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Albrecht confident in annual dance with Legislature: ‘We are so good’

February 17th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Natasha Bodily

LOGAN—“I’ve been in a dark mood, so I wore a dark tie,” USU President Stan Albrecht quipped to a conference room full of student journalists Wednesday. Following his recent trip to the Utah Capitol, Albrecht was exhausted from the legislative process. “It’s a constant battle to get a legislator to support higher education.”

Far from expressing a “dark mood,” USU’s president was upbeat Wednesday, taking a wide range of student questions during an hour-long press conference.

Whenever he has the opportunity, he said, Albrecht tells Utah lawmakers about the high return on state investment in higher education, sharing the many positive outcomes of continued support for USU. He shared the highlights of the university’s achievements from the past year.

Albrecht explained to students the state’s two-tiered tuition structure. Individual universities have no control over Tier I tuition, which is set by the state, but each campus sets its own Tier II tuition increases, which Albrecht vowed to hold as close to zero as possible for 2012-2012.

The state Tier I tuition increase will be 5 percent, he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Tier II increases,” he said, promising that USU’s part of tuition increases next year will not exceed 2percent, although his goal is closer to zero.

• See related story on 2012-13 tuition projections.

Albrecht also discussed USU’s growing statewide presence, with regional campuses in Brigham City, the Uintah Basin, Tooele, Price and Blanding. Albrecht said it is more important for students at the satellite campuses to feel they are a part of USU.

He said USU has tried to help students at other campuses feel they are a part of the Logan “mothership,” and has thought about busing students to Cache Valley for campus events, such as athletics.

Concerning a proposed House bill to eliminate tenure for Utah university professors, Albrecht said the measure would not have been a problem at USU, which has a structured process of post-tenure review of faculty in place.

The tenure process is much more challenging than most people realize, he said, pointing to annual reviews for faculty. But he said there is a danger when legislatures try to micromanage universities.

Abolishing tenure, he said, would hurt both USU and the state. “We’d lose our competitive advantage,” he said.

The most recent legislative effort to “micromanage” faculty tenure failed in committee by a wider margin than it did last year, he said, predicting that anti-tenure sentiment is waning.

The president deflected criticisms of student government at USU, which one student said was worse this year than in the past in terms of openness and coordination. Albrecht said students who have such concerns should take them directly to ASUSU leaders.

• See related story on USU campus growth.

Discussing parking, Albrecht said this university has much better parking than many other institutions. Though some new buildings have been built in place of parking lots, he said with Aggie Shuttle, students have it “pretty good.”

He also brought up Blue Square, a combination residential and commercial complex being built west of Romney Stadium, which will offer higher-end housing, cafés and the is a possibility of a parking garage.

Albrecht defended efforts to improve Aggie athletics, saying that although “athletics are the most visible part of what we do,” USU ranks among the top universities for graduating its athletes. “‘Student’ comes first in the ‘student-athlete,’” he said.


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