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Episode 158: The Brand New Salt Lake Community College Campus in Herriman Offering New Affordable Options for JSD Students

It is the state's largest two-year college, serving more than 60,000 students, offering 120 areas of study on 10 campuses in Salt Lake County

On this episode of the Supercast, we sit down with Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin. Find out how the college is making higher education affordable in ways you may have never imagined. And, how Jordan School District students can benefit from a new SLCC campus in Herriman.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It is the state's largest two year college serving more than 60,000 students, offering 120 areas of study on 10 campuses in Salt Lake County. On this episode of the Supercast, we sit down with Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin. Find out how the college is making higher education affordable in ways you may have never imagined and how Jordan School District students can benefit from a new Salt Lake Community College campus in Herriman. 

We're here at Salt Lake Community College with President Deneece Huftalin. Thank you very much for taking time to talk with us.

Deneece Huftalin:
It is a pleasure to be with you. I'm happy to be here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Since becoming Superintendent, I've had the chance to meet with you on a regular basis, and I've loved seeing your enthusiasm for getting the word out about Salt Lake Community College. And the opportunities that not just high school age students, but people in the community have. The opportunities here to build from wherever they are. And you've just talked about some of the misunderstandings that people have about financing and what's available here. So I just thought it would be great for us to sit down here at the start of the school year and give some information to parents and students about the opportunities that are available through Salt Lake Community College. 

Deneece Huftalin:
So I can talk all day. How long? I've got lots of ideas to share with parents and students.

Anthony Godfrey:
All right, let's do it. Let's talk right now. Let's just dive into it. What are some of the financial resources available for students? I know that's a lot of people, that's their first thought when they're thinking about college. 

Deneece Huftalin:
So the number one reason students tell us that they don't come to college or they leave college or is finance, and so I have several things I wanna say. First of all, college is more affordable than most parents think. And that is because I think they get a lot of news, national news about student debt. And most of that debt is driven off of Ivy League, high end, private liberal arts colleges who have really enormous tuitions. And often students never pay that sticker price anyway. Community College is not that. We do not have outrageous tuition. Our tuition, in fact, we're the lowest in the state for tuition and fees. And if you fill out the FAFSA and you qualify for federal financial aid, what's called a Pell Grant, we actually pay the difference of whatever you don't get through the feds, we will cover through a scholarship.

So for those students that are really maybe in the low, low to mid income brackets, who might qualify for a full Pell Grant, we will cover any difference that there is. So for certain students, college could literally be free. Now, not everybody's gonna qualify for a Pell. And so there are still some other ways that you can finance. So we have lots of scholarships that are available. We have lots of ways that we can help you understand what subsidized loans mean and whether that's the right way for you and your family to go. We're also starting to try to hire more people on campus that are students. So if you have to work, that's okay, but work on campus. Because if you work on campus, you're more likely to graduate. You're more likely to finish faster and probably with a stronger GPA. So the first thing I would say is to parents and students, you can afford SLCC. Make sure you talk to your advisor in high schools to figure out how to do that or come and see us and we’ll help you map that out.

But I would also say, and a lot of people are really worried about filling out the FAFSA for a variety of reasons. Some of them, I understand if you're, if you're a student that's has undocumented status right now, that can be very scary. There are scholarships for students that are undocumented. You don't even have to go to the federal forum. You just come talk to our folks in our dream center, we can help you fill that out. A lot of folks don't want to fill out the FAFSA because they don't want to share their tax information or they can't find their tax information. The IRS is making it easier now to pull that data from your tax right into the FAFSA form. So it's getting simpler and simpler. So before you run away from the FAFSA, which could actually give you free money, really, I want to  just implore parents and students to do it. We leave as a state, almost $32 million on the table, every year of free money that people could use to come to college. So FAFSA is your friend, sit with your college advisor. Most of the high schools now have college access advisors that can help you fill out the FAFSA. And that's just a remarkable resource that is really underutilized. So that's a big thing I wanna say.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell me more about the technical credit certificates.

