On 20 February 1937 the College of Eastern Utah (CEU) in Price was established by the Utah Legislature. The local newspaper described the event as "one of the most important educational advancements in the history of eastern Utah." CEU was the first college in Utah created as a state-supported two-year institution.
During the first week of October 1938 about 100 students enrolled in the first classes offered at what was then called Carbon College. The first president of the college was Elden B. Sessions. The mission of the new college was to prepare students for upper-division courses at universities or to prepare them for a specific vocation.
The college grew slowly until World War II. As that war started, vocational programs grew dramatically as the government sent students to be trained. By 1943, however, those needs had been filled, young men were in the military services, and there were only twenty-seven full-time college students on campus. That situation changed quickly with the end of the war, and enrollment soon reached about 200.
In 1953 Carbon College was almost closed as a budget-cutting measure by Governor J. Bracken Lee. The legislature agreed to the action, but the citizens of southeastern Utah were outraged and almost immediately a campaign was started to save the college through a referendum on the legislature's action. The results of the referendum in November 1954 were overwhelmingly in favor of saving the college.
In 1959 Carbon College became a branch of the University of Utah. It was concluded that the focus of the college had been too narrow and that a regional mission and name were required. The name College of Eastern Utah was soon adopted and recruiting programs were started in many communities throughout the region. Students from other parts of the state were also recruited, and by the early 1960s 400 full-time students were attending CEU. However, these early efforts were not sustained and it would be many years before the regional mission of the College of Eastern Utah would again be pursued.
An impressive building program was carried out during the 1960s. Five buildings were constructed within a four-year period and a major campus landscaping program was concluded soon afterward. There was also a heightened commitment to excellence of instruction that led to a sabbatical leave program for faculty members and significant achievements and success by CEU graduates.
The Higher Education Act of 1969 eliminated the branch relationship of CEU to the University of Utah and established the State Board of Regents as the governing body of CEU and its eight sister colleges and universities. The regents believed that CEU must assume the mission and goals of a community college and that the community to be served was all of southeastern Utah. One result was the establishment of the CEU San Juan Center. It began with forty students, two staff members, and borrowed facilities; yet it now provides educational opportunities to about 350 students each quarter from a campus at Blanding which employs about forty full-time staff members.
Vocational-technical programs have always been important at the college. A new Career Center was built in 1975 to house most of those programs. CEU was given the exclusive role assignment to provide mine safety training throughout the state; also, a one-year Licensed Practical Nursing program was established in the 1970s and the college program now includes a two-year Registered Nursing degree.
The physical plant at the Price campus was expanded during the early 1980s with the addition of art and athletic centers. A partial renovation of the old vocational building was also undertaken to convert it into a student activity center.
CEU continues to expand higher educational opportunities throughout southeastern Utah. The programs at the San Juan Center have been increased and many classes are offered in Grand County. During the past several years, enrollment has increased more rapidly than at any time in the history of CEU. About 2,000 students are typically enrolled each quarter in classes being taught throughout the four counties. More students are coming to the Price campus from other areas of the state, and from other states and foreign countries, as well, making the college a vital and dynamic part of Utah's educational scene.