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Looking into the Snow College crystal ball, school leaders see a future with updated athletic facilities, new classroom buildings and student housing, additional course offerings and contiguous footprints that tie into the biking and walking paths of its surrounding cities.
The college, with campuses in Ephraim and Richfield, is unique in Utah's higher education system because of its two-year mission and its small enrollment of just more than 5,000, according to Jacob Dettinger, Snow's vice president of finance.
And while there are no plans for Snow to mimic sister Utah colleges that have adopted four-year formats in the past decade, Dettinger said administrators see a need for an enhanced campus and community experience.
"We want to try and add features to make it a more residential-type experience for students," he said. "We hear [from] many, many students who want to come, but it's a two-hour drive and they don't have any place to stay."
Those features are included in a new master plan for Snow College that Utah's Board of Regents recently approved. It identifies locations for potential new buildings, which would fill in some of the geographical gaps between existing campus structures.
While most additions are decades away, Dettinger said, other projects are expected to begin in the next few years. The main priority for the short term, he said, is adding student housing and dining at Snow's Richfield campus, which primarily serves the school's career and technical education programs.
The master plan anticipates that Snow will partner with a private developer to build dorms in Richfield, and Dettinger said the administration could begin accepting bids near the end of this year.
"We don't have anything [residential] on the Richfield campus that the college owns," he said. "And there really isn't any private-owned student housing."
At the Ephraim campus, construction has begun on a new science building, scheduled to open in fall 2017.
And Dettinger said the school hopes to begin next year with a series of phased updates to Snow's football stadium, adding lighting for night events, concessions and updated bathroom and locker-room space.
"I think it was built in the '60s and it hasn't been remodeled since then," he said. "There's not enough lockers for each [Snow] player to have one, and the visiting team has to walk across the street and use the activity center."
The college also wants to transform the segment of Ephraim's Center Street that runs through campus by adding parking and links to bike and pedestrian paths.
Dettinger said Ephraim leaders are supportive of that change, which would create a more closed campus for Snow.
"It would be great if the college took over that road," he said. "You still could have traffic going through it, but in all reality, we hope this would slow down the speed."
Utah's colleges and universities routinely update their school master plans, but Gary Carlston, who was appointed president in 2014, said his administration was interested in a comprehensive revision.
Drafting the plan was "energizing," requiring a series of discussions with students, city leaders and community members, he said.
"It was, honestly, fun," Carlston said. "We're really focused on the quality of the experience of our students on both campuses."
School staff also are looking into the creation of a four-year degree program in computer engineering software. That program would bring Snow's four-year degree programs to two, including the bachelor's degree in music the school currently offers.
"We will look, and are already looking, at an additional four-year degree," Carlston said, "but with no intention of becoming a four-year institution."
Utah has seen several of its two-year institutions evolve into four-year universities, most recently in 2013 with the creation of Dixie State University and in 2010, when the College of Eastern Utah was absorbed by Utah State University.
Those changes left Snow College and Salt Lake Community College as Utah's remaining two-year public institutions of higher education. And with SLCC located in population-dense Salt Lake County, Snow has "a very unique place in our system as the only rural, residential type of two-year college," said David Buhler, Utah's commissioner of higher education.
Snow College serves students in Juab, Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne counties, but more than half of the school's student body comes from outside those counties.
The two Snow campuses are located between Utah Valley University and Southern Utah University about an hour's drive each way but Buhler said he would not expect Snow to merge with either of those schools. "I think Snow is thriving," he said. "I wouldn't want to lose them."
Dettinger said Snow plans to fill its junior college niche for 40, 50 or even 100 more years. "We want to remain affordable and provide access to students who wouldn't otherwise have that option," he said.