Deneece Huftalin:
Salt Lake Community College has degrees that we offer. So Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degrees. We also have certificates in our technical college. And so within Salt Lake Community College, we have both degrees that help you transfer to another institution and get your bachelor's degree. But we also have short term certificates that are technically focused, like welding or truck driving or diesel mechanics. That tuition is subsidized at a higher rate. So it's much cheaper to do a technical college certificate than it is a degree granting degree, if that makes sense. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Just the fact that there are technical college certificates available separate from degrees is a really important point. Because I think there's this misconception that coming to Salt Lake Community College means a step away from trades or away from careers like that. But if you are interested in those careers, the training is really gonna propel you.

Deneece Huftalin:
Yes. And so we are actually, we have always had the technical college embedded at Salt Lake Community College, but I think it's gotten lost in the shuffle a bit. So we've pulled it out this year and we're branding much differently. So Salt Lake Technical College, you're gonna start seeing that. You're gonna hear that on radio. You're gonna see ads. That's us. That's Salt Lake Community College and it's short term, technical credit at a much less expensive price point. For those short term certificates that are really skills based and are gonna get you out in the work world. And what's great about those is you can come and do a six month certificate, get a job, start making money. And then if you decide you wanna come back, many of those will transfer right into like an associate of applied science degree. So you can come back in a year or two and stack some general education onto that. And maybe now you have a degree that maybe helps you get even more upwardly mobile in your career. So students don't recognize that we are that Technical College, but we are, and they can find lots of information on our website. 

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the other programs offered at Salt Lake Community College that are sometimes overlooked?

Deneece Huftalin:
I think it's not necessarily programs that have been, you know, overlooked. But I want students to understand that we are in the business of helping them discover what they care about. So if you don't know your major, that's okay, come on. You at least know that you love the arts or you love science or you are thinking about business. That's okay. That's as much as you have to intend right now. And then we'll help you refine that over the first, you know, first semester that you're here through lots of different resources.

Anthony Godfrey:
So it's generals with a purpose. With a focus.

Deneece Huftalin:
Yes, exactly. Because what we found out, and this is a big shift to us, Community Colleges, and even some four year institutions, for years had a whole catalog of courses you could take just to explore and figure out what you were passionate about and there's merit to that. Right? There's merit to that kind of wandering and exploring because you take a class that you had no clue you loved. But we also found that students were wandering so long that they were spending money and time and it wasn't tracking into a degree and they started to feel either lost or like they were wasting their time. And in some cases they're wasting financial aid. I would argue you're never wasting anything when you're learning, but I understand you want relevance and you wanna be, you know, you wanna be efficient. So we're trying to help students be much more intentional on the front end. You don't have to zero in on the exact program, but we want you to at least get a little intentional about one of those major areas of study.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you wander with intent a little bit. 

Deneece Huftalin:
I love that. That's a good way to say it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Stay with us. When we come back more with President Huftalin and how your student can benefit from a brand new Salt Lake Community College campus right here in Jordan District located in Herriman.

Break:
Hello, I'm Sandy Riesgraf, Director of Communications for Jordan School District, and we want to invite you to connect with us. So many exciting things are happening in your child's school, your neighbor's school, in every school here, every day. Don't miss out on following the fun or simply staying informed when there's important information we need to share. Join us at jordandistrict.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jordandistrict. We can't wait to connect.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the ways that Salt Lake Community College is expanding?

Deneece Huftalin:
Yes. Love that question. So I would say two things. One is that we are what we call an emerging Hispanic serving institution. And what that means is nationally, the federal government designates certain higher ed institutions as Hispanic serving. And they do that when your student body becomes 25% or higher Hispanic or Latinx, we are at about 23% right now. And so what, what that means for us is that we have to pay attention to that demographic. And we have to look at the services and the curriculum and the way we do our business and do it with a lens towards serving Hispanic or Latinx students in a successful way. If that makes sense. So we're emerging. We haven't earned that designation yet, but we are expanding our thinking and our programs and our services to be a more welcoming student body, a more welcoming classroom environment for Latinx students. So, we're not really expanding, but we're expanding our thinking, right? And in our service. 

