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2012 October 29 - 12:00 am

POLITICS and POLICY: Utah Gov. Announces Push To Boost Higher Ed

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert has announced an ambitious plan for ensuring that 66 percent of Utah’s adult population has a post-secondary degree or certification by 2020 — a proposal that will come at a cost.

The goals detailed at the Governor’s Annual Education Summit also included reaching 90 percent proficiency among students in third, sixth and eighth grade reading and math, and achieving a 90 percent high school graduation rate.

“As we compete in what is now a global economy, education will be the key and the catalyst that sets Utah apart,” Herbert said. “An education system that aligns perfectly with the needs of the marketplace will do wonders in spurring economic growth and innovation.”

Many of the lawmakers, education and business leaders who attended the summit at Salt Lake Community College applauded the plan, but others expressed concern about whether funding would come through or if the timeline for achieving the goals is too short.

The plan calls for 13 percent of Utahns to hold a board-approved certification, 14 percent with an associate degree, 28 percent with a bachelor’s degree and 11 percent with a graduate degree.

To pay for it, state school board members plan to seek more K-12 per-pupil spending, and request that lawmakers fully fund enrollment growth.

The Utah higher education system will ask lawmakers for another $20 million a year. Commissioner Dave Buhler said the system plans to match that money with its own $20 million contribution as a way to provide more financial aid and accommodate more students.

The Utah College of Applied Technology system is also expected to request more funding as it aims to triple the number of certificates it awards by 2020, according to Robert Brems, president of the system.

“It’s not going to be easy, but it is absolutely a necessity,” Herbert said. “We have work to do.”

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