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Strategic Plan for Postsecondary Education in Utah


In August 2018, the Utah Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission contracted with NCHEMS to develop a statewide strategic plan to meet the future needs for higher education in the State of Utah.

Topics Challenges Approach Impacts Resources


NCHEMS was directed to focus on a time horizon of 20-30 years in the future to ensure that the resulting plan was innovative, adaptable, and focused first and foremost on the needs of Utah students, taxpayers, and employers.


NCHEMS’ quantitative and qualitative analyses led it to identify the following findings and observations:

  • Utah’s postsecondary structures operate without a tight connection to a clearly articulated and widely recognized set of state goals.
  • Utah is growing, but the growth is uneven across the state.
  • Utah students attend college close to home.
  • Utah has low postsecondary participation rates and completion rates for traditional-aged students.
  • There is a worsening imbalance between baccalaureate and sub-baccalaureate degree production in Utah.
  • Widespread demand for educated talent, especially in technical skills at the sub-baccalaureate level and in specific programs at the baccalaureate level.
  • There is a relatively low wage premium for postsecondary degrees.
  • A need to better serve adult learners.
  • Affordability is an issue in need of more attention in the years to come.
  • It is our observation that several key policy leadership functions have gone untended in Utah.


NCHEMS gathered extensive data from publicly available sources and from sources in Utah, especially the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE), the Utah Technical College System (UTech), the Kem C. Gardner Institute Policy Institute at the University of Utah, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services. These data provided the basis for a broad-based environmental scan, fed the development of heuristic models that NCHEMS created, and generally provided the quantitative foundation for the resulting report. NCHEMS also used these data to help facilitate a series of site visits to all of Utah’s workforce development regions where we gathered the perspectives of educators, local employers and civic leaders, and local workforce and economic development experts. This tour ensured that the resulting plan captured important variation in the conditions facing, and needs for, postsecondary education and training in all parts of the state. Finally, NCHEMS appeared several times before the Strategic Planning Commission and also remained in close contact with its Co-Chairs throughout the process.


The Utah Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission formally approved NCHEMS’ report and forwarded it to the legislature in November 2019. Many of the recommendations have been implemented including a revised governance structure, changes to the funding model, steps to ease transfer, especially for general education and technical courses, actions that improved affordability for students, accelerated efforts to implement new models of learning, and enhanced the ability of students to gain credit for prior learning assessment.