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UVSC keeps its distance from tech center issue

Utah Valley State College officials are distancing themselves from the political machine pushing a measure to fund a full-scale technical center near Snow College.

Trustee Marlon O. Snow said the Orem college does not want to be perceived as a school trying to pawn off its original mission of offering vocational training to another school in favor of liberal arts education."The whole thing is coming about very quickly," Snow said at a recent trustee meeting.

Administrators and student leaders at the only public college in Utah County are being careful not to appear that they are playing behind the legislative scenes while awaiting a verdict from the Utah State Board of Regents on a proposal to add 25 bachelor's degrees by 2003.

Rep. Bradley Johnson, R-Aurora, sponsored HB114, which would make the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center part of Snow College. State school board leaders last week passed a resolution asking a legislative committee to study the ramifications of such a move.

The measure, which has been voted down twice by the technology center's governing board but favored by Utah State Board of Regents as a priority bill, would turn the technology Center into Snow College South, under regents' oversight.

A citizens group clamoring for easier access to higher education and trade training at a local community college is the driving force behind the proposed legislation.

Those who oppose the move believe trade/tech training will take a back seat to college courses if Snow is handed control of the campus.

It's all deja vu for UVSC administrators who have seen the 13,000-student institution grow from a fledgling state-sponsored trade school in 1945 to a community college in 1987 to an accredited four-year state college.

But the most recent - and dramatic - growth plan endorsed by Utah Valley trustees and students has been met with cool reticence

from the state's higher education governing panel. Regents will discuss the proposal at a March 13 meeting in St. George.

Some regents and presidents at the state's eight other colleges and universities have raised questions about duplication of services within the system of higher education. They also wondered if UVSC administrators intended to slowly ease away from offering vocational training in favor of more traditional academic courses on way to earning university status.

"There isn't anything that we are proposing that would take us away from the vocational training agenda," said Paul Sybrowski, trustee chairman, who is driven to quell concerns the school is stepping away from it initial mission. "We want to add to that agenda."

Lucille Stoddard, vice president for academic affairs, said UVSC embraced its mission as a four-year school with an emphasis in technical training before Weber State University changed its scope to also offer vocational courses in addition to various bachelor's programs.

Now, she said, Utah Valley should be allowed to become more akin to the Ogden school in its academic leanings. Also, explosive growth, coupled with low Mountainland wages, create a burgeoning need for a public school that offers both extensive trade training and more than five four-year degrees, Stoddard said.

"We are unique and needful," she said. "That's the message we are trying to carry."