2020 Legislative Update-Week 3

Institution Presentations to Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

The University of Utah and Utah State University presented to the Higher Education Appropriation Subcommittee (HEAS) this week. The other remaining institutions presented the week prior:


Legislative Requests for Appropriations

The HEAS has been assigned an unusually large number of requests for appropriations. There are over two dozen requests exceeding $90 million, above and beyond the priorities of the USHE Board of Regents. The Board of Regents met Friday, February 14, and discussed several requests.


USHE Presentations to HEAS

The Commissioner’s Office and institution presidents made informational presentations to the HEAS on several topics:


Legislation of Interest:

HB 45, Veterans Education Amendments by Rep. Paul Ray eliminates inequities institutions face in awarding in-state tuition to only those discharged under Chapters 30 and 33 of the GI bill and eliminated the five-year limit since discharge for in-state tuition eligibility of immediate family members who use GI bill benefits. The bill also allows veterans using the Veterans Tuition Gap Program administered by the USHE Board of Regents to receive funds for fees and books, along with tuition. This item is designed to help spend surplus funds appropriated for the program. The bill received unanimous support in the House and is scheduled for Senate Committee consideration next week.

HB 103, Utah Promise Scholarship Program Amendments by Rep. Derrin Owens makes technical changes to the Utah Promise Scholarship based on feedback from financial aid directors. This corrects an unintended error in ensuring all other state aid be exhausted before tapping funds appropriated to this program, including waivers. The change puts needed flexibility in the use of waiver, with some controls, before state dollars are tapped under this scholarship. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits further consideration by the Senate.

HB 132, 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. It may put schools in conflict with existing federal guidance and definitions of harassment. The bill was assigned the House Education Committee but was abruptly reassigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it awaits consideration.

HB 256, Student Aid Amendments  by Rep. Karen Kawn requires student applicants to complete the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be eligible for certain financial aid for higher education. This modifies the application process, clarifies the qualifications for student financial aid provided by scholarship or through the state, as well as determines where the financial aid may be applied with schools recognized by USBE, USHE, and UTECH. This bill was heard in the House Education Committee, but a quorum was lost during discussion so the bill is being held for a future hearing.

SB 80, Campus Safety Amendments by Sen. Jani Iwamoto requires the USHE Board of Regents to study and make recommendations for providing public safety services on college and university campuses. This includes determining the relationship between public and campus law enforcement, the process of reporting, disciplinary actions, and the potential for additional training. The study will take place during the interim and will require the USHE Board of Regents to present a final report of the study with recommendations to the Education Interim Committee and the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee. The bill awaits final passage in the Senate after an initial 23-2 vote.

SB 96, Emerging Technology Talent Initiative by Sen. Ann Millner creates an initiative that awards proposals submitted to an advisory board under direction of the USHE Board of Regents that expand programs in deep technology (e.g. artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, advanced materials, robotics, secure computing). The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

SB 111, Higher Education Amendments by Sen. Ann Millner is the epochal legislation that revamps the governance structure of higher education in Utah. The bill’s primary components include:

  • Merge the two current systems of higher education into a single system.
  • Establishes a single governing board, its initial composition and process for appointing future members.
  • Defines the the new board’s duties (selection of institution presidents, requirements related to an institution’s authority to establish new programs, etc.).
  • Mandates certain transition-related actions of the USHE Board of Regents and the Utah System of Technical Colleges Board of Trustees.
  • Extends the term of the Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission by one year.

A press conference of the bill’s introduction was held on February 11. Here is a summary of the legislation. The bill received unanimous approval in the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate. 

SB 117, Higher Education Financial Aid Amendments by Sen. Daniel Hemmert allows for the Regents’ Scholarship to be used at private, nonprofit colleges or universities within the state (BYU, LDS Business College, Western Governors University, Westminster College). It also limits the amount of scholarship funding available to those kinds of colleges. The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.