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 $69.1 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 2015-16 Utah, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $7.5 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 54-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, Utah students’ savings from WUE alone have added up to $25.6 million, yielding a 39-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
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Programs and Participation.

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.

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 2015-16 Utah’s students and families saved over $7.5 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 2015-16, 960 students from Utah are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving some $5.6 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $5,861. In the last 10 years, students have saved $45.4 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 2015-16 Utah received 1,377 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Utah has sent 730 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 2015-16 the state received two students and $30, 050 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 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 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 2015-16 Utah sent 87 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 131.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

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

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.

Utah was also a member of WICHE’s College Access Challenge Grant Network, which allowed the Utah System of Higher Education the opportunity to learn from other states, share best practices and lessons learned, and receive current evidence-based research. WICHE staff also presented the findings of the eighth edition of its Knocking At the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates report to members of the Utah System of Higher Education.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750-member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become 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, and the University of Utah are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in cooperative 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 one of the most informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. 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, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, faculty success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies 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.

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 billion. 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.