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  Enrollment "Pause"

After several years of the Legislature failing to fund enrollment growth, the president of the University of Utah in 2003 said that the institution could not grow anymore and therefore would institute an "enrollment pause" to cap enrollment and not take more unfunded students. (This occurred at the same time that the university had just adopted more stringent admissions requirements.) At the time, the university estimated it already had about 2,800 unfunded students. According to one observer, there was little pushback from the Legislature and governor on this, perhaps because the university has the highest cost per student and the bill runs up quickly when more students enroll. Fall 2003 enrollment figures show that the university did not increase its head-count numbers from 2002, though it did show a slight increase in Full Time Equivalent (FTE) students.51 The enrollment cap (and steady head-count enrollment) did not affect enrollment at Salt Lake Community College, as one might have expected, given that these are the only two public institutions in Salt Lake City. Enrollments at SLCC did not increase by any more than were initially projected, making it unclear where, if anywhere, students turned away from the university might have gone.

What is perhaps most interesting about the enrollment cap at the University of Utah is how rare such action is at any of the state's institutions. The state's philosophy has traditionally been one of emphasizing access and growth. In the early 1990s when the budget was not going to be sufficient to fund enrollment growth, the USHE argued that it would not be able to enroll the unfunded students. Enrollment figures show, however, that growth did continue despite the lack of funding for enrollment growth in that year.52 A 1999 editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune responding to one legislator's call for Utah Valley State College to put in place enrollment caps if the state did not fully fund enrollment growth reflects the culture of the state:

    Lawmakers should view enrollment caps as the last option. The Utah System of Higher Education offers citizens an educational service that many Utahns find of great value. For years, citizens have flocked to colleges and universities in above-average numbers, but their traditional support could erode if enrollment caps that closed the doors for their children and grandchildren were adopted.53

This philosophy against turning students away has helped to continue to provide access to students, even during slower economic times.

51 Utah System of Higher Education, "2003-2004 Enrollment Reported for Utah's Colleges and Universities," press release, October 22, 2003.

52 Utah System of Higher Education, Data Book 2003-2004,Tab C, "Enrollments," Table 40: Utah System of Higher Education System Total Projection 2002, (Salt Lake City: 2003), p. 42.

53 "College Packed," editorial, Salt Lake Tribune, Sept. 1, 1999, p. A10.


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