With Utah legislation putting pressure on its institutions of higher education to achieve the state’s “Big Goal”—to have 66 percent of Utahns obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020—the administration at UVU is trying to expand the state’s largest institution for higher learning with the least amount of government funding.
At the most recent board of trustees meeting held on Oct. 18, the hottest topic was how there isn’t enough money right now and what they needed to do to get more of it.
“They’ve got to do something to redress the inequalities that we suffer with in this institution,” said President Matthew Holland. “Our community should be, frankly, frustrated.”
Even with the university’s first drop in overall enrollments this year and being the third year with a drop in freshman enrollments, the administration and UVU Board of Trustees are looking to expand the campus to accommodate the school’s student body.
“Pardon Our Dust” posters around campus have become common sights. That won’t be ending very soon as there are plans to expand campus an additional 250,000 square feet, offering approximately 60 new classrooms—ranging in size from 40 to 150 seats—200 new offices for faculty and staff, approximately 20 new study rooms and a 1000-seat auditorium.
“Classroom building is goal number one,” Holland said.
The current price tag attached to the new expansion is $55 million, having recently jumped from $50 million after a rise in material costs.
Currently, UVU is tied for first with Weber State University on the legislation’s priority list for funding expansions like this. Weber, which has what’s been called a “desperate need” for a new science building, is looking for the same money that the administration at UVU wants to use for these new expansions.
With the plans already drawn up, the UVU administration hopes that will give this university the edge in seeking the funding.
“If we’re funded, construction can start right away, but if Weber is funded they’ll have to wait for a year to plan,” Holland said. “Our commitment is to be shovel-ready at the end of the legislative session.”
But looking for specific project funding like this isn’t the only money trouble the university is facing from the state. A study by the Utah State Board of Regents revealed that while UVU receives about 40 percent of its budget from State money, the other public institutions of higher education receive, on average, 10 percent more.
And while funding is an obvious and publicly documented problem at UVU, it’s not the only money issue the school has had to face. A recent internal audit conducted by Jacob Atkin, the relatively new director of internal audit, revealed some discrepancies in the payroll.
“We’re working on getting it under control,” said trustee Ron Hawkins. “None of them rose to a level of concern of integrity, but more on procedures that needed to be followed more closely.”
The review, which covered seven internal audit reports completed over the summer, revealed issues in payroll procedures and their approval. The problems were widespread, with one unnamed program exhibiting particularly severe issues, though the specifics of these issues were not discussed.
The Board of Trustees is looking over the problem with a watchful eye, planning to solve it by having supervisors be more aware and cautious regarding the approval of overtime and the proper payroll procedures.
Alex Sousa is studying journalism in UVU’s communication department. He’s serving as the managing editor at the UVU Review as well as the editor of the music blog on uvureview.com. He’s had experience working as a freelance writer and also as a copy writer at a marketing agency. Currently he’s working as the Editor-in-chief of the Utah Tech Magazine, an interactive, digital publication. He’s a Utah native who’s traveled around the world; having lived in Mexico, backpacked through Europe, studied in the Middle East and—for a time—been stranded in the Ukraine. He can be found on Facebook and he’s available on Twitter @TwoFistedSousa or by email at [email protected]