USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson is breathing a little easier after fretting over what kind of an enrollment hit the regional college might take from the missionary age change by the LDS Church.
Adding to the pressure is the ongoing challenge of redefining the college since its merger with Utah State University in 2010.
While the newly emerged USU Eastern remains the state’s only comprehensive regional college, its distinctions have been somewhat eclipsed by the Logan-based university.
Kristian Olsen, USU Eastern director of Enrollment Services, said that he considers the 2010 union to be like a marriage. Both institutions now share the same name but they still retain important singularities with unique strengths and distinctions.
USU Eastern promotes itself as having the heart of a community college with the soul of a research university.
The potential of USU Eastern is to be a destination baccalaureate institution in the same way that Logan is a destination baccalaureate and graduate institution.
Peterson said, “If we start cranking out 40 to 60 baccalaureates every year, people will start thinking of us not in terms of a small community college, but in terms of an emerging baccalaureate producer, like Weber State and Utah Valley University.”
Olsen adds, “We love that we offer the best of both worlds. We embrace our small college offerings while riding the coattails of a world-class university. No other regional college can say that.”
But if emerging from the shadow of USU has not been enough of a challenge, the LDS Church announcement lowering the mission age provided plenty of new heartburn for the college, Peterson said.
The announcement came soon after he had launched an ambitious initiative to raise total enrollment at the college by 4,000 students in four years.
To be on track for the goal, the college needed to enroll 2,150 students this year. While 2,129 is slightly short of target, Peterson said it is a welcome number in light of the school’s recent challenges.
By next year, the college hopes to see another increase of at least 470 students. To reach that mark, the college is centering on degree offerings and expanding students from minority populations.
As communities change, adapt and grow, Peterson said the college will be there every step of the way. USU President Stan Albrecht envisioned one university that is geographically dispersed. The spirit of that message is that a baccalaureate offered in Price or Blanding is a USU baccalaureate.
“It is our win,” Peterson said. “It is our victory. It’s the university’s victory if Price and Blanding are able to rise up and provide this.”