University News

Put Your Education First, Join Utah’s 66 Percent

Published: February 14, 2013 | Category: Community Outreach

Few students open their freshman year of college planning to drop out, but as the semesters wear on, life can change plans, and many students find they leave school without a degree no matter how well intentioned they were at the start.

In an effort to assist Governor Gary Herbert in his “66% by 2020” campaign, universities and colleges across the state hope to inspire their students to renew a commitment to not only attend college, but to graduate.

To this end, the SUU Student Association (SUUSA) will open a student pledge drive this Friday, asking their fellow classmates to renew their personal commitment to their future by pledging to see their college years through to completion.

The 66% by 2020 campaign, an initiative driven by the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission, asks that 66 percent of Utah adults earn college degrees or post-secondary certificates by the year 2020. Though a lofty goal, the commission believes it is well within reach and is calling on the higher ed. community to lead the way in securing a brighter future for Utah, its people and its economy through an increased commitment to education.

Along with SUUSA, the faculty, staff and leaders of the Thunderbird community join together in this plight: make your education your top priority, become a member of Utah’s 66 percent.

On February 15, SUUSA will petition for signatures from any and all current Thunderbirds who believe in the Governor’s vision and, more importantly, in themselves as they strive to earn their college degrees. This signing reception to kick off the 66% by 2020 pledge drive will be held in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Living Room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Refreshments will be provided, as well as laptops and iPads so signature pledges can be made online. SUUSA representatives will also be on hand to answer questions and provide information about the initiative.

Last year, SUUSA sponsored a similar effort in support of both the 66% by 2020 and Education First campaigns, which gathered more than 30,000 signatures. Building on that success, SUUSA is hoping for an even better turnout this year.

SUUSA president Ryan Horlacher is optimistic about the effort, believing it presents an opportunity for students to make a significant contribution to a very important issue.

“The student voice is not always heard at the state level,” Horlacher said. “This initiative is a chance for us to speak with a unified voice and to show our state's leaders that we are serious about our education.”

Pledges are open from all willing participants, not just current SUU students. Those who have already completed their education are also encouraged to sign, as are University staff, faculty and community members who wish to show their support and champion higher education.

Signatures will be collected through February 22 and will then be presented to the Utah Legislature before the close of its 2013 session.

The campaign is ongoing, however, and signatures may be submitted anytime online at Hardcopy pledge forms are also available in the SUUSA office in SUU’s Student Center.

Originally launched in 2010, 66% by 2020 aims to better meet the needs of Utah employers by enhancing the knowledge and skills of future employees as they come up through the ranks as Utah students. The idea is that a highly educated employee base will, in turn, drive a more successful economy.

The issue is of great importance, indeed, and its impact far-reaching. To preserve Utah’s economy in 2020, 66 percent of working adults will need post-secondary training, according to a report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. This projection, combined with fewer Utahans now earning college degrees based on the national average, paints an alarming picture for the state’s economic future.

In his 2013 State of the State address, Governor Herbert reiterated the importance of the 66% by 2020 initiative. “For the sake of Utah’s future economic strength, the alignment of educational outcomes with marketplace demands is not just important, it’s essential,” Herbert said.

For more information or to get involved, contact SUUSA President Ryan Horlacher at

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