Salt Lake Community College is closing its Highland Center campus, known for housing the Step Ahead and Healthcare Technology programs, at month’s end. The closure ends a decade-and-a-half presence in the east portion of the Salt Lake valley for SLCC and accommodates a changing student population.
“What we did was look at our demographics, where people are coming from in taking classes,” says Bob Askerlund, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Services for SLCC. As the study revealed, it no longer made sense for the programs offered at Highland Center to remain at that location.
“They’re driving across the valley to go to those classes,” says Askerlund. “It is just crazy for people to drive from the west side of the Salt Lake valley to the east side of the valley to take a class.”
SLCC provided written notice six months ago to not renew the lease of the building, located at 3760 S. Highland Drive. The last classes held at Highland Center were during the Spring 2014 semester.
Also prompting the decision was the ability to provide adequate parking for the site, affected by changes to the areas adjacent to Highland. Negotiations could not resolve the provision necessary for parking, according to Askerlund.
“It started the thinking process of ‘should we really be there?’ and as soon as we looked at the zip code information, it was glaringly obvious that we needed to be elsewhere,” says Askerlund.
The closure allows for SLCC to redistribute its programs closer to where students actually live.
“As we looked at student population and the areas in which they attend different campuses, we can do that by means of [analyzing] zip codes. Those students that were primarily attending the programs at Highland were not even relatively close to the zip codes around Highland,” says Malin Francis, Director of Planning and Design for SLCC. “It was not that convenient for them.”
Most students attending Highland live in the metropolitan area’s southern and western zip codes, areas which have seen the largest general population growth in recent decades, according to U.S. Census information.
The redistribution of academic programs also fits a trend by SLCC to centrally locate related disciplines to a single campus.
“We are thinking it is a much smarter approach to combine those medical programs with the School of Applied Technology [from Highland] with the other medical programs that are the credit programs – Nursing and the others – that are at the Jordan campus,” says Francis.
The move affects approximately 400 full-time equivalent students in the Healthcare Technology programs according to Francis. Among others, these programs include the non-credit Certified Nursing Assistant, Clinical Lab Assistant, Medical Office Administration, and Health Information Specialist.
“We are then also relocating all of the Step Ahead programs to Redwood, and at some time, possibly phase that into our South campus and/or our Library Square campus, but not at the current time yet,” added Francis.
Askerlund says the programs will be disbursed to their new locations by fall semester.
According to both Askerlund and Francis, SLCC is investigating the feasibility of opening a new location on the west side of the Salt Lake valley in response to the demographic findings. Neither could comment further about specifics, nor timeframe, of that plan.
As for an east side presence, SLCC has had a campus there for many years.
“There is quite a history [for SLCC] in the Millcreek area. We had a building leased around the corner – it was the old B.Y.U. center. We leased that building for quite a while,” says Askerlund. “Then we actually bought the building. So it was a pretty successful site.”
When heavy budget cuts were implemented ten years ago, the building was closed and sold. A few years later when the budget allowed, SLCC moved back into the Millcreek area with intent to serve students on that side of the valley.
The lease at Highland Center was a full-service lease with the State of Utah and SLCC did not invest much capital into the building beyond installing furniture and equipment, according to Askerlund.
“It will be easy to vacate,” says Askerlund.