Written by Patricia Hawke for

Salt Lake City Schools recognized the academic success of both a federally funded program, and of its individual students in May. The first group of 150 Utah Scholars has graduated from the rigorous academic high school program.
Utah Scholars is a federally funded program that was with the goal of encouraging academic rigor at the high school level. Several Salt Lake City Schools including the Granite, Jordan, Park City and Prove districts had participating students. Utah was one of 22 states to benefit with a grant of $300,000 to fund the program for two years.
Salt Lake City Schools require students to meet state guidelines of 4 years of English, and 3 of math and science to graduate. Those Salt Lake City Schools students in the Utah Scholars program are required to complete 4 years of English, 3 ½ of social studies, 3 of science, 3 of math, and 2 of a foreign language. One main incentive is the possibility of grants and scholarships for successful graduates of the program. 
The program was launched for two reasons. Educators in Salt Lake City Schools and around the nation have noticed a direct correlation between a demanding high school course load and success in both college and college entrance exams- like the SATs. There has also been national concern over the decreasing number of students enrolling in college programs and completing degrees on time.
Declining numbers of advanced degrees have been an ongoing concern for Salt Lake City Schools. In 2004 the Utah Foundation reported that the number of bachelor degrees among residents was steadily declining. Less young people were pursuing the degree and Utah schools were 31st in the nation with the 25-34 year old crowd. A 2006 report issued by the US Census Bureau confirmed concerns when it released figures that said only 27% of Utah residents hold bachelors degrees.
One reason that this may be a problem in the Salt Lake City Schools is it’s large Mormon population. The famous founders of Brigham Young University encourage their members to marry young and to do missionary work for the (Mormon) Church of Latter Day Saints before beginning their education.
Salt Lake City Schools are trying to educate its students on the vast discrepancies in income between those with bachelor’s degrees and those without. The Utah Scholars program is helping them to do that. This past school year the Salt Lake City Schools targeted eighth graders who will enroll in the program next year. These selected students at Salt Lake City Schools will work with mentors from local colleges and counselors in their own schools. Salt Lake City Schools are hopeful that they can graduate another crop of Utah Scholars and turn the trend around.