Mission creep: UVU should remember those who need it most

Published July 1, 2008 5:37 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Mission creep." The term, defined as what happens when a community college changes its status to a university, has an ominous tone. It sounds like a bacteria that slowly devours the original grass-roots mission being well-served by an efficiently run institution.

Like Utah Valley State College, now Utah Valley University.

Those who pushed for the status change for the Utah County college said the community would benefit by having access to master-degree programs in education, nursing and business. And that is probably true. But if this benefit comes at the expense of students who were able to get college training only because of the remedial and English-as-a-second-language classes and low tuition at UVSC, then the university name and three graduate degrees are not worth the loss.

To be honest, university-status proponents would have to admit that gaining prestige and credibility for the faculty, administrators and donors at UVSC was at least as important as serving the needs of Utah County residents.

But, whatever the motivation, the deed has been done. UVU celebrated its new name and status Monday with a country-Western music concert, tuition for the coming school year promptly jumped by nearly $200, and Utah taxpayers began shelling out $10 million more per year, minimum.

University spokespeople say UVU will continue to serve low-income and underprepared freshmen students and will not forget its original purpose. No "mission creep" here, they promise.

We hope they are sincere and that their promise will not be forgotten. But we hear from some experts that, sincerity aside, those promises are nearly always forgotten once a new university hires a lot of new full-time faculty with doctorates who may be less inclined to have their students' needs at heart than their own career advancement.

Because teaching students who have a difficult time with English and who did not excel in Advanced Placement classes and college-prep courses in high school just isn't fulfilling to some professors who have spent many years bolstering their own academic credentials.

So, now that the deal has been signed and delivered, we hope UVU officials will do all they can to guard against "mission creep" and remember whom they are meant to serve.

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