Jeffrey Kinsel currently serves as the Student Regent on the Utah Board of Regents but in making these suggestions and observations he is acting as an individual and not in his capacity as a Regent.
All students in Utah’s publicly-funded colleges and universities face an urgent and critical threat to the quality of our education as a result of the severe budget crisis our state faces. Unless we act quickly to let the legislature know how important higher education is, serious and possibly lasting damage will be done to these institutions and the entire state as a whole.
I have the privilege of representing all 160,000+ students in our public institutions as the Student Regent on the Utah Board of Regents, although I am speaking as a concerned student and not as a regent. The Board of Regents oversees higher education in Utah, so I am particularly aware of the difficult reality we face.
Most students are not aware of the funding cuts that have been implemented in the recent past. Thanks largely to the dedicated efforts of college and university presidents and administrators and the state Office of Higher Education, these cuts have been absorbed in ways that have had the least possible impact on students. However, the most recent cuts are beginning to have direct impact on us through such things as larger class sizes, not being able to get into required courses when we need to, outstanding faculty and staff leaving, various services being cut and in other ways.
Because much of the “fat” has already been cut, the size of the additional cuts being considered by some in the legislature inevitably will cut further into pure muscle and bone. The result will directly affect each of us. If nothing is done, institutions may have to impose caps on enrollment, impose drastic tuition raises and cut entire academic programs. Even if funding is restored in future years, it will take a generation to return Utah to the quality and high standards we have today because of the time it takes to hire quality faculty, re-establish academic credibility and re-establish undergraduate and graduate degrees.
To make things even worse, our institutions are trying to accommodate more and more students each year. 24,000 students have been added at the same time the school’s base budgets have been drastically cut. This year alone, we saw 7% growth in enrollment statewide.
The funding picture is not totally grim, however. Governor Herbert has proposed a budget to protect higher education from further cuts and maintain previous funding levels. This cut will still hurt (especially with the increased enrollment strain), but not as much as the much deeper cuts that some in the legislature are considering. It is essential that ALL legislators hear from as many of their constituents as possible urging them to support higher education and limit any cuts to no more than what the governor has proposed.
Join the Facebook group, “Utah Students for Higher Education,” to find out how to contact your legislators. The group contains tips on writing, suggestions of what to say and additional links.
Time is short! The critical decisions will be locked in within the next few weeks, so it is essential to take a few minutes and act today. Please email right away and get parents, other family members and others to contact the legislature as well.
Our future and the future of Utah are directly connected. Now is the time to let the legislature know how important it is to protect both!