An independent consulting firm hired by the State Board of Regents has concluded a preliminary study of higher education that looks favorably on Utah Valley Community College becoming a four-year school.

The Deseret News has learned that a draft report by North American Education Research of Olympia, Wash., indicates UVCC meets the standards recommended by the firm for becoming a four-year school. The study was commissioned in July after a committee appointed by Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr decided the issue needed to be examined objectively. Some committee members are opposed to converting UVCC.Paul Rogers, Orem, a regent and committee member, said Wednesday that the report provides appropriate guidelines and standards for establishing a four-year college. When the criteria are applied to UVCC, it "looks favorable," he said.

"I don't know that that's the case," said Cliff LeFevre, Clearfield, a regent and committee member. "It would be foolish for me to make any statement to where it's headed. . . . It was not all cut and dried issues."

Committee members, higher education officials and legislators who have seen the preliminary report were generally unwilling to discuss the report's contents. They said there would be changes to the document before it is presented to regents in December. The regents will study the report and make a recommendation to the Utah Legislature before its 1992 session.

"It would be premature to speak to that subject until the board gets the final draft and releases it to the public," said Rep. Norm Nielsen, R-Orem.

The report was presented to the committee Tuesday.

UVCC President Kerry Romesburg, a committee member, said the committee and the consultants discussed the report at length during a daylong meeting.

Romesburg said committee members "greeted the report with mixed feelings."

Other committee members include regent Fred Stringham, Weber State University President Paul Thompson, Utah State University Provost Karen Morse and staff members from Kerr's office.

Kerr formed the committee after the Legislature in January directed regents to study the feasibility and costs of making UVCC a four-year school. The committee broadened the scope of the study by asking the consulting firm to look at the need for more four-year colleges on a statewide basis. The firm was to develop criteria for establishing two- and four-year schools in a community.

Last February, the regents formally opposed legislation that would have forced them to prepare a 1993-94 operating budget for UVCC as a four-year institution, calling it premature and too costly.