Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee
The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee (HEAS) wrapped up its work capping a busy week filled with requests for appropriations, presentations from presidents of the seven remaining USHE institutions, and ultimately a prioritization of higher education-related budget requests including several of the Board of Regents’ priorities.
On Monday, the Subcommittee reviewed the legislative performance audit of the Utah Board of Regents released in October 2018. Commissioner Buhler was able to provide an updated response covering the steps the Board and the Commissioner have been taking related to the audit and its recommendations. The Commissioner’s presentation provides a summary of the specific actions underway and planned in the coming months.
On Wednesday, the seven remaining presidents gave an overview of their budget priorities adopted by the Board. The presentations were all well-received and conveyed the vibrancy, uniqueness, and innovation of the USHE institutions.
On Friday, the Subcommittee’s work culminated with the prioritization of the Board of Regents’ budget request, the request of the Utah System of Technical Colleges, and additional individual requests for appropriations from legislators. The final Subcommittee prioritization includes a 1.5 % compensation increase that holds the mix of state funds and tuition funds to the traditional 75% state funds/25% tuition funds. The Subcommittee advanced funding requests in all four of the categories requested by the Board of Regents: Workforce and Research, Timely Completion, Student Growth & Capacity, and Affordable Access. The Subcommittee priorities will now be advanced to the Executive Appropriations Committee as revised budget revenues are expected and the Legislature works to compile the full budget in the upcoming weeks.
Legislation of Interest
HB 146, Concurrent Enrollment Amendments by Rep. Susan Pulsipher, modifies the eligibility requirements to enroll in concurrent enrollment courses in Utah from only 11-12 grade students to all grades in high school (grades 9-12). Over 36,000 students participated in concurrent enrollment courses last year saving them over $48.7 million in future tuition expenses. Some institutions have raised concerns these changes would outstretch available resources to keep up with increased demand for college-level courses in high school.There is also a concern that many students in grades 9-10 are not prepared to tackle college courses. Exceptions for those students who are prepared are already allowed in current policy. The bill passed the House and awaits further consideration by the Senate.
*HB 188, T.H. Bell Program Amendments by Rep. Lowry Snow, proposes to transition the T.H. Bell Teaching Incentive Loan Program into a scholarship with a goal to increase the number of students entering education-related college programs. The Utah Council of Education Deans (comprised of deans who oversee teacher preparation programs in Utah’s colleges and universities) has worked closely with Rep. Snow over the interim and has endorsed the legislation. The bill received unanimous support of the House Education Committee moving on to be considered by the full House.
**HB 248, Education Fund Designation Ratio by Rep. Marsha Judkins, proposes to limit the portion of revenue in the Education Fund (income tax revenues) to be designated for higher education at 15%. Higher education (including USHE, UETN, UTECH, and buildings) received 17.6% from the Education Fund in FY19. In order to get down to 15% for FY19, approximately $117 million would be needed from the General Fund (sales tax revenues) or another source, like tuition, to avoid any budget reductions. The bill has not been assigned a standing committee.
*HB 260, Access Utah Promise Scholarship by Rep. Derrin Owens, creates a statewide scholarship program patterned after Dream Weber and SLCC Promise. These innovative programs, which pay the remaining college costs for qualifying students when federal grants fall short, are showing compelling results: Dream Weber students graduate college at significantly higher rates than non-Dream Weber students at Weber State University (73 percent to 44 percent, respectively). The scholarship would be available not only for students right out of high school, but adult learners as well at both USHE and UTECH institutions. This program, if funded, could be major step to help individuals break the bleak cycle of intergenerational poverty in Utah. This bill received unanimous support of the House Education Committee and is expected to be considered by the full House next week.
*SB 102, Higher Education Capital Facilities by Sen. Ann Millner, would create capital development project funds for state colleges and universities and another for technical colleges. It would also establish criteria for project funding. Currently, colleges and universities submit building proposals to the Utah Board of Regents. The Regents prioritize the requests, and their list is proposed to the State Building Board, then to Legislature’s Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, and ultimately to the full legislature. The goal of SB 102 is to appropriate colleges and universities funding for cost-effective building planning and design, while maintaining oversight for final approval of state funded construction. SB 102 moved to the full Senate for further consideration.
*SB 164, Student Data Privacy Amendments by Sen. Jacob Anderegg, eliminates the requirement for individual parental consent for student information to be shared from K-12 schools to the Utah State Board of Regents for purposes of outreach and access. This barrier has led to significant challenges in student recruiting and outreach due to legislative action adopted three years ago. These barriers are recognized frustrations by both higher education and K-12 leaders. The bill is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate Education Committee.
* 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/