2018 Legislative Update – Week 1

The 45-day 2018 Legislative Session commenced on Monday, January 22, 2018. With over 1,200 legislative bills filled, several are expected to impact Utah’s public colleges and universities. The early weeks of the session focus on the budget and capital development priorities; however, several pieces of legislation are up for consideration.

2018-19 Budget

According to the State’s consensus revenue estimates, the State has slightly more new ongoing revenue projected than last year, as well as some “one-time” budget surplus. Revenue growth in the coming year is projected to result in $267 million in new funds:

Total New Revenue Available (Education and General Funds, in millions):

General Fund$108m$43m
Education Fund$274m$59m
Pre-session Adjustments$-90m$-89m
Total New Available$382m$12m

Updated revenue estimates will be available in mid-February.

Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

The Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee (HEAS) met twice focusing on the existing base budget for higher education. Commissioner Buhler provided information to the committee on the financial well-being of public higher education in Utah, including an overview of costs, efficiency trends, tuition levels compared to the rest of the country, and the economic ROI postsecondary education provides both the state and student. The Commissioner also reviewed the Board of Regents’ year-1 implementation of SB 238, Higher Education Governance Revisions ratified in the 2017 legislative session (slides and audio available online). Presentation highlights include:



President Scott Wyatt, Southern Utah University, gave a brief overview of key student success initiatives including a new innovative partnership with nearby Southwest Technical College to allow for more seamless student transfer and effective remediation. President Deneece Huftalin, Salt Lake Community College, highlighted the school’s open education resource initiative, saving students over $5 million in textbook costs. Both presidents highlighted the ongoing budget reallocations they make on regular basis. Commissioner Buhler and Associate Commissioner Kimberly Henrie provided an overview of the factors that contribute to the varying costs of higher education across institutions as well as a discussion on the successes of the SLCC Promise and Dream Weber scholarship programs.


Higher Education Day on the Hill

Friday, January 26, 2018, was Higher Education Day on the Hill. Members of the Utah Higher Education Staff Association and students from several institutions met legislators and higher education leaders throughout the day. Student leaders from the Utah Student Association spent the day emphasizing its support for the Regents’ priority on mental health by sharing its new mental health advocacy video. Lunch for legislators, legislative staff, Regents, Trustees, and Presidents in the Capitol Rotunda was the culminating event, in which several Regents and Trustees attended along with over 80 legislators came together.

Higher education events coincided with the rollout of the Governor’s Education Roadmap, a strategic vision for education in Utah based on 4 priorities: Early Learning, Strengthen & Support Educators, Ensure Access and Equity, and Complete Certificates and Degrees. Commissioner Buhler, Board of Regents Chair Dan Campbell, along with several presidents have been involved in the development of the development of the Roadmap, which is dovetailed by the Regents’ 2025 Strategic Plan.

Legislation of Interest

**HB 82, Student Right to Active Counsel by Rep. Kim Coleman, introduced similar legislation in the 2016 and 2017 Sessions. The Legislature did not adopt the proposed legislation in either session. In July 2016, the Board of Regents adopted policy that outlines required due process for disciplinary actions and included the role of active counsel in certain proceedings. This bill is unnecessary given the policy already adopted. The bill awaits consideration by House Judiciary Committee.

**HB 122, Higher Education Employment Authority Amendments by Rep. Justin Fawson, proposes to move Regents’ authority to appoint presidents to institutional Boards of Trustees. The proposed changes would create a confusing line of governance for the presidents where Regents are responsible for the oversight and accountability of higher education in the state, yet no ability to recruit and hire the best talent to help carry out the state’s higher education objectives. Presidential selection was a major component to 2017’s SB 238, implemented for less than a year. The bill is currently in House Rules Committee.

*SB 104, Talent Development and Retention Strategy by Sen. Ann Millner, establishes a loan forgiveness program for students who graduate in programs that lead to high demand jobs. It also enables private business to partner with institutions to help fund the scholarships. The legislation helps address the current outmigration of Utah’s workforce talent. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee and awaits further consideration by the full Senate.

* 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/

Media Inquiries

Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director