The 2016 Session of the Utah State Legislature got underway Monday, January 25, and will conclude Thursday, March 11. It is anticipated there will be several bills with potential impact to the Utah System of Higher Education, all of which will be carefully tracked by the Commissioner’s Office and institutions.
According to the State’s consensus revenue estimates, the State has a slightly smaller budget surplus than last year. Revenue growth in the coming year is projected to result in $560 million in new funds:
New Total Revenue Available (Education and General Fund, in millions):
General Fund $ -39 $ 67
Education Fund $ 219 $ 313
TOTAL $ 180 million $ 380 million
An updated revenue estimate will be available in mid-February.
The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee met twice this week, focusing on the existing base budget for higher education. Board membership is the same with the exception of one member from the House, Representative Derrin Owens, who replaced John Cox.
Commissioner Buhler gave introductory remarks providing the Utah context with national higher education trends, as well as an update from the past year. He highlighted various higher education partnerships including Utah Scholars, Concurrent Enrollment, Utah College Application Week, the new high School Feedback Report, and other efforts to make more data available online. Commissioner also highlighted the Board’s recent adoption of the 10-year strategic plan for Utah Higher Education, Utah: A State of Opportunity. Board Chair Dan Campbell and Vice-Chair France Davis also attended the subcommittee hearings.
Presidents Chuck Wight of Weber State University (WSU), Gary Carlston of Snow College and Deneece Huftalin of Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) gave overview presentations of their respective institutions. The presidents provided outstanding context to the major issues in higher education. Highlights include:
Weber State University
- The average annual salary of 2013-14 graduates with a bachelor’s degree at WSU is $48,800.
- WSU awards more Nursing degrees than all other USHE schools combined.
- 2/3 of bachelor’s degrees awarded at WSU are in the top “high need” job occupations for the state of Utah.
- Student enrollment has increased 14% over the past 5 years.
- Lowest tuition+fees of any institution in the state.
- Snow College is one of 150 community colleges nationally recognized to be eligible for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Salt Lake Community College
- 60% of SLCC students successfully transfer to another university or college to continue their education (over 50% to the University of Utah).
- 56% of all students are first-generation students.
- SLCC’s open courseware initiative that has saved students over $1 million in course materials costs.
Audio recordings and materials, including presentations, for all Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meetings are online. To access materials for a specific meeting, click “View List” on the right column under “Meeting Materials”.
Capital Budget: The Infrastructure Subcommittee will begin hearing requests for capital development funding on Thursday, February 5, 2014. The agenda is posted here.
Legislation of Interest to USHE
HB 93, Organ Donor Amendments – Rep. Gage Froerer, requires USHE institutions to electronically notify students twice a year with a message advocating organ donation. USHE worked with the bill sponsors to clarify how institutions would communicate the message. The bill passed unanimously in the House Health and Human Services Committee and awaits further consideration by the House.
HB 171, Apprenticeship Authorization Act by Rep. Jacob Anderegg, creates an program where students can enter into apprenticeship training programs with a certified apprenticeship industry sponsor. This legislation creates a process by which interested industry may become certified to deliver accredited certificate programs in partnership with K-12 or USHE institutions. The bill was held by the House Business and Labor Committee and is expected to be discussed at the committee’s next scheduled hearing.
SB 47, College Credit for Public Safety Officers by Sen. Karen Mayne, This legislation would have required USHE institutions that have programs in Criminal Justice to accept a default 18 credits for any student who has completed the Peace Office Standards and Training Division (POST). Sen. Mayne held the bill in the Senate Education Committee hearing, satisfied that the Commissioner’s Office and USHE institutions have addressed the concerns this legislation was attempting to address.
*SCR 6, Concurrent Resolution Recognizing the 20th Anniversary of the Utah Educational Savings Plan by Sen. Evan Vickers expresses support from the Legislature and the Governor for the Utah Educational Savings Plan, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016. The resolution passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee and awaits further consideration by the Senate.
**SJR 4, Proposal to Amend Utah Constitution – Education Funding by Sen. Jim Dabakis is a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have removed all education funds from the USHE budget. USHE opposed the legislation and the Board of Regents formally took a position against the resolution at its January Board mtg. The resolution has been assigned to the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. Senator Dabakis has assured the Commissioner that he supports new revenue to replace any cuts from education funds to higher education.
* USHE has taken an official position in support; ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition. For more information on legislation, committee agendas, or to view or listen to floor debates, see: http://le.utah.gov/