The other way we're physically expanding is our Herriman campus. And this one, I could just jump up and down for joy about that.

Anthony Godfrey:
We’re excited about that. Very excited.

Deneece Huftalin:
So if you haven't been to Herriman, and many of you are right there, that's coming out of the ground right now. A building that will open in next August 2023, we’ll be ready for students. 

Anthony Godfrey:
Amazing.

Deneece Huftalin:
It's a building that's going to house both Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah. Right in the same building. So students can come right from high school, do their associate degree with us, walk across the hall, do their bachelor's degree. Never leave that Southwest quadrant, right? Save time, save money, save gas, all of that. So we're thrilled about that. And we want you to watch for that, especially those of you that are in Herriman high schools. We're gonna be out and about this fall and early spring, we have some exciting scholarships that are gonna be available for Herriman high school students to come to that campus. We've got scholarships that are intended for students that live in that area that have some college, but they never finished their degree. And we're gonna say with some financial help come back and we're gonna help you. Whether it's the U or us, we're gonna help you finish. So that's really exciting. And we're right across from the Monarch stadium and where Monarch plays, the Real Academy. It's a beautiful building. We have 90 acres on that campus, so we're gonna grow even more over time down there. But I just think it's really exciting and we're happy to have a pipeline for all those amazing students that you have in your high schools. And we want 'em to come to us and to the U.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's a thrill to have you coming to the neighborhood. And to have that partnership with the University of Utah. You can start at Salt Lake Community College and you can move to trades, to a university. There are all kinds of places you can go with this as your launching pad.

Deneece Huftalin:
Yeah. I cannot say that enough. A lot of students think of us in one way. And what I wanna say is you can have a six month certificate here. You can have a two year degree here. You can go a lot of different ways by starting at Salt Lake Community College.

I was just last night, I ran into a restaurant quick, and I ran into one of our students and she was just thrilled. She was in her second year here. She didn't know what she wanted to study. She came to Salt Lake Community College last year. She figured it out. She's on track to transfer to the U next year. And she couldn't be happier, but she just had that kind of support. We have small classes. We have faculty that are amazing. I think for many students, we are a high quality college, but we are maybe a little less intimidating than some of the four year universities. And so for some students that have a little, maybe aren't as academically confident as they should be, because they're brilliant we'll help 'em get their start.

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that. And being out in the Southwest quadrant is really gonna make a difference. Location means a ton because it is intimidating to think about going this far away and trying to work, and manage a family, whatever else is going on in your life. So we love that you're coming out to our neck of the woods.

Deneece Huftalin:
Yeah. We realized about, well probably five, six, maybe longer years ago, we had a consultant come in and say, how are you serving the Salt Lake county? You know, are you doing what you should be doing? And what they told us back then was that we were not representing the Northwest quadrant very well. And we weren't representing the Southwest quadrant. And that was a lot of growth. So we put our sites on Herriman years ago and to just see that coming out of the ground, and see that starting to really happen after so many years of planning, I'm so excited. 

Anthony Godfrey:

I know it's been talked about for a long time and it's pretty amazing to me that it's happening in a year that it starts. It's great. You've spoken to this a little bit, but what are some of the misconceptions out there about Salt Lake Community College that you'd like to correct?

Deneece Huftalin:
Yes. I think we've kind of alluded to some of them, but the first one I would say is that you can afford college. One of the things I didn't mention earlier, which is really important, is we've kept our tuition down. We've strengthened our scholarships. We will help you fill out the FAFSA. So tuition and fees we've really focused on, but a lot of students then have to buy textbooks when they go into their classes. And the other thing we've done is many of our general education classes, that most students have to take, we've removed textbooks from the curriculum. We do what's called Open Education Resources. So these are public domain, high quality textbooks. So a student pays $5 instead of $250 at the bookstore and has access to all the materials for the class. So in and of itself, in addition to lowering tuition, now you don't have another bill at the bookstore, right?

