I'm Kerry Bringhurst. Each week we look forward to our conversation with Utah State University's president Noelle Cockett. This week is no exception, as we're coming off graduation ceremonies statewide and here on the Logan campus. Despite everything, President Cockett, there's been a lot to celebrate.
NC: I think this, shall we call it 400-day break, has made us really prioritize what makes us so strong as a university. And that is that in-person contact, in-person activities, events. Every bit that's been added has been a celebration.
KB: Is it too early to talk about what numbers we might be looking at as far as fall and students coming to campus to attend class? I know there's a lot of construction underway, not only on the Logan campus for housing, but in the communities off campus and in different areas of the state through the statewide campus system. Are these housing units going to be filled?
NC: One of the things we did was postpone registration. And so next week, students will start registering. We've actually increased occupancy to 70% of what the classroom can hold. That means that a lot more students can be in the class at any one time. Last fall, we had about 35% of our classes that had a face to face component. We think it'll be closer to 82%. You know, we know the longer you sit out from college, the more likely you are not to return. So we've really worked hard to get our students to come back.
KB: I'm wondering, there are so many job openings right now, especially in the service industry. Any concerns or talk about how potential students might be swayed to maybe take a year off again and work and earn some money before coming back? Is that a conversation anyone is having on campus?
NC: We have that conversation, even without the pandemic. And what we try to show our students is their earning power is so significantly improved with a college degree that staying out a year to, you know, work at a service job say in a restaurant — while that'll give you some cash right at that moment — it actually affects your long term, your lifetime earnings very significantly. So try to get as many of those credits as you can and get done, and then go out and get the job that that degree helps you get.
KB: Has the inability to hire people, has that affected Utah State University at all?
NC: Yes, actually, the facilities have remarked that they have many open jobs right now for facilities, specifically landscaping and maintenance of our buildings because, you know, there's just a labor shortage. And I know that around in Logan, at least, lots and lots of job openings have been posted. So, you know, that might be another option for people. Come stay in Logan during the summer and, you know, experience how beautiful it is. Because the job market is definitely there.
But for the university, we have been nervous about that. The Cache community, I think, felt bad the spring semester where they normally had, you know, 15,000 students. That number went down significantly, affecting people who could do a part time job.
KB: President Cockett, next week we can get an update on some of those numbers that you have mentioned as we look forward to fall. In the meantime, we will keep our listeners up to date of any changes when it comes to USU policy and the COVID-19 pandemic. President Noelle Cockett at Utah State University, thank you so much for your time.
NC: All right. Thanks, Kerry.