2019 Legislative Update – Week 4

Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

The Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs presented the subcommittee’s priorities to the Executive Appropriations Committee last week. Final 2019-20 budget revenue projections were announced on February 22. While new revenue estimates are $120 million lower than estimates announced in December 2018, the Legislature will still have over $1 billion surplus going into the final weeks of the 2019 session:

Total New Revenue Available (Education and General Funds):

General Fund (sales tax)$52m$178m
Education Fund (income tax)$477m$392m
Total new available$529m$570m

Further budget action will be taken by Executive Appropriations Committee in the final weeks of the legislative session.

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 by both the House and Senate, awaits the Governor’s signature for enrolling.

**HB 158, Higher Education Student Speech Rights by Rep. Kim Coleman, establishes a specific threshold that determines when student-on-student speech becomes harassment as opposed to protected speech. This legislation comes at the same time the US Department of Education is considering similar provisions in the coming months. Passage of this bill may prematurely put schools in conflict with anticipated federal definitions of harassment. The bill failed to pass the House Judiciary Committee but is scheduled for reconsideration by the committee this week.

*HB 188 (1st sub), 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 and awaits consideration of 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) receives 17.6% from the Education Fund in FY19. In order to get down to 15% for FY19, approximately $117m would be needed from the General Fund (sales tax revenues) or another source, like tuition, to avoid any budget reductions. The bill was initially heard in the House Education Committee but was held for a future committee scheduled this week.

HB 291, Concurrent Enrollment Modifications by Rep. Mike Winder clarifying legislation from the 2018 legislative session requiring the Board of Regents to establish policy, in coordination with higher education concurrent enrollment directors, that defines the qualifications to be an eligible concurrent enrollment instructor. Current instructors for the 2017-18 academic years will continue to be eligible regardless of qualifications. The bill received unanimous support of the House and awaits consideration by the Senate.

HB 346, Higher Education Responses to Allegations by Rep. Kim Coleman, outlines circumstances when an institution turns information over to law enforcement in instances considered an articulable and significant threat to campus safety. The bill also mandates that colleges offer amnesty from conduct-code violations for students, which USHE institutions already have in policy. The sponsor has worked during the interim with advocacy groups and USHE. The Board of Regents does not oppose the legislation and supports the sponsor’s efforts to address a critical component related to the overall campus safety issue.

*SB 260 (3rd Sub.), 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% to 44%, 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. Modifications were made to the bill, ultimately leaving intact the Regents’ and New Century Scholarships. This bill received strong support of the House with only three opposing votes and awaits further consideration by the Senate.

*SB 102 (1st Sub.), 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 the bill is to appropriate colleges and universities funding for cost-effective building planning and design, and while maintaining oversight for final approval of state funded construction. This bill passed the Senate and awaits consideration by the House.

*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 a 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/

Media Inquiries

Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director