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Higher education is taking a big step forward in south-central Utah through the establishment of a new University Center at Richfield.

The center will offer bachelor's and master's degrees through three institutions without students needing to attend classes on those campuses.There has never been a college or university in Richfield, but some outreach classes have been given at the state's Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center. Those facilities will be used to house the new University Center.

"The Center is a very effective and cost-efficient way to deliver higher education services to citizens in a part of the state where citizens otherwise might not have such services afforded to them," said Cecelia H. Foxley, the Utah Board of Regents' chief executive officer and commissioner of Higher Education.

Director of the facility will be Ruth Jackson of Richfield.

She was chosen from among 50 applicants for the position and is a former member of the Sevier School District Board of Education, the SVATC Board and president of the Utah State School Boards Association.

Regent board member K. L. McKiff, Richfield, concurred with Utah State University President George Emmert that this may be only the beginning for better higher education offerings in the Richfield area. He also invited other institutions to participate.

Snow College, Southern Utah University and USU are involved in a joint effort in providing classes and instructors at the University Center. Snow College will provide 40 percent of the courses, with SUU and USU combining for 60 percent.

Classes at the new center will begin in September at SVATC.

Jackson promised to look at what is being offered, build on what is already in place, and then start to look at other needs. "I will work with high school counselors in the area, superintendents, civic leaders in the surrounding cities and counties, and then we'll take it from there," she said.

Emmert said the university is pleased to be working with the other institutions in providing additional higher education for residents of the area. "We look forward to more offerings in the future."

Jackson noted that the University Center will reduce the cost of an education in the area. "We should be able to align courses to allow people to complete their degrees without having to leave home. That will have a real impact on a lot of people."