So there's all these other levers that we're trying to pull. We have childcare vouchers to try to keep childcare costs down. We have free transportation on UTA and the Frontrunner to try to keep transportation costs down. So we are really trying to think about all of the other costs that, you know, really start to add up for students and try to remove those barriers. So that's a misconception. I think that you can't afford it. 

And the other thing is, you already mentioned it is that we are one thing, right? You come to Salt Lake Community to get an associate degree. No, you can come and get a six month technical certificate. You can come and get a one year certificate that could then stack into a degree. You can come and get a two year degree and go on to the U or Weber or UVU or wherever you wanna go for your baccalaureate degree. So there's a lot of ways that you can go in terms of your learning and your career. 

And then the third thing I would say is that while we do have a lot of students, well, we have all of our students commute. We don't have student housing, yet. We're working on that. But there is a sense of student life here. Like if you're looking for a collegiate experience, right. And you think you can only get that by going to the U or going to Weber. You know, I would argue that our student leaders who are planning events, we have clubs that are very vibrant, very engaged. We have short term study abroad trips that students can afford and can go on. So some of those things that you think about for a typical four year environment, you can find here. It's not just a commuter school where you come and go, you can really get engaged. Our athletic programs are amazing. They always do phenomenal work. They number one in many, many ways. Our basketball team is great. Our soccer team was national champion. So if you want that kind of, you know, collegiate experience, quote unquote, we have that to offer. And a lot of students don't know that.

Anthony Godfrey:
That's great. Tell me about your background and your journey to becoming president of Salt Lake Community College.

Deneece Huftalin:
Well, my background is in student affairs. So when I went to the University of Utah as an undergraduate and I graduated in what was called Organizational Communication. Which really just meant that I was studying, you know, communication in businesses and industry. And it was really a degree that let me go lots of different places. And it happened that when I graduated from the U, I moved to California and I got a job at Stanford in the admissions office. And it was really just an entry level, you know, fun place to work. But what I realized there was that you could actually make a career working on college campuses. I'd never thought about that before. And I loved my college experience and I loved that time of life where you're kind of figuring out who you are and you're being exposed to new ideas and, you know, new ways of thinking.

So I ended up finding student affairs at the higher ed level as kind of a career path. I landed here at Salt Lake Community College in student affairs more than 30 years ago, actually. I'd been around in California and Illinois and I came back to Utah. So I really grew up at Salt Lake Community College. I was mostly in student affairs, loved it. And then eventually became the vice president and really was quite happy working with students. I loved students. But the presidency became open. And I was encouraged to apply by some people that I really admired and trusted. And I've loved it. I'm in my ninth year now as president. And it's just a, I guess I feel honored to be part of this environment and it's fun to represent this environment and it's just fun to see the change and the trajectory that we can play as part of someone's journey. It's cool.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, you're passionate enthusiasm for students and college life and education just shines through every time I see you. So thank you. It's exciting to get to talk with you about it. Any last thoughts for parents and students?

Deneece Huftalin:
I would just say if you're a parent and you have questions, do not hesitate to call or come to a campus and go walk up to one of our information centers and say, I'd love to talk to someone in your admissions office, or I'd love to hear from someone in your advising office. We have really remarkable staff who can answer a lot of questions. And I feel like students and parents often don't take advantage of those resources. So don't stay at home wondering what you should do, come and talk to us and we'll help you get on the right path.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, and congratulations on being so intentional about taking those barriers down to admission and, and making a path forward for people who maybe didn't think this was for them. So thank you for everything you're doing to support our district and our students and families.

Deneece Huftalin:
Oh, it's my pleasure. We love our partnership and we're gonna do even more. So stay tuned, watch for what we can do for Herriman high school and the scholarships.

Anthony Godfrey:
Exciting things are ahead. Thanks again, President Huftalin.

Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.