2020 Weekly Legislative Update – Week 7 (Final)

Budget:

Beginning July 1, 2020, the Legislature approved a $90 million increase (8.2%) in ongoing tax funds and a one-time increase of $1,750,500 for higher education. The USHE Board of Regents’ budget priority items that received funding include:

  • $27.4 million to support a 2.5% salary and wage increase and an 4.53% increase for health insurance
  • $29.5 million Performance-Based Funding
  • $1 million for the College Access Advisors
  • $1 million for technical education
  • $5 million for student enrollment growth
  • $629,600 USHE Non-state funded Operations and Maintenance
  • $3 million (one-time) for systemwide shared services consulting


Capital Development:

The Legislature funded four of the Board of Regents’ capital development priorities including all three of the top projects submitted to the Legislature as allowed under the statute. The Legislature also funded the Board’s land bank priority for Dixie State University as well as the bonding authorizations approved by the Board in November 2019. Finally, the Legislature appropriated 1.3% to the Capital Improvement Fund, 0.2% higher than statutorily required ($150 million).

State-Funded Capital Projects:

  • SUU – Academic Classroom Building ($43,013,700)
  • UU – Applied Sciences Building ($60,000,000)
  • USU – Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center ($14,500,000)
  • SLCC – Herriman Campus ($30,800,600)
  • DSU – Land Bank ($15,075,000)


Legislation of Interest:

There were several pieces of legislation directly impacting Utah’s public colleges and universities, chief of which was SB 111, reconstituting the governance of higher education in Utah while combining the UTECH and USHE systems of colleges and universities. Altogether, over 50 pieces of legislation were identified as impacting higher education. Below is a short summary of bills with the greatest impact:

*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 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. 

*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 waivers, with some controls, before state dollars are tapped under this scholarship. 

HB 132 (1st Sub.), Higher Education Student Speech Rights by Rep. Kim Coleman establishes a specific threshold that determines when student-on-student speech becomes harassment. After several years of opposing this legislation, USHE was able to work with the sponsor on substitute language that satisfied USHE institutions’ biggest concerns. The bill failed in the Senate.

*HB 256, Student Aid Amendments by Rep. Karen Kwan requires student applicants to complete the Free Application for 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, and determines where the financial aid may be applied with schools recognized by USBE, USHE, and UTECH.

*HB 336, Concurrent Enrollment Certificate Pilot Program by Rep. Val Peterson creates the PRIME pilot program to expand access to Concurrent Enrollment and technical education in K-12. The legislation creates a three-tiered program that includes the LAUNCH certificate, DISCOVER breadth certificate, and TRANSFORM general education/technical certificate. 

HB 409, Concurrent Enrollment Amendments by Rep. Eric Hutchings requires the USHE Board of Regents to annually approve a prioritized list of upper division Concurrent Enrollment courses and amends the formula for increasing funding for Concurrent Enrollment. 

*SB 80 (1st Sub.), 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. 

*SB 96, Emerging Technology Talent Initiative by Sen. Ann Millner creates an initiative that awards proposals submitted to an advisory board under the direction of the USHE Board of Regents that expands programs in deep technology (e.g. artificial intelligence, quantum computing, robotics, advanced materials, robotics, secure computing). 

*SB 111 (1st Sub.), Higher Education Amendments by Sen. Ann Millner is legislation that significantly revamps the governance structure of higher education in Utah. The bill’s primary components include:

  • Merges 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 institutions 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. Transition plans are in the works and immediate action is expected by both governing boards soon after the legislative session. 

SB 117, Higher Education Financial Aid Amendments by Sen. Daniel Hemmert allows the Regents’ Scholarship to be used at private, nonprofit colleges or universities within the state (BYU, LDS Business College, Western Governors University, Westminster College). The bill appropriates an additional