Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is this the end of Trades at UVSC?

Back in January of 2004, UVSC's monthly Board of Trustees meeting ventured away from the cozy confines of their wood-paneled boardroom in the Student Center and braved the wilds of Heber City to visit the Wasatch Campus. Safe from the prying eyes of reporters from the local rags Trustees and various VPs were free to speak their minds without fear that it would end upon the front page the next day. And while you can find the planned agenda for this meeting on the Board of Trustees website you won't find any record of the actual minutes there. By the way, minutes from that meeting do exist, board members voted to approve the minutes from that meeting the following month, but for some reason they don't appear on the website.

After a few procedural votes, Bill Sederburg dispensed with the usual format and broke the participants up into several small groups to spitball ideas of where they thought the school would be headed in 5 years.

After 15 minutes or so, the groups reconvened and shared their ideas, with Big Bill writing the ideas on a giant whiteboard. Of course the idea of becoming a university was batted around by a few (most thinking it was still much further off in the horizon). When it came time to talk about the future of the Trades program, there were several participants that spoke of the Mountainlands Applied Technology Center and their expanding role in trades training. That is when VP Cory Duckworth spoke up and said "Maybe it is time we start discussing dissolving Trades?" The room went quiet, but nobody disagreed. The genie was out of the bottle

Since that time Trades at UVSC has seen a drop in enrollment, real estate, and relevance. In 2005 the School of Technology, Trades, and Industry was rolled in with the computer science and engineering crowd to form the School of Computing, Engineering and Technology. There has been a steady push by administration to push trades in a far more technical direction and bring their curriculum up to university standards. Old-timers in the Trades have fought the transition tooth and nail, and meanwhile enrollments at the much-cheaper MATC grew.

Which leads us to an article in this morning's Tribune that puts a new spin on the decline of trades:

Union between colleges studied:
Students would be able to earn applied science degree through the curricula at two schools (Salt Lake Tribune, July 18th 2007).

The article says their is a proposal on the table that would allow Utah College of Applied Technology school's to offer Associate of Applied Science degrees in cooperation with colleges and universities throughout the state. Currently UCAT schools, like the MATC, only offer Associate of Applied Technology degrees, which are only recognized within Utah. AAS degrees are a more universal standard, recognized by most states.

For many in the UVSC administration the fact that trades students could only get AAS degrees from them and not from MATC, was the difference that kept the program afloat. After all, why would students interested in an AAS degree go to UVSC when they could get the same degree from MATC for a fraction of the price?

Of course this proposal by UCAT is still in the preliminary stages, but if this happens it could be the beginning of the end for trades at UVSC.

UPDATE: An article in the Trib points out some of the advantages of choosing an applied technology degree over traditional higher education:

Nontraditional path to educational certificates paying off for many Utahns (Salt Lake Tribune, July 30 2007)

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