The education and training of the nation’s youngest population carries both tremendous challenges and opportunities.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert has made high-quality, relevant education for this dynamic, youthful workforce one of his administration’s highest priorities. In fact, Utah has the largest proportion of its population in the 5-17 school age group (22 percent) of any state, and plays host to the country’s largest pre-school population on a per-capita basis (9.5 percent). While these dynamics create the need for education and government leaders to devise innovative ways of providing education, it also provides the state with a workforce ready and able to fuel the growth of the state’s innovative companies.
To meet the needs of its established and growth companies, Utah is working diligently to expand and enhance its statewide educational system—which includes highly-regarded institutions of higher learning, together with a growing number of innovative workforce training, applied technology, career and vocational educational opportunities. In addition, a collaborative commission convened by Governor Herbert and consisting of key leaders ranging from education and government to industry is working to maximize the efficiency and quality of the state’s education system.
Utah consistently ranks among the nation’s leading states for the percentage of its population 25 years and older who earn high school diplomas and four-year degrees. In 2010, the most recent year for which national statistics were available, Utah ranked eighth in the percentage of persons with high school diplomas (90.4 percent) and 20th in the percentage of persons with a bachelor’s degree (28.5 percent).
- Education is a top priority for the administration of Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
- Utah has 10 public and three Utah-based private universities and colleges.
- Utah research universities have been extremely effective at commercializing promising technologies.
- The University of Utah ranked first in 2010 and 2011 for the number of start-ups powered by technology developed by faculty at a U.S. university.
- Approximately 90 percent of Utahns have earned at least a high school degree.
Utah’s network of public and private K-12 schools offers high-quality primary and secondary education to students across the state. Diverse offerings in Utah’s schools include: adult education; special education and gifted and talented curricula; vocational courses of study, from agriculture to business marketing, entrepreneurship, applied technology, performing arts, economics and work-based learning; early graduation; and distanceand computer-based learning. In 2011, there were an estimated 591,089 students in Utah’s public education system, up 14,754 (2.8 percent) from 2010, at approximately 900 community-based schools across the state. Student performance in Utah continues to rise. According to the Utah Board of Education, Utah’s students continue to score above the national average on standardized tests. In the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), administered nationwide for grades 3, 5 and 8, Utah students in all three grades scored 8 percent above the national average. Utah high school students taking standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement tests consistently score considerably higher than the national average. In 2011, the pass rate for Utah students on AP exams was 68 percent (up 1 percent from 2010), compared with a 58 percent pass rate nationwide. Utah students taking the SAT college entrance exam achieved average scores of 563 on reading, 559 on math and 545 on writing compared with national average of 497 on reading, 514 on math and 489 on writing.
Utah continues to have the youngest population in the country, ranking first in the percent of the population under 18 (31.5%) in 2010.
Public Charter Schools
In addition to public and private schools, Utah parents can opt to send their children to one of the state’s innovative charter schools. Charter schools are non-sectarian public schools that are open to all students at no cost, but are geared to a specific curriculum or area of special interest and preparation for the students. Some of Utah’s distinctive charter schools include science and technology high schools, schools for fine arts, performing arts, early college coursework and other areas. Tuacahn High School near St. George, for example, focuses on arts programs, while the curriculum at the Academy of Math, Engineering, and Science in Salt Lake and the Utah Academy of Math and Sciences in Orem focus on college preparation emphasizing math, sciences and technology. The number of Utah charter schools has grown steadily since the program began in 2000 with eight schools and 390 students. As of March 1, 2012, 86 Utah charter schools educate approximately 45,000 students, accounting for approximately 8 percent of all Utah public-school students. For more information and a directory of the state’s current charter schools, visit http://schools.utah.gov/charterschools.
Utah’s 124 private and parochial schools provide quality educational options for the nearly 20,000 students attending these schools. (http://utah. educationbug.org/private-schools/) At approximately 3 percent, Utah has the lowest percentage of students in private schools in the nation.
Students pursuing higher education in Utah have a diverse and compelling set of colleges and universities at their disposal, including public and private institutions that cater to a broad variety of academic interests and career goals. Utah residents and visitors are served by five public community colleges—College of Eastern Utah (Price), Dixie State College (St. George), Salt Lake Community College (Salt Lake City), Snow College (Ephraim) and the new Utah College of Applied Technology (nine locations throughout the state)—and one private two-year college, LDS Business College (Salt Lake City).
A host of bachelor’s degrees are offered at three public universities— Southern Utah University (SUU; Cedar City), Utah Valley State University (UVSU; Orem), Weber State University (WSU; Ogden)—and one private college, Westminster College (Salt Lake City). In addition, SUU, WSU and Westminster offer select graduate programs.
Utah’s three major Ph.D.-level research universities—the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Utah State University—have each distinguished themselves for their world-class research and innovation. For example, the world’s first artificial heart transplant, the first computerized system for real-time heart monitoring, digital recording, computer graphics and word processing were all pioneered by faculty at Utah universities. Each of these universities is distinguished for their entrepreneurial strengths.
