Higher education enrollment across the state is consistently rising as the economy continues on a downward slope.

“Our universities and colleges play a critical role in the economic vitality of our state. When job opportunities lessen, people return to college for more education or training.” said Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg.

Utah’s Public Colleges and Universities saw an increase in student enrollment by 9,548 students for the Spring 2009 semester — an increase of 7.42%. Sederburg said that he expects “a continuing growth trajectory in higher education for the 2009-2010 academic year.”

Utah Valley University saw an increase of 1,783 students.

The largest increase in student enrollment has been with open enrollment colleges and universities like Utah Valley University, Salt Lake Community College and Weber State.
Elizabeth Hitch, Utah Valley University Interim President, in the State of the University address said that reasons for the increase include the increase of minority and continuing students enrolling for classes.

The student increase brings the problem of space and additional required funding.

“Increased enrollment at our institutions further compounds the challenges our presidents face in a time of proposed double-digit budget cuts,” Commissioner Sederburg stated, “There is serious concern as we plan for the 2009-2010 academic year. Students who are prepared and eager will be unable to enroll simply because course offerings will have to be reduced.”

Salt Lake Community College saw the largest student increase this year. However, Cynthia Bioteau, President of Salt Lake Community College, shares Sederburg’s concerns.

“In terms of headcount, we are seeing tremendous growth,” said Bioteau. “However, these figures do not even account for the additional enrollment growth we are experiencing among the non-credit course offerings that service another 20,000+ individuals at Salt Lake Community College.”

Despite budget cuts, the increase in enrollment during a poor economic environment shows the importance Utahns place on education.

“This system-wide growth highlights the critical role higher education in Utah plays in assisting our citizens in re-tooling and transforming their skills to increase their marketability in a challenging marketplace,” Bioteau said.

“We are working closely with the Governor, his staff, and lawmakers to ensure the State’s continuing investment in our institutions,” said Sedurburg.