As a guidance counselor at Davis High School, Christine Burrows has no problem convincing seniors to go to college. Figuring out how to pay for it is another thing.
Burrows was one of more than 100 high school counselors who attended a conference Wednesday at Salt Lake Community College, geared to teach them how to help more students get into college.
News last month that two state-provided scholarships are being cut back hasn't been well-received by parents and students who have spent years trying to qualify for the one-time scholarship.
Recent across-the-board budget cuts have slashed the state's New Century Scholarship, which would have given high-achieving students 75 percent of their tuition for two years. The same students can now only expect to get 40 percent of tuition covered. A similar Regents' Scholarship, introduced last year, will cover only 55 percent of tuition costs, as opposed to a specified dollar amount that was promised last year.
Officials expect those amounts to continue to decrease as they are left with fewer options to make necessary cuts.
"Fewer will be getting it, due to too much demand and too little money available," said Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education William A. Sederburg. Utah's System of Higher Education needs more than $3 million to meet the demands of both programs. The only solution to dispersing the money in the future, Sederburg said, may be to increase academic standards for the scholarship.
"The Regents' Scholarship has been the biggest draw for a lot of students hoping to get some extra help paying for college," Burrows said, adding that counselors now have to be much more creative, keeping up to date with varying admissions and enrollment requirements from schools all over the country.
The one-day conference, put on by USHE, provided participants an opportunity to ask questions and to seek information from Utah's higher education institutions, both public and private. The conference gives college administrators a chance to work more closely with counselors at Utah's school districts, which is necessary to create a seamless transition for students, according to SLCC Vice President Mason Bishop
"The only problem is that we need more of you," he told the counselors.
In addition to more counselors, University of Utah economist Pam Perlich said that in order to ensure a successful economic future for the state, government needs to invest more in K-16 education and take steps to redefine curriculum requirements while also increasing the competency of all students.
"It's in all our best interests to get these kids to be successful," she said. "When you put money into education, you're not buying a pastrami sandwich. You're investing in a human." She said careful planning and individualized training will enhance education in the state and ensure successful communities.
"You cannot plan for the future based on a supersized version of some idealized past. It ain't happening. We have a different world; it's much more competitive, much more multilingual, multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious, much more interesting," Perlich said, adding that the statistics are the makings of a "great social experiment."
To make it work, to be successful, Sederburg said improvements need to be made. The proceedings of the conference can be found online at utahsbr.edu.