Herriman is one of the fastest growing cities in Utah. Now, it will have its own college campus.

A new combined Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah program aims to enroll students in southern Salt Lake County to get degrees closer and cheaper.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Juniper Building, which will house classes for Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah in Herriman, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023.

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Residents of southern Salt Lake County will now be able to earn a degree much closer to home — with a new campus that comes as the area has topped the charts as the fastest growing in the state.

With a first-of-its-kind combination of programs for the state from Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah, the south end of the valley will be getting its first campus this fall. That is opening in Herriman on Aug. 22.

The new facility will offer a path for students to earn an associate degree through SLCC and then transfer to the U., if they choose, for a bachelor’s degree — all available at the one location.

“It’s the first time in [Utah] history that two higher education institutions have joined hands to open a brand new building together,” said SLCC President Deneece Huftalin.

The selection of Herriman for the campus was no accident. The city’s population has ballooned twentyfold since 2000 — and now houses 55,000 residents — according to the latest census numbers for Utah. And the surrounding cities of South Jordan, Riverton, Bluffdale and Draper have been expanding at similar rates as the south end of the Salt Lake Valley attracts more and more residents.

A campus has been eyed for that area for years. Huftalin said the population of college-aged students there have fallen in a sort of higher education dead zone, lying 20 miles between the major university campuses in Utah — either in Salt Lake City to the north, or Orem and Provo to the south.

With the new campus, proximity is the means for enrollment.

The south end of the county has higher-than-average high school graduation rates but lower-than-average college-going rates, Huftalin said. To her, that proves: “Geographic access matters.”

To mark the grand opening of the campus’ first building, school officials from both SLCC and the U. held a ceremonial “ribbon joining” Monday. The idea was to celebrate the partnership of the two institutions by tying together a ribbon, rather than cutting one.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dignitaries perform a “ribbon-joining” at a ceremony opening the Juniper Building, which will house classes for Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah in Herriman, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023.

The Juniper Building now there is the first of more to come, in the initial $57-million investment. The 92,000-square-foot structure includes three floors complete with classrooms, dining halls, computer labs and more. Once complete, the campus will stretch across 88 acres.

Currently, the campus can serve just over 2,000 students. But it is projected to serve around 7,000 by 2025 — that means it could easily surpass the total population for Utah’s smallest public college, Snow College, in central Utah, according to annual college enrollment numbers from the state.

Most of the students expected to enroll at the Herriman site will have lived and grown up in the region. And it’ll be a significant boost to the state’s current college population of about 192,000, which typically increases annually by about 5,000 students.

That growth, though, took a significant hit during the pandemic. And SLCC saw the brunt of that.

U. President Taylor Randall said part of the idea behind the campus is changing what is means for the U. to be a top 10 public university — and that means changing how it reaches students. Not all students can be expected to make the drive to Utah’s capital city for classes, he said. And not all will start their higher education by getting a four-year degree.

“When I talk about building a top 10 public university what I realized is we’re not going to be able to do that in the same old traditional way,” Randall said at the ceremony. “We actually have to do it with collaboration. Because a top 10 university of tomorrow is actually a top 10 university that thinks really deeply about access and trying to include everyone in the promise of higher education.”

Part of that, too, is not expecting students to pay as much for a degree.

With the setup of combining SLCC and the U., students are expected to save nearly $10,000.

That’s because students will pay the lower cost of SLCC’s tuition while earning their associate degree (about $2,000 per semester); tuition will increase to the U.’s higher rate only when the credits transfer to a bachelor’s program (about $5,000 per semester).

At the start, students will be able to earn an associate degree — or general education credits — in business, economics, education, psychology, general social and behavioral sciences, family and human studies, and computer science and information systems. They can then earn their bachelor’s in a number of corresponding areas through the U.

The hope is to expand options as the school expands to meet the burgeoning region and community’s needs.