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The Community College Mission in Utah


In 2022 and 2023, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) contracted with NCHEMS to conduct a study funded by the Utah Legislature “to analyze current community college-related educational services and identify long-term strategies that address Utahns’ ability to access an affordable, accessible, and workforce aligned postsecondary education.”

Topics Challenges Approach Impacts Resources


  • USHE wanted to understand recent enrollment trends; most institutions had been experiencing steady enrollment growth, but the one exception was the state’s single traditional comprehensive community college.
  • The system also wanted to identify how well it was meeting the needs of all types of students in all parts of Utah for community-college-level education and services, in the context of a state that has only two community colleges. Much of Utah’s “community college” education and services are therefore offered by a unique mix of dual-mission institutions, technical colleges, and the state’s land-grant university.


The “community college mission” includes a wide range of services (e.g., transfer degrees, workforce-oriented degrees and certificates, noncredit offerings, high school dual enrollment, developmental education) and multiple different audiences (e.g., high school students, recent high school graduates, adults, employers). It was NCHEMS’ task to tease apart how all elements of that mission were being carried out by different types of institutions in different regions of Utah, as well as how those differences impacted both the access and success of different types of students and Utah’s ability to meet its workforce needs.


  • NCHEMS analyzed data from state and national sources on enrollment, student demographics, participation rates, population trends, cost and financial aid, graduation data, workforce supply and demand, and comparisons of Utah to other states.
  • We visited all of Utah’s technical colleges, community colleges, regional universities, and its land-grant research university to listen to stakeholders about the community college mission in each of their contexts.


NCHEMS provided a number of recommendations for how USHE and the Utah state legislature could improve the state’s community-college-level offerings and services. USHE plans to carefully consider each of our recommendations and make improvements.