UBTech enrollment posts growth, despite COVID-19
By Lezlee Whiting
Student enrollment numbers and membership hours at Uintah Basin Technical College experienced growth during the month of July when compared with last year, despite upheaval due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
“I am excited about what the future is going to bring,” said UBTech Vice President of Instruction Tammy Wilkerson. “We know that COVID is going to create some challenges, but we will move forward with whatever the challenges are.”
Student enrollment in UBTech’s programs rose by 37 percent from the previous year, with 172 students enrolled in July.
Student membership hours, or classroom time, jumped by 73 percent. A large part of the increase is attributed to a new evening Practical Nursing cohort. Business programs doubled their hours compared to July 2019.
Students returned in-person to UBTech campuses in Vernal and Roosevelt in May when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert allowed the Uintah Basin to move from the orange to yellow phase, and then in June to the green phase, which further eased restrictions on the size of public gatherings.
This allowed UBTech to welcome students back for face-to-face instruction, a critical aspect to the hands-on education they receive at the technical college.
Business programs are doing well on both campuses, said Wilkerson. “Our business programs had students all summer which was really exciting.”
The college’s CDL and IT programs currently have wait lists of students ready to enroll as soon as space is available, she noted.
According to Wilkerson, over the summer adult students were enrolled in numerous evening programs including welding, nursing, automation, and IT.
Eric Hough and Garrett Osiek both completed the CDL program over the summer months.
After three years of trying to figure out how he could support a family and earn his CDL, Hough said when the length of the CDL program was reduced from 13 weeks to 6 weeks he could finally make the commitment and enroll – and it took place during the summer of COVID-19.
Having his CDL is “life changing,” he said. He was offered a job even before he completed the program. He started driving long-haul for that company the day after graduating.
“Bo (Dalton), my instructor is awesome. He is a rock star!
“Having your CDL you can get a job wherever you want,” said Hough. “I have nothing but good things to say about it. Nothing but good.”
Osiek enrolled at UBTech over the summer to not only earn his CDL, but also his Certified Nursing Assistant certificate. With those in hand, in late August he began the Practical Nursing program at UBTech.
He has a career goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist, yet at the same time is keeping his employment options wide open, as evidenced by his decision to earn his CDL.
“A lot of people are scared of getting an education because they worry it will cost too much, take up too much time,” said Osiek. “The good thing about UBTech is the class schedule and the biggest thing is when I took CDL, NA and now PN, I pretty much have paid just for the cost of books. I haven’t had to go in debt for thousands of dollars.”
And, he added, “once you finish any of these programs you are immediately eligible to go into the work force. When they see your resume they say, ‘you went to a technical school’ and right off they know you have experience.”
UBTech continues to follow social distancing, mask wearing, sanitizing and other procedures to provide a safe learning environment as both post-secondary and secondary school students continue to return to the classroom.
During the thick of the COVID-19 crisis when the campuses were closed, UBTech continued
student learning through the utilization of Canvas, a learning management system which helped students continue their education on-line, said Wilkerson.
“It is a great way for student – instructor communication. It is an all-inclusive learning management tool, accessible any time,” Wilkerson explained.
Later students were taught through a hybrid of face-to-face and on-line classes, depending on COVID restrictions at the time, said Wilkerson.
“With classes resuming Canvas will continue to be utilized but students are expected to be in the classroom. Canvas is a supplement to their education,” Wilkerson said.