USU, lawmakers reduce CTE tuition

$270,000 earmarked for USU Moab, GCHS welding program

Utah State University and the Utah Legislature have approved $1.4 million in ongoing funding and curriculum changes for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, including at the Moab campus, according to a statement from USU.

The changes will make the CTE programs more affordable and accessible for students at USU’s three campuses in southeast Utah: USU Moab, USU Eastern in Price, and USU Blanding. The funding and program changes are set to take effect during the summer of 2020.

“These changes aren’t fine-tuning or small tweaks, they’re a seismic shift in how we offer CTE in this region,” said Dr. Gary Straquadine, associate vice president for CTE at USU. “The updates will improve the programs for students and we will see the results of that in the communities we serve as we strengthen the workforce better than ever before.”

The most notable change will be to the CTE program’s tuition, which will be lowered to a level equivalent to that of the Utah System of Technical Colleges (UTECH) tuition. Currently, USU Eastern and USU Blanding students pay tuition equivalent to approximately $8 per membership hour for CTE courses, and USU Moab students pay approximately $16 per membership hour.

Students enrolled in similar courses at a UTECH college pay approximately $2 per membership hour. The recently approved changes in the state legislature will lower the tuition for CTE classes at these USU campuses to the UTECH rate, approximately $2 per membership hour.

Dr. Dave Woolstenhulme, interim chancellor for USU Eastern and vice president for regional campuses at USU, and a former commissioner of the UTECH system, and Straquadine, associate vice president for CTE programs at USU, led the effort to introduce these proposals to the legislature for approval. Woolstenhulme’s experience working with both the USU and UTECH systems, combined with Straquadine’s time supervising the CTE programs at USU Eastern, were essential in proposing the changes and seeing them through approval, according to the statement.

“USU is committed to serving the needs of Utah, from providing affordable and high-quality education, to preparing a workforce that meets our state’s needs,” said Woolstenhulme. “Updating the tuition model for these programs will make a major impact for the students, who can save a few thousand dollars in just a year’s time in their education. These students will graduate with less debt and go on to make valuable contributions to their regional workforce.”

Beyond the tuition reduction, changes to the format of the CTE programs will also be made. CTE programs at USU will all operate on an open entry/open exit course format, allowing students to start a program at any time throughout the year.

Currently, the majority of CTE classes at USU begin and end on a traditional semester schedule. This change reflects the course schedule found at the UTECH colleges, allowing greater flexibility for students for these career skills focused programs.

An additional $655,000 of ongoing funding to develop new programs and support existing programs was secured as part of the legislative session. USU Moab will also receive $270,000 in workforce development grants to build a new welding program to benefit both Grand County High School and USU Moab. This funding will allow labs and workspaces to be built that support students in these programs, and enhance USU’s ability to create new programs for in-demand jobs. “We’ll be strengthening our existing programs, allowing them to be completed faster and for less cost, and also developing new programs to support the local economies,” said Straquadine.

Students enrolled in CTE programs after the changes are implemented will work toward earning certificates based on skills-based mile-markers and membership hours. Certificates will continue to be based on industry-driven and approved curricula and skills, ensuring students are prepared to enter the workforce directly from the program. The certificate programs may also be combined with additional general education college courses at USU for students to earn an associate degree, which will allow them to further their education until they obtain bachelor or graduate degrees, according to USU.