Utah Legislature gives more than $60M to Southern Utah universities

Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In its recently concluded general session, the state Legislature approved funding for the expansion of Southern Utah universities.

Dixie State University

Recognizing Dixie State’s commitment to student success, the state Legislature allocated $15 million toward a campus expansion project and more than $3.7 million in new university appropriations during the 2021 legislative session, according to a press release issued by the university.

“We are incredibly fortunate to be located in a state that values higher education,” Dixie State President Richard B. Williams said in the statement. “As I meet with administrators from other institutions across the country, I am more and more convinced that there isn’t a state in the country that treats higher education as well as Utah does.”

The Legislature’s $15 million allocation toward campus expansion will enable Dixie State to purchase roughly 183 acres at Desert Color in St. George. The university is preliminarily planning for the land to be home to Dixie State’s innovation, entrepreneurship and health sciences programs.

Undated 2021 photo of Dixie State University, St. George, Utah | Photo courtesy of Dixie State University, St. George News

Dixie State will conduct a master planning process for the property to determine if this plan is the best use for the space and if it is, academic offerings housed on the extended campus will prepare students to meet Washington County’s healthcare workforce demands, which are expected to continue to grow because the county’s senior population percentage is double the state average.

“I want to thank our state legislators for their forward-thinking approach,” Williams said. “The best time to plan for the future is now, and this additional land will allow DSU to do just that.”

In another display of support, the Legislature allocated more than $2.88 million in ongoing funding to assist with Dixie State’s campus needs. In addition to being awarded to help meet the university’s general needs, this funding will help the university continue to offer engaged learning experiences in a variety of academic fields.

The Legislature also provided Dixie State with $300,000 in ongoing funding for development of the DSU Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth Program, previously reported on by St. George News, the first effort of its type in Utah, according to the statement.

Led by DSU’s Director of Concurrent Enrollment Kevin Simmons, Nathan Caplin, JD, and Rep. Lowry Snow, the program will offer a variety of university courses through live, interactive, virtual media to incarcerated youth to increase participants’ education attainment, reduce rates of recidivism and improve employment opportunities and outcomes.

The program is available to high school students as well as those who have completed their high school diploma or GED and leads to a certificate of general education completion and career and technical education certificates.

(L-R) In this Jan. 1, 2021 file photo, Rebekah Snow, Cade Gardner and Sierra Sahleen, all Dixie State University student hires who helped develop and design the ParksPass app, visit Snow Canyon State Park to present the app to Gov. Spencer Cox in Utah | Photo courtesy of Sierra Sahleen, St. George News

Additionally, the Legislature appropriated $300,000 in one-time funding to further develop the ParksPass mobile app. As part of this project, Dixie State, Southern Utah University and Dixie Technical College students, faculty and staff are collaborating with Utah Division of Parks and Recreation and industry experts to create an automated system that will allow visitors to purchase day-use passes electronically prior to entering Utah state parks.

DSU also received $249,600 in ongoing funding to create the BioSTACKS Pathway for student achievement. Dixie State is partnering with Dixie Tech, Washington County School District and industry partners on this strategic workforce investment project.

The integrative program will enhance the development of the biotech and biomedical industries in Southern Utah by creating a biotechnology certificate program at Dixie Tech and a biotechnology associate degree at Dixie State as well as leveraging existing certificates, degrees and coursework. In addition to creating a pipeline of talented students, BioSTACKS will offer the students themselves several pathways to acquiring job-ready skills.

Southern Utah University

The Legislature also approved funding to construct a new classroom building at Southern Utah University, according to a press release issued by the university. The $43 million legislative appropriation will construct a 90,000 square foot building that will add 14 new classrooms, seven computer labs, eight teaching studios, and numerous faculty offices. The new building was previously approved during the 2020 legislative session but delayed because of the impact of COVID-19 on Utah’s economy.

Southern Utah University campus in Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

SUU President Scott L Wyatt expressed his gratitude to members of the Legislature for their continued support of the university.

“It’s been a long year since this project was first approved by the legislature and this new facility couldn’t come at a more critical time,” he said in the statement. “As SUU continues to grow, it is essential we meet the needs of our increasing student population. This academic classroom building will be a welcome addition to our campus footprint.”

The three-story building will be located on the corner of 200 South and 800 West, just south of the America First Event Center. It will house the art and design department, SUU’s new film studies program, the history, sociology and anthropology department, the mathematics department, portions of the aviation department and some faculty and staff members from other academic areas.

Approval of the new facility was spearheaded by the southern Utah legislative delegation – Sens. Evan Vickers and Don Ipson and Rep. Rex Shipp.

“I’m very pleased with the way SUU embraced the challenge to design and build a classroom building with an intentional eye to fiscal responsibility,” said Ipson, who is also vice chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, adding that finding new solutions has been a collaborative effort to ensure a beautiful building that is flexible, adaptable, cost-effective and meet the needs of SUU students for years to come.

The design of the new building maximizes square footage efficiency and preserves much of the current Multipurpose Quad. Parking for the building will be in a new lot across the street and in the stadium parking lot to the west. The final design of the building has been completed. SUU will now coordinate with the state Division of Facilities Construction and Management to issue bid documents for the selection of a general contractor.

Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2021. The building will be complete and ready for classes spring semester 2023.

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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