State Highlights

WICHE and Utah

Partnering for Over Six Decades
Year joined: 


► Thousands of students from Utah have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, Utah students and their families have saved $74.9 million since 1988, when the program was founded.

► Utah has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► Utah has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2016-17 Utah, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $8 million through WICHE and spent $145,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 56-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, Utah students’ savings from WUE alone have added up to $26.6 million, yielding a 39-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
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Programs and Participation.

Utah is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2016-17 Utah’s students and families saved over $7.8 million. Utah saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. Utah students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond Utah’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1988. In 2016-17, 942 students from Utah are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving some $5.8 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $6,163. In the last 10 years, students have saved $47.7 million.

Utah benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. Utah’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in Utah after graduating. In 2016-17 Utah received 1,523 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Utah has sent 737 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in a host of critical fields, including optometry, podiatry, and veterinary medicine. Historically, some 69 percent of PSEP students return to Utah to pursue their professional careers. In addition, in 2016-17 the state received eight students and $187,758 in support fees from other Western states.

Western Regional Graduate Program. Utah’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to more than 400 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 59 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2016-17 Utah sent 95 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 116.

Interstate Passport is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

Utah gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

One of WICHE’s most widely known publications is the Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates series, which for almost 40 years has provided strategic data about how high school graduates are likely to change in the years ahead. The 9th edition of Knocking at the College Door, released in December 2016, describes how the nation has entered a decade of stabilization in the number of high school graduates, with substantial contraction in the number of White high school graduates and rapid increases of non-White populations. After about 2025, the nation and most states will produce fewer high school graduates than in recent years, due to a recent “baby bust”. The WICHE region will generally track the national trend, but it will be less impacted by the contraction of White youth and more influenced by a projected 20 percent increase of Hispanic high school graduates through 2024 and then decrease by about the same amount between 2025 and 2032.

There is an abundance of information on, including the publication and other reports, projections data, interactive data dashboards, recorded webinars and presentations, and Utah’s state profile, which indicates that:

  • Steady increase in the number of high school graduates is projected for Utah, increasing about 37% from around 34,000 graduates in 2012 to 45,000 in 2026. The number of high school graduates will then decrease about 8% between 2026 and 2032.
  • The number of Hispanic high school graduates in Utah will increase rapidly through 2026 but then drop substantially by 2032, while the number of White graduates steadily increases. So, the non-White portion of public high school graduates increases only slightly, from 18% to 21%, between 2012 and 2032.

Policy & Workforce Development.

Utah has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid. Utah decision makers also keep current on pressing policy issues developing all over the nation through WICHE’s extensive network.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, was an 800-member learning network that united organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities included an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE became national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key policy issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education.

Additionally, Dixie State University, the Utah System of Higher Education, the University of Utah, and Utah Valley University are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), the chief academic leaders of the four-year institutions and their related system and state agencies, who address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Salt Lake Community College is a member.


Several Utah colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health.

The Division of Behavioral Health in Utah has not been active with the WICHE Mental Health Program for more than a decade. During FY 2015, WICHE was engaged by the state psychiatric hospital to support a quality improvement process.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions.The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact  MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. Utah is among the WICHE states that are members of W-SARA in this reciprocal relationship.

Other Initiatives. 

Utah's Westminster College participates in the Master Property Program (MPP), which helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) in 1994, and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 160 campuses with total insured values of over $103 million. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardware and software products and services.

Former Commissioners.

Dan Campbell, chair, Utah Board of Regents; Bonnie Jean Beesley, chair, Utah Board of Regents; William Sederburg, commissioner, Utah System of Higher Education; Richard Kendell, Regents Professor, Utah Education Policy Center, University of Utah; David L. Gladwell, former senator, Utah State Senate; E. George Mantes, former member of the State Board of Regents; Cecelia Foxley, consultant and former commissioner of higher education at the Utah System of Higher Education; Aileen H. Clyde, former vice chair of the State Board of Regents; Senator Lyle Hillyard; Dale Zabriskie, principal owner of Zabriskie and Associates and a former member of the State Board of Regents; attorney Steven Snow; and Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, general authority of the Church of Latter Day Saints.