|| Mission and Roles Statements
The biggest criticism against the adoption of the baccalaureate at Utah Valley and, particularly, Dixie, is that it represents a classic case of "mission drift" in the state, where every institution wants to "move up" the institutional ladder. This is a similar concern among critics of the inclusion of UCAT in the higher education system: "We have created the community colleges of the future," argues one state administrator, with no place for other institutions to go but "up" if they want to be able to compete for students. "We have two research universities and 18 institutions (if one counts UCAT campuses as 9 separate entities) for 2 million people," argues one college president, expressing a widely held concern that the state is being stretched too thin with regard to funding its institutions.
In 2002 the Board of Regents instituted a Mission and Roles Policy that attempts to avoid further mission drift. The process is supposed to help "configure a system…to meet the educational needs of the citizens of the State of Utah and to maintain system integrity by defining institutional categories."50 The commissioner's staff began development of this policy by describing (on paper) each institution and its mission; institutions were then given about a year to look at how they were defined, and to revise and refine that definition and develop a statement that clearly defines its own role and mission. While most institutions did have some mission and role statement prior to this, according to one administrator, "Most were fairly ambiguous." The commissioner's office is in the middle of the process now, with only the Utah State University and Snow College mission and roles statements having been reviewed and approved.
One legislator sees this policy as "an attempt to address mission drift problems" in the state. A campus administrator pointed to this as a very significant policy that would keep "mission creep" at bay because it would not be very easy to move from one institutional type to another, and would limit institutions to offering only those things that they do best.
Yet many of our respondents doubt that big changes will come from this new policy. A campus administrator warned that this exercise was nothing more than a descriptive exercise where institutions just write down what they are doing at the present time, with no overall direction about the relative balance of institutional types the state needs, just what it already has. "Whatever you have on paper is sometimes second to political expediency," argues one respondent, and as was the case with the push towards Dixie offering four-year degrees, just because the mission statement says that you can't expand in a certain way does not mean that the Legislature will not move to change that mission statement.
The mission and roles policy seems to be an attempt by the regents to reassert its role as the governing body for higher education. The idea is that this process will enable the Board of Regents to keep balance within the system, to avoid further situations (like the Dixie example) where the Legislature was able to push forward a mission change against the wishes of the regents. According to several of our interviewees, however, given the relative power of the Legislature, it is unlikely that if a strong legislator made a similar push for an institutional mission change as happened with Dixie, change may result, regardless of the "approved" mission statement for that institution.
Utah System of Higher Education, R312, Configuration of the Utah System of Higher Education and Institutional Missions and Roles, http://www.utahsbr.edu/policy/r312.htm (October 2, 2003).