Deneece G. Huftalin: Salt Lake Community College to provide access for even more low-income students

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Graduates take part in Salt Lake Community College's Commencement at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on May 8, 2014.

As an open-access institution, Salt Lake Community College is committed to the idea that higher education should be available to anyone who wishes to obtain it, and we are dedicated to developing ways to make college affordable. Keeping costs down is essential for student success and helps minimize their student loan debt, which can often cripple them financially.

Our tuition and fees ensure that students seeking baccalaureate degrees can save up to $10,000 by first earning their associate’s degree at SLCC and then transferring to one of the state’s universities.

But affordability doesn’t stop with tuition. Three years ago, SLCC debuted an initiative called SLCC Promise, designed to help full-time students cover the cost of tuition when federal grants fall short. To date, our Promise program has awarded $2.75 million to more than 2,000 students, removing a significant economic barrier to obtaining college education.

Beginning fall 2020, we’ll help even more students access SLCC Promise by lowering the program’s minimum credit requirements from 12 to nine. We believe this change will increase access and accelerate completion for the more than 80 percent of SLCC students who work while attending school, and often must take fewer classes to meet employment and family obligations.

Beyond tuition and fees, the next financial barrier is often found in the ever-increasing cost of textbooks. Our research shows some students delay taking a class or take fewer classes due to the high cost of books. Given that data, and in conjunction with our remarkably innovative instructors, we launched Open SLCC, an initiative that replaces textbooks in the classroom with free, high-quality online educational resources. We are proud that since 2014, 133,000 of our students have saved more than $11 million in textbook costs, a savings that helps them minimize delays in earning a degree or certificate.

In this more affordable climate, SLCC offers students an opportunity to earn a degree or certificate, while studying in state-of-the-art facilities, with an average class size of 20, taught by experienced, world-class and caring faculty. High quality, high touch, low cost.

One goal of our state-funded higher education institutions is to meet the needs of Utah industry and businesses by providing educated and well-trained graduates for high-demand jobs.

Community colleges help meet those needs at a significantly lower cost by playing an indispensable role in educational access. SLCC will continue to seek creative, innovative and daring solutions to assist our students in achieving their dreams and launching successful careers.

Our goal is to educate students, who, in turn, will lift their families, their communities and, ultimately, the nation.

Deneece G. Huftalin

Deneece G. Huftalin is president of Salt Lake Community College.