In 2011, Utah’s public institutions of higher learning enrolled a combined 174,013 students, a 1.66 percent increase over the 2010 enrollment figures, according to the Utah System of Higher Education. In addition, 33,000-plus students were enrolled at Brigham Young University, 1,855 at LDS Business College and approximately 3,200 at Westminster College. In the past two decades, enrollment in the Utah system of higher education has more than doubled.
Public Utah State Higher Education institutions in aggregate awarded 28,408 certificates and degrees in 2009-2010 (not including Utah College of Applied Technology awards). Liberal Arts and Sciences was the most commonly-pursued field of study, with 5,940 students, followed by Health Professions (4,489), Business and Marketing (3,796), Social Sciences (2,102,) Education (1,922) and Engineering (1,301). The System awarded 12,867 bachelor’s degrees in the same time period, with the top fields of study being (in descending order) Business and Marketing, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Education and Social Sciences.
Applied Technology Education
Consistent with Utah’s tradition of practical innovation in education, in 2001 the state created the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) to deliver official Applied Technology Education (ATE) programs that range from basic skills training to professional certificates, with the potential to go on and earn associate degrees. These programs focus on the demands of the global economy, providing students with applied skills for entry-level employment while helping them lay the foundation for the academic and advanced technical skills they will need for their lifelong career development.
The UCAT institutions work closely with hundreds of businesses in Utah to customize programs designed to meet companies’ workforce training needs and upgrade employees’ knowledge and skills. These include “Custom Fit Training” and “Short-term Intensive Training” (STIT), which provide training tailored to the performance of specific jobs at new or expanding companies; continuing education; the Salt Lake Community College Skills Center; and a variety of skills-based conferences, workshops and licensing programs. For more information about Custom Fit and Short term Intensive Training programs in Utah, please visit www.ucat.edu/business/industry.
In FY 2011, the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) enrolled approximately 56,000 college and high school students throughout the state, including more than 14,000 in the Custom Fit program. UCAT currently offers several hundred short- and long-term certificate training programs. UCAT offers programs for high school students and adults. In addition, eight Utah institutions of higher learning offer credit and non-credit Applied Technology Education programs. For details, visit www.ucat.edu.
Utah’s universities have strong long-term ties with the state’s business community. Utah is consistently one of the leading centers for entrepreneurship in the nation, due in large part to the influence of the state’s universities. Utah universities have created exceptional technology transfer programs to help turn ideas and research into viable commercial prospects. In both 2010 and 2011, for example, the University of Utah generated more company spinoffs from home-grown technologies than any other U.S. university, after sharing top honors with MIT in 2009.
In addition, Utah’s renowned Centers of Excellence program, founded in 1986, provides funding and infrastructure to transform compelling university-related ideas into products and companies.
In the 2006 session, the Utah Legislature passed the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, which is fostering research related economic development at Utah’s institutions of higher learning. USTAR attracts top research talent to the state’s research institutions and assists in R&D and commercialization.
For more information on technology commercialization programs in Utah, contact the technology commercialization offices at the University of Utah, Utah State University or Brigham Young University. For more information on Utah’s Centers of Excellence program, visit www.goed.utah.gov/COE. For more information about USTAR, visit www.innovationutah.com
Career and Vocational Opportunities
Utah is home to a number of distinctive professional colleges and Universities.
Neumont University, located in South Jordan, provides accelerated applied technology education programs. Neumont offers 28-month Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science, software and game development, technology management, and web design and development, and a Master of Science in computer science. Students can also obtain optional IBM, Microsoft, Sun and other certifications during the course of their studies. Neumont’s hands-on, collaborative and project-driven approach helps graduates currently earn an average starting salary of approximately $60,000. Stevens-Henager College, founded in 1891 as a business college in Ogden, is an accredited private college that offers Bachelor’s and Occupational Associate’s degrees in healthcare, business, information technology and graphic arts. Stevens-Henager students can complete an Associate’s degree in 15 months and a Bachelor’s in 30 months, with day and evening classes beginning each month. There are currently five Stevens-Henager campuses in Utah—Logan, Ogden, Provo/Orem, Salt Lake City and St. George—and two more in Idaho. There are also Utah satellite locations in Layton and Lehi and another in Nampa, Idaho.
Western Governors University (WGU), headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a private, non-profit online university founded by the governors of 19 Western states, and supported by numerous U.S. foundations and corporations. The only accredited university in the nation to offer competency based, online degrees, WGU offers certification and Masters-level programs in teacher education and a variety of bachelors and/or masters degrees in business, healthcare and information technology. Currently, WGU leads the nation’s universities in the number of programs and students involved in online teacher certification, credential and licensure programs.
Other leading vocational/career college options in Utah include Argosy University, Devry University, Eagle Gate College, Everett College, the Keller Graduate School of Management, the Roseman University of Health Sciences, the University of Phoenix, TechSkills, Upper Limit Aviation, Utah Career College and the Utah College of Massage Therapy. Utah’s institutions of higher learning continue to be an irreplaceable source of learning and innovation, providing rich academic and professional resources for current and future generations of students to mine and leverage.