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Dixie State sets high goals for enrollment, degrees

5-year plan calls for almost double the number of students

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ST. GEORGE — Over the next five years, Dixie State College plans to almost double its enrollment and nearly quadruple the number of bachelor degrees handed out.

The lofty projections were presented, as part of the college's revised master plan, to the Utah State Board of Regents during a strategic planning meeting on the St. George campus on Thursday.

Frank Lojko, director of institutional research and governmental affairs for the college, said the trends show that higher-level degree attainment in Washington County has declined substantially in the recent past.

"That is very disturbing," he said.

The college plans to mimic what's happening with population and economic growth in the region and increase its student enrollment from 3,982 full-time equivalent students to 6,000 in the year 2012. To do that, college officials want to increase recruitment efforts, but also vamp up retention rates and provide additional programming to meet the needs of the economy.

"We're no longer a haven for senior citizens," Lojko said. "We have a large population that needs to be served."

The biggest sector of the population in the county that the college plans to serve includes specifically those ages 24 to 35, which has grown to more than 20,000. Census data reveals the majority of this population moves into St. George with partially finished credentials.

"That is why it is such a big part of our strategy to get that age going back to school and get them a degree," said Dixie President Lee Caldwell.

The college plans to hand out 600 bachelor's degrees in 2012, an increase of about 475 four-year diplomas. Those degrees will be available in the current programs, but also in 17 new academic areas the college anticipates adding to its curriculum.

"We need to address the low bachelor degree attainment in this town," Lojko said.

In order to meet the specific needs of the area, the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research will be conducting a study, to be completed in the fall of this year, that will pinpoint sectors that need attention. The college will use this data to better accommodate the city's growing economic needs.

"We're committed to making this work and it will benefit all involved," said Stephen Wade, Dixie's board of trustees chairman. "We're not abandoning our community college mission. We believe in it but we need other things."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com