The Utah State Board of Regents approved the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) budget priorities during its meeting on September 18 at Utah State University in preparation for the 2016 legislative session.
“These budget priorities reflect the most pressing needs of our state’s higher education institutions as well as the strategic objectives of the Board of Regents. To the extent the state is able to fund these priorities, we will work to keep tuition for students among the lowest in the country. Doing this requires an important partnership between state leaders and our institutions, “said Dave Buhler, Commissioner of Higher Education. “The Board of Regents had a difficult task in prioritizing the USHE Capital Facilities Requests, as USHE has many necessary and impactful projects this year. I appreciate the hard work of Regents and the Presidents as we move forward pursuing these key priorities with the Governor and legislative leaders.”
USHE’s total budget priorities request of a 9.1 percent increase supports the Regents’ long-term objectives of affordable participation, timely completion, and innovative discovery:
- Merit-based Compensation Increase – $32,333,600
The top priority for USHE is to have the resources to provide fair and competitive compensation for its employees—faculty and staff. Total compensation comprises base salary, medical benefits (health and dental), and salary-related benefits (unemployment, Social Security, retirement, workers compensation, disability and basic life insurance). By agreement with the Utah Legislature, 75 percent of incremental increases in salaries and salary-related benefits is funded with tax funds; the remaining 25 percent is funded through increased tuition.
- Access and Affordability – $9,205,100
To increase the number of Utahns who access higher education—particularly low-income and underserved communities—it is essential to keep up with increases in enrollment growth to have the necessary capacity (such as course sections, faculty, support services, information technology, etc.) without unduly relying on tuition. Ensuring college is accessible and affordable is a top priority for Utah as a young, rapidly growing state.
- Market Demand Programs – $10,000,000
USHE institutions play a crucial role in making sure Utahns are prepared for the economy of tomorrow. This new category is intended to help institutions address the most pressing market demands by expanding existing or creating new academic programs to meet specific current market demand. This includes $6 million to complete last year’s graduate program support initiative for Utah and Utah State on a 60/40 split respectively, with an additional $4 million for the other six institutions
- Performance Funding – $15,000,000
Under the provisions of SB 232, passed during the 2015 legislative session, institutions may receive funding for outputs in the following metric areas: degrees and certificates granted; services provided to traditionally underserved populations; responsiveness to workforce needs; graduation efficiency; and graduate research for research universities. The Board of Regents adopted specific metrics in these areas in July 2015.
- Statewide Programs – $10,514,000
This includes enhancing the cyber security capabilities of USHE’s institutional information technology networks. The Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of institutions within USHE are recommending $2.5 million in funding to better equip our institutions to protect against attacks on institutional information technology networks. This category also includes a request to fully fund the Regents’ Scholarship. Funded by the legislature, the program is based on the Board of Regents’ recommended high school courses of study for successful college preparation. The Legislature enacted the program in 2008 and is administered by the Office of the Commissioner. Awards for the scholarship are expected to grow another 25 percent in 2016.