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SALT LAKE CITY - Although Utah is a national leader in many areas of higher education, from award-winning faculty to cutting-edge research, college completion among women in Utah is well below men both statewide and nationwide. In response, Governor Gary R. Herbert convened the Utah Women's College Task Force today at the Utah State Capitol. The task force aims to raise the educational aspirations of Utah's female population.

"Our charge is to help the women of Utah view education not solely as a prerequisite to entering the workforce, but as an essential part of their lives and overall wellbeing," the Governor said. "There are countless benefits to women who earn a college degree. Now is the time to encourage Utah's women to not only go to college, but also finish."

A subcommittee of the Governor's Education Excellence Commission, the task force is co-chaired by former Governor Olene Walker and State Board of Regents Vice-Chair Bonnie Jean Beesley.

With the Governor's goal of 66% of Utah's future workforce earning postsecondary certificates and degrees by the year 2020, the Governor charged the group with raising awareness, engaging opinion leaders and collaborating with institutions of higher learning to improve completion rates.

As of 2009, women's graduation rates were still more than six percentage points lower than their male counter parts (25.5% for Utah women vs. 31.6% for Utah men) and two percentage points less than their national peers. The Utah Women and Education Project (UWEP, 2009-2011) found that this Utah trend is linked to the attitudes and aspirations of young women in the state.

Many women eventually enter the workforce, but even for those who are full-time homemakers, statistics show that women with higher education (especially a baccalaureate degree or higher) tend to:

.        Give birth to healthier babies

.        Have children who are healthier

.        Be more confident, resilient and have improved reasoning and judgment

.        Get more involved in the community and be involved in the political process

.        Are more likely that their children are college graduates

Other members of the 24-person Utah Women's College Task Force include state business, educational and religious leaders, as well as several elected officials and non-profit advocates. The task force plans to meet on a regular basis through at least 2012.

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