Praise and progress

President Matthew Holland presents the annual State of the University address. Gibert Cisneros/UVU Review

In his annual state of the university address, President Matthew Holland had two major points. First, “The state of the university is sound.”   Despite this, the bulk of his speech described the different ways that the school expects to change in the next 10 years.

Principally, Holland said that the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities came in November and continued the university’s accredited status.

Holland summarized the NWCCU’s final take by saying, “We are commended for doing more with less, but we cannot continue in this trajectory and survive.”  In order to illustrate this point, Holland made a comparison to the Brooklyn Bridge. Before the bridge was constructed, common thought was that a bridge can either be short and structurally stable or long and unstable.

But New York’s wide East River required a long bridge and it expected to experience a high volume of traffic, so it needed to also be stable. This, in Holland’s opinion, mirrors this university’s attempts to allow student population growth while still maintaining a small school feel and student-centered experience.

Holland said that maintaining growth shouldn’t be difficult. In fact, he showed a projection that estimates the school’s student population at over 40,000 in 10 years and despite the difficulties that it causes, Holland said the mission of the school will not change.

That is due to some recent statistics that have troubled Utah legislators, especially one that shows that only 39 percent of adults in Utah have degrees.

“We used to be a top ten state [of adults with degrees],” he said. “Utah currently ranks 24th in the country. We are heading in the wrong direction.”

Because of this, the state of Utah has encouraged UVU’s efforts to increase the number of students who attend here. The trick, he said, is making sure that the school grows along with the number of students.

Standing in the way of growth is the lack of physical facilities. Holland said that he hopes the state will approve and pay for three new buildings on campus. Two more buildings would be paid for by private donors and some bonds that the school currently has.

Another problem is transportation, and Holland said, especially parking.  “Parking is already the number one complaint that reaches my office right now,” he said.    Associate Vice President of Facilities Planning Jim Michaelis projects that a new parking structure will be completed in two and a half to three years. Holland hopes that will lessen the problem.

The school also intends to hire more professors, increase general staff and streamline its curriculum to encourage timely graduation.

At the bottom of Holland’s list of possible solutions was “restricting enrollment.” But he said that this is not an option he is fond of.

“Restricting enrollment is a last resort, a dead last resort,” Holland said. “Restricting growth wouldn’t fly in the face of the university’s mission and role.”

As he was closing, President Holland said that the greatest compliment that he got from the NWCCU during their visit last semester was that the school, despite rapid growth, “remains a student-oriented institution.”

According to his state of the university address, Holland thinks that staying that way will be the school’s major challenge over the next 10 years.

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