State of the University 2014

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Faculty, staff, students and community members filled the Ragan Theater as President Holland delivered his annual State of the University address last Tuesday. Holland presented an evaluation of the university’s pertinent issues, including building expansions, increasing state funding, faculty compensation and the continuing decrease of student enrollment.

Holland began by celebrating the triumphs of Olympians and UVU graduates Noelle Pikus-Pace, Akwasi Frimpong and Chris Fogt. All have faced tribulations and overcome them to ultimately represent the United States in the Olympic Games.

“In these athletes and their quest, there is something going on very much like what we are aspiring to as an institution,” Holland said. “I see so much of what UVU is and seeks to be in terms of being a large and hospitable place to all, whatever our differences may be.”

There have been significant strides this year made toward the university’s commitment to inclusion. UVU received its second statewide GearUp grant to assist low-income first generation students in preparing for college. UVU also hosted the governor’s Native American Summit in August, marking the first time in eight years that the event took place on a university campus.

The new Wee Care Center opened in September, allowing students with children to have an alternative to paying for daycare. The facility was paid for in entirety by private donations from the community, including a $2 million donation from Utah County philanthropist Barbra Barrington Jones.

This year’s developments reflect public generosity as the total amount of annual fundraising was the second-largest in UVU history. Including Vivint and Todd Pederson’s $2 million investment in January, UVU has received over $5 million in donations for the fiscal year.

Holland plans to use fundraising as an opportunity to provide the expansion that he believes is vital to the university. Enrollment projections indicate the student population is expected to increase to over 40,000 students by 2020.

The added installment of the Classroom Building, which is currently under construction, should ease but not entirely fulfill the demand for learning space at UVU. Holland referenced the arts students, whom he believes could surge their potential if they had the adequate resources to do so.

“Both our students and faculty are regularly distinguishing themselves with regional awards in dance, music, theater and the visual arts,” Holland said. “Just imagine what they could learn and accomplish if they had anything close to the adequate teaching and performing spaces which they currently lack.”

Holland proposed developing a new arts building positioned at the southeast edge of campus.  Early estimates project the cost of the building to be around $30 million. Concept art for the building features an innovative design, new stage, more classrooms, and performance areas.

He acknowledged that the lack of state funding would mean a considerable portion of the cost would need to come from outside sources. Upon initialization, this will be the largest fundraising effort undertaken by UVU.

Though building developments and expanding resources are necessary, Holland revealed that his first priority is faculty compensation. This year, the Utah System of Higher Education will request a 3% performance-based compensation pool for faculty along with retirement rate adjustments and a 9.5% medical and dental rate increase.

“Faculty compensation is at the top of my legislative priorities for UVU,” Holland said. “As much as we may need an arts building or faculty and staff program support, I know that an additional compensation bump is vital to everyone. UVU continues to focus on building a total compensation package, including benefits, that aligns with our various markets.”

While the university continues the effort to secure compensation funding, it will also continue to increase state equity funding for other sources to improve overall campus functionality. Holland explained that UVU receives the lowest level of state-appropriated financial support per student than any other institution in the state.

Legislators, regents and system presidents created a budget proposal for the Utah System of Higher Education with compensation as the highest priority of state funding. The proposal designates UVU as the primary equity funding recipient with 42% of equity funds. With this change in appropriation, UVU will receive more equity funding than in previous years.

With this new proposal for equity disbursement, Holland plans to put a ‘significant dent’ in the university’s funding problem. Through the coming year, UVU will continue to expand and provide more opportunities for students to gain experience and a resume.