U. joins national effort to boost middle-class incomes

Apr 24, 2018, 11:05 AM | Updated: 1:39 pm
Newly appointed University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins speaks to news media after her appoint...
Newly appointed University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins speaks to news media after her appointment at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Jacob Wiegand/Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A national effort to boost incomes for America’s middle-class has picked the University of Utah as a partner on the project.

University officials say a strong, healthy middle class is vital for America’s economic future, and the U. has been tasked with gathering and developing ideas to ensure that vibrant middle class.

Schmidt Futures donated $1.5 million to the U. for the Alliance for the American Dream initiative. The university will seek policy and technology ideas from people throughout the state, with the goal of increasing net income for about 10,000 middle-class households in Utah by 10 percent by 2020.

“The University of Utah is one of four public universities to be part of this initial Alliance for the American Dream,” said Courtney McBeth, special assistant to the U. president and project director.

The Alliance for the American Dream is based on the concept that a healthier and larger middle class reduces income disparity and provides enhanced opportunity and economic mobility, according to the university. The initiative’s goal is to increase shared prosperity and American competitiveness by generating and investing in ideas that strengthen the middle class by giving more Americans the skills and opportunities they need to improve their lives, according to a news release.

“Today, too many middle-class families find themselves at risk of falling into poverty, while too few see a path to build a brighter future for their children,” Schmidt Futures founder Eric Schmidt said in a statement. “America needs a strong middle class. Our future depends on it.”

Schmidt said the best ideas come from people working together in their own communities. Ideas on how to strengthen the middle class, for example, could include raising income or decreasing costs of such necessities as transportation, housing, utilities or food, he said.

“We are happy to welcome the University of Utah as an inaugural partner in the Alliance for the American Dream,” Schmidt said. “Utah looks like quite different than when I lived here in the 1990s, and yet many of the features that made it a great place to do business then continue today — an energized and giving population, an innovation mindset and a willingness to pilot new policies and ideas.”

Ohio State University also has been selected to participate. The other two universities making up the inaugural Alliance for the American Dream are expected to be announced in the coming days.

McBeth said university officials in the coming weeks will begin soliciting ideas from throughout the state by late fall. Ten proposals will be selected, and each will receive up to $10,000 to further develop the idea.

“The university will be running a statewide community ideas challenge to solicit technology and policy ideas from both individuals and teams that are focused on strengthening the middle class,” McBeth said.

The ideas challenge will begin in mid-May, she said.

“We’ll be traveling around the state and within our respective communities to gather diverse perspectives on how to solicit the best ideas,” McBeth said.

“We look forward to having lots of conversations with different community members, and really bringing our community together to try to strengthen the middle class through emerging and innovative ideas,” she said.

An advisory board led by U. President Ruth Watkins will select the three top technology and policy ideas from that group, according to the university. Each of the three proposals will be eligible for an additional award of up to $30,000 to refine the idea.

The U. will then forward the three proposals to the Alliance for the American Dream, which will provide up to $1 million in additional support to the best ideas that emerge from across the nation, McBeth said.

Watkins said the project brings together “students, faculty, staff and the community,  (and)  aligns perfectly with our role as the state’s flagship institution.”

“As a top-tier research university, we recognize and embrace our duty to make positive, real and lasting contributions to our state. We are excited to see what promising ideas come forward to improve our community and provide equitable access to opportunity and prosperity,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox said the Alliance for the American Dream initiative “will help us develop critical infrastructure for continued economic growth in our state.”

Today’s Top Stories


Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. Photo credit: Uta...
Devin Oldroyd

Hogle Zoo welcomes new Red Panda in effort to conserve the species

Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. It hopes to breed her with Mow Mow, a red panda currently living there.
7 days ago
USU Aviation The Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) created a series of r...
Michele Rowe

Flight instructor, student, die in crash of USU Aviation plane

Officials said a teacher and student affiliated with USU aviation were killed in a plane crash near Wellsville.
13 days ago
USU Aviation The Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) created a series of r...
Waverly Golden

Utah State University reports on Latina women’s status in Utah

The Utah State University Utah Women & Leadership Project researched disparities between Latina Women and all women in Utah.
21 days ago
Utah Valley University March 23, 2020.  (Gabriel Mayberry/ UVU Marketing)...
Martha Harris

Utah adults struggling in their civics knowledge, a UVU study said

Utah adults get an almost failing grade in their civics knowledge, according to a study from Utah Valley University.
29 days ago
The Utah State Board of Education building. Utah schools give out a risk prevention survey every tw...
Aimee Cobabe

Utah State Board of Education drops support for risk prevention survey

Utah schools have given kids a health and risk prevention survey since 2003, but the State Board of Education recently pulled its support for the survey.
29 days ago
utah student achievement COVID-19...
Simone Seikaly

Utah student performance knocked down during COVID-19 restrictions

A review of multiple Utah student performance exams found "significant impacts" in mathematics achievement across grades.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
U. joins national effort to boost middle-class incomes