Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) held a joint news conference with President Tuminez at Utah Valley University in support of the Fund for Innovation and Success in Higher Education Act on Wednesday.
The FINISH Act was introduced July 26, with bipartisan support from Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The bill seeks to allocate preexisting federal funds for the creation of programs to increase college enrollment. If funded, FINISH would be used to test and replicate programs that help students graduate, approve five pilot initiatives each year and make instructional content more widely available to students.
In research for FINISH, McAdams took part in a roundtable discussion to determine how Utah Valley University has implemented first-generation and enrollment programs. McAdams, Tuminez, various faculty members and two non-traditional students were present at the meeting.
Of the 38,000 students attending UVU, 80 percent of students are considered non-traditional or part time, 80 percent work in addition to attending school, 36 percent are first-generation and 32 percent are older than 25 years old.
“The university has some incredible programs,” McAdams said, pointing to programs such as I Am First, childcare services and UVU’s assistance for new American citizens.
“You should start with Utah Valley University’s open enrollment policy, that welcomes students with open arms, no matter what their circumstances are. That’s why I think Utah Valley University is a national leader,” McAdams said.
McAdams, a non-traditional student himself, also spoke of his college experience, the difficulty returning from a two-year Latter-day Saint mission, the need to live with his’ mother and working multiple jobs in order to graduate from the University of Utah.
He is still working to pay off the remainder of his college debt but hopes to be finished before his children graduate high school.
Tuminez had several academic obstacles of her own. She began her college experience when she was 15 years old in the Philippines, eventually earning a scholarship that allowed her to attend school at Brigham Young University. She also worked a part-time job as a research assistant.
“It is a great endorsement that one of our political leaders has noticed the things that we are doing here are UVU,” Tuminez said. “I think the FINISH bill he’s working is about risk-taking and innovation in higher education. We have to show that it works. So that’s our task. We have to show that it works and then we’ll be able to tap into federal funding.”
More than 120 Universities have endorsed the FINISH Act. McAdams’ hopes to have the bill passed by 2020.
Photos by Jonny Morris