Students first, not USTAR

By By Matt Plummer

By Matt Plummer

The new USTAR program at the U is in the works. The program is meant to increase the U’s potential to produce technology and fatten our economy. Although the program has admirable goals, it needs to take a backseat until student needs are met.

Starting such large amounts of spending and construction on the Utah Science and Technology Research Initiative while students are hurting is wrong. Some students can’t afford to go to school, while according to its own website, USTAR is sitting on nearly $180 million just to get its own ball rolling.

The U is a close second behind MIT in starting technology-based companies, according to a recent survey by the Association of University Technology Managers, which ranks more than 150 public and private research institutions in the United States. USTAR would help increase that success and could jump-start Utah’s economy. But because we are not out of the economic woods yet, the financial resources we have need to be going to students to keep scholarships available, tuition down and classroom volume and sizes in the proper condition.

USTAR is heavily financed by Senate Bill 75. I like to see the state take initiative in private economic growth, but there are a couple of things that don’t hold well with me. Budget talks last year in our State Legislature drastically cut funding for the U. Students just experienced a 9.5 percent increase in tuition to help make up the difference. It doesn’t seem justified to approve $180 million for USTAR while placing a fairly severe tuition increase on students.

The U is becoming obsessed with infrastructure, even beyond USTAR, and students are paying the price. Money should not be spent on new buildings when the priority of the U is education. Recent financial cutbacks are hindering education.

This new USTAR plan and its massive facility is a great idea, but not at a time when it hurts the students. The total cost of the construction portion of USTAR’s 194,000 square foot facility at the U is $160 million dollars from S.B. 75, another $15 million to support research teams and $4 million to support economic growth programs. I repeat, these are admirable goals, but I would prefer to postpone USTAR until student needs are met.
The U has an obligation to students first, and projects like USTAR shouldn’t trump student needs. This is a good issue for our new student government officials. On behalf of the student body, they should ask the administration for more classes and department funding and oppose new construction projects. They should ask the state to allocate funding with a focus on student needs, especially keeping tuition down.

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Matt Plummer