Trustees outline goals for Snow College, even considering online, four and one-year degrees
By Collin Overton
New Snow College President Brad Cook had some big ideas for the future of the institution at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday in the Noyes Building.
In a presentation to Trustees towards the end of the meeting, Cook outlined what changes Snow might be making in the next strategic plan this fall. Although hypothetical, Cook outlined a potential increase in the amount of four-year programs, an effort to revamp the online program to include one-year associate degrees and the introduction of competency-based learning into the curriculum, among other ideas.
“I’m not attached to this, but it at least gives me something as a platform to mold, and you can help mold it for me,” Cook said to trustees.
Cook had sent out a survey across campus asking students, faculty and staff what they thought was essential about the college and how it could move forward. He noted a striking trend: respondents were willing for the college to take risks moving forward towards growth.
Such chances could include offering more to nontraditional students, more 2+2 programs with other regional colleges and competency-based learning, or the approach that allows students to show mastery in an area at their own pace. Another possibility: a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. Utah colleges recently turned away 900 nursing applicants due to limited space, Cook said. With the demand, Snow could create an anchor program in Richfield and partner with other universities on a joint program.
“We don’t have to own our four-year degrees,” Cook said. “What we can do is partner creatively with four-year institutions.”
Cook explained such adaptations could be vital to the longevity of the college. While Snow’s demographic isn’t shrinking as fast as other colleges across the nation, he said, the college would need to diversify to reach more students. Especially after application rates did not increase from last year, as reported by Teri Clawson, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management.
Snow did, however, have a higher yield this year, meaning more students chose to enroll after being accepted by admissions, Clawson said.
“I don’t think it’s inspiring to say we’re growing for growth’s sake,” Cook said. “That’s not really inspiring and it’s not healthy…our ‘why’ is we want to open up the aperture of a Snow College education to as many people as possible.”
The new president stressed that Snow’s core mission would not change and that the two-year, junior college model wasn’t going anywhere. He likened Snow’s potential to schools like Grand Canyon University, who offer a main campus experience but were able to survive through an ambitious online program.
An improved online program for Snow would enhance the delivery, accessibility and engagement of online courses, as well as accommodate students with scheduling conflicts, Cook said.
In other developments, Vice President of Student Success Craig Mathie gave an update on Snow’s effort to build housing at the Richfield campus. The college sent out a request for proporal (RFP) last fall, but developers shied away for multiple reasons.
Due to current construction projects, the college doesn’t have the revenue to take fiscal risk or guarantee a certain amount of occupancy, Mathie said. So they did a request for information (RFI) for interested parties to exchange ideas. Mathie said the college recently gathered that input and will now do a “more robust” feasibility study to consider downsizing the initial construction phase.
It may be preferable to find developers who could pay out-of-pocket for a smaller initial project, rather than borrow money, and see what success the college has filling rooms, he said. That could entice developers to build on the property and get more students to move in. That could mean filling 50 beds instead of 150 over the first year.
“It’s easier to be the second guy in than the first guy,” Mathie said.
Mathie said Sevier County government has been willing to help. The county commission has plans to generate up to $1 million in tax incentives for the housing development, as well as donate $15,000 to help pay for Snow College’s feasibility study, he said.
The Board also passed a $41,984,300 operating budget for FY2020, up five percent from $39,929,990.28 in 2019. The budget, which went into effect July 1, sets aside more funds to cover construction costs of the new athletics center, three additional faculty members, an additional campus safety officer, compensation for salaries and information technology personnel and equipment. IT is Snow’s biggest expense on the budget, at $556,298.
Another big topic of discussion was Snow’s initiative to meet student mental health needs. In the academic and student affairs committee meeting, Mathie gave an update on the new counseling center, which will be ready this fall and triples the size of the current center. The center will feature five offices and be located next to the business building, Mathie said.
It comes at a time when mental health demands are surging around the country and wait times lengthen at counseling centers. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that that teens view depression anxiety as a significant issue with 70 percent labeling it as a major problem. Trustee Michael McLean shared that he had seen the need firsthand with his son, who had struggled with addiction on top of mental health problems.
“We can teach kids that [being depressed and anxious] is normal behavior, but so is being happy,” McLean said.
Friday’s meeting was also the last for McLean, Mathie and Trustees Chair Scott Bushnell, who were each presented with gifts for their years of service.
McLean and Bushnell started their terms in July 2013 and 2011 respectively, while Mathie retires after 20 years with Snow. Holding a gift wrapped in Snow College colors, Bushnell left the remaining administrators with a challenge:
“Ask yourself ‘What’s my role? What’s my responsibility?’” Bushnell said. “…This is an amazing place and it’s because of you all.”