SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah officials announced Thursday a new grant program that will allow high school students who qualify the potential of receiving a mixture of federal, state and university funds that would cover their full tuition and fees throughout college.
The hope university leaders have is that it will help bring access to higher education for Utah high school students who are qualified but may not have the economic resources to afford college.
“This program will be a game-changer for students throughout the state as it makes a world-class education an accessible option for all,” Steve Robinson, senior associate vice president for enrollment management at the U., said in a prepared statement.
The program, dubbed the “For Utah Scholarship,” is open for Utah residents who are first-time freshmen who finished high school with at least a 3.2 GPA. The students also have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and qualify for a Pell Grant.
University officials said they have opened up the application process program for Utah high school students applying for the 2020 fall semester.
"We want to reassure that cost is not a barrier to coming to the University of Utah, and maybe more importantly that cost is not a barrier to completing a degree at the University of Utah," U. President Ruth Watkins said at a press conference announcing the program, which took place Thursday at Granger High School in West Valley City.
The program is tied in with the Utah Promise Scholarship offered by the Utah System of Higher Education, which was created by a bill during the legislative session earlier this year, and with the federal Pell Grant funding. Those entities would help cover the first two years of education, while the university would cover the final two years. Students who remain in good standing throughout the four years could graduate without having to pay for tuition or student fees and without dealing with a student loan afterward.
However, enrollees must keep full-time student status at the University of Utah for all eight semesters with at least a 3.0 GPA to graduate without dealing with the cost. Once fully implemented, university leaders expect to invest $2.5 million into the program annually.
This program will be a game-changer for students throughout the state as it makes a world-class education an accessible option for all.
–Steve Robinson, senior associate vice president for enrollment management
The university has made vast improvements to the quality of education, evidenced by Wednesday’s announcement that it had joined the Association of American Universities, and with graduation rates, University of Utah Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dan Reed said during a joint KSL and Deseret News editorial board meeting Thursday afternoon.
He argued this scholarship is a step in the right direction in regards to helping those who can’t afford higher education find a spot at the university. “(It) is really about access and how we think about the other end of the pipeline,” Reed said.
“How do we ensure that every qualified student has access to higher education?" he said. "Because, now, in a 21st-century knowledge economy there is a premium on increasing levels of education. If you come and you succeed, the world is now open to you.”
Reed said the program could help boost Utah’s economy by increasing the number of qualified workers to fill labor positions throughout the state and improve the state’s workforce. The lack of qualified workers has been a concern brought up by state officials, real estate experts and other groups over the past few years.
“We're seeing a need for workers at all the different skill levels. (It) can be challenging for employers to fill those positions when they're fighting for the workers,” Carrie Mayne, former chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, told KSL TV in 2018.
In addition to the For Utah Scholarship, university leaders pointed to a growing online curriculum aimed at helping curb costs for students entering and trying to leave the university with a degree.