institutions across the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) to highlight the myriad of benefits higher education yields, including: 

  • Increased earnings
  • Reduced disparities and higher economic mobility
  • Better health outcomes
  • More civic engagement
  • Decreased reliance on public assistance
  • Increased tax revenue

These key findings are part of a recent Gardner Institute policy brief, which makes it clear that higher education lifts Utah. As more of the state’s population earns post-secondary degrees, the availability of higher-paying jobs increases, individuals see long-term career success, civic engagement grows, and more opportunities are available for innovation and economic growth in all areas of the state. All Utahns benefit from a more educated citizenry—graduates, their families, the state, and society at large. According to the brief, for every dollar the state invests in higher education, three are returned as increased tax revenue. 

The U and all USHE member institutions have committed to empowering every Utahn to access the higher education opportunities available in the state. Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez has written that higher education is about more than better jobs, it’s about better lives. Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Derek Miller notes the proud history of education in Utah. And Randall and Utah State University President Betsy Cantwell have penned a series of op-eds reminding Utah newspaper readers that Utah’s colleges and universities are not one-size-fits-all, but offer multiple pathways to happy, successful lives.

As part of ensuring all Utahns can access quality higher education, the U is shaping a new vision of higher education that is more affordable and more individualized, Randall said. He shared the highlights of this plan during a presentation to lawmakers during the 2024 legislative session.

Watch or listen to the whole presentation here. View slides for this presentation here.

The plan includes creating more degree paths and more funding opportunities for students, including the One Utah Service Fellowship and the U Service Corp

“The evidence makes clear the promise of higher education to lift people and contribute to a better world,” Randall said. “At the University of Utah, we focus on student achievement knowing that our efforts will help increase our students’ lifetime earnings, enhance their economic mobility and help them live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives.”