Battle of the interests: UVU and open enrollment
One of the biggest problems that UVU faces is growth. With the largest student population in the state with over 33,000 students, serving the regional education needs and improving the seriousness of the institution are, in my view, becoming competing interests.
One of the key components in UVU’s mission statement is to meet “regional education needs.” Since its humble beginnings in 1941 as Central Utah Vocational School, to becoming an accredited university offering masters programs, UVU has gone through its fair share of changes over the years. The question remains: How far does UVU want to go? In order to be viewed as a “serious” institution, UVU will need to implement “serious” admission standards.
Right now UVU is an open enrollment school. If you apply you get in. Ultimately, open enrollment decreases the prestige that UVU can offer with its degree. You can say what you want about the quality of the classes. I think they are great and applicable to real workplace problems. But despite the good experiences you might have here, all someone has to do to bust your bubble is remind you that anyone could have gotten in.
I would disagree with someone who would discredit the value of your education based on whether or not your school was open enrollment. I see it as the equivalent of judging a book by its cover, but people judge books by their covers all the time.
Open enrollment, though, does serve an important purpose. It provides a place to start over for people who did not live up to their potential in high school, or who haven’t been in a school for 20 years. Not only does it offer a fresh academic start to those who need it, but it also gives them that fresh start at a quality institution. I have several friends who only barely graduated high school. Some didn’t graduate but went and got their GED later. Most of them came to UVU and turned their study habits around. Some people just need a little more time to figure out what their goals really were. Some of our nontraditional students haven’t taken classes for years and this is the one place that was conveniently located that they could get in to improve their career prospects.
I recognize that as a current student, increasing the admission standards could only benefit me. Perhaps it would help my degree carry more weight and prestige when I apply for jobs. Maybe I would enjoy the benefits of smaller classes. But in this battle between UVU becoming a more serious institution and how to best serve the community, UVU should remain an open enrollment school.
Of course the university should always be improving itself and its programs but not at the expense of the important role it plays in Utah Valley. As a state-funded school, UVU has a responsibility to continue serving the purpose it was originally built for. If UVU wasn’t open enrollment, the choices become very slim for someone living in Utah valley who doesn’t see BYU as an option. They could commute to SLCC, or complete a certificate at MATC or maybe Stevens-Henager or Eagle Gate College would accept them. But none of them offer the same opportunities that are available here at UVU.
While the draw of recognition is powerful, I believe that in the end, UVU’s mission is better accomplished by providing a great learning environment for those who need a second chance.