Utah Valley University (visited 9/25/18)
This is an interesting, “Dual Mission” institution that combines a Community College with a full Bachelor/Master/PhD granting university, giving all types of students access to programs from hands-on to theoretical. They serve students who already know what they want all the way to those students who may need to prove themselves before moving into a Bachelors if that’s right for them.
The university started to fill a need for specific training during WWII; it is now the largest institution of Higher Education in the state with close to 37,000 undergrads. “There have been lots of growing pains, but we have figured it out, and we’re able to adapt to meet the needs of students.” UVU’s trade programs (44 certificate programs and 62 AA/AS degrees) are nationally ranked, but they also have robust Bachelors and Masters programs. They’re particularly known for providing real life, practical engagement (ie, students in the Mediation class worked in courtrooms).
Students are supported in all aspects, including with good accessibility Services. One student said, “I know I’m going to be successful. I know that I’m cared for and that I’ll be helped and can help other people as well.” The tour guide said that she has loved the opportunities, friends, and scholarships here. At one point, she went through a hard time at home that made it almost impossible to stay, but the profs worked with her to help her catch up. She said that this is an inclusive, safe place for all types of students: “I think it’s more accepting here. There are safe zones, houses for students who maybe can’t stay home anymore.” Some of her friends transferred here because they felt more comfortable.
A big drawback (really the only one I can think of) is that there is absolutely no campus housing at this point, although there is talk of up to 1500 students being housed over the new performing arts center when that’s built. This college, despite amazing academics, would be a hard sell for many of my students from the east coast because of this. However, we passed by a lot of housing complexes directly surrounding the university, man of which are within easy walking distance. Costs are highly affordable (and there are some housing scholarships); rent can range from about $180 – $450 depending single or double rooms and extras offered at the complexes. There’s a free service for students to get paired up with an apartment that meets their needs (costs, etc), and students get free UTA passes; buses come every 7 minutes. There’s also a new transit systems (also free for students ) running between cities.
No housing doesn’t mean that there’s no social life. Athletics are HUGE here. Their basketball team recently was highlighted in “Toughest 24” after they played Duke and Kentucky back-to-back. There’s also a lot of turnout for soccer and volleyball. One of the campus traditions is for students to rush the field after a win.
The Provo/Utah Valley area (just south of SLC) has 60,000+ college students (Brigham Young is the other major university nearby); Utah Lake sits on one side of the city, and the mountains surround the area. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and more are popular; UVU runs a large, active Outdoor Center for students where they can run supplies or sign up for trips. “Sometimes people practice paddle-boarding in the fountain,” said the tour guide.
They bring in 6,000 traditional-age freshmen each year. More than 80% of students self-identify as LDS, and therefore the 4-year graduation rate is low; the 6-year bounces up to about the national average which makes sense when considering that many students take time off for their religious mission work. Incoming students can also defer for up to 7 semesters for military service, religious missions, medical leave, etc so it’s not uncommon to see older non-traditional students.
The campus is modern with large interconnected buildings so students can get from one end to the other without going outside. Signage is obvious within the buildings so it’s not difficult to get around or know where you are. A new Performing Arts complex (with at least 6 stages) will be completed by spring 2019. Their Center for Autism is the only one of its type: they saw a need to train teachers to teach students on the spectrum so they built a state-of-the-art center for education majors. The Health Sciences building looks like a hospital to help students acclimate to working in that environment. They even have a cadaver lab!
The tour guide’s largest class had 160 students; her smallest was 15. Her roommate had one with 6. They offer some highly unusual programs including Mechatronics Engineering Technology, Digital Audio, Emergency Services Administration, Indian Affairs Administration (within PoliSci), Computer Forensics and Security, Forensic Chemistry (within Chemistry), Ballroom Dance (within Dance – ballet and modern dance also available), and Geomatics.
Tuition is very reasonable, and students can declare Utah state residency after living there for a consecutive 365 days (yes, they have to stay over the summer). Some of their scholarships give a 1-year tuition waiver, and then they can qualify for in-state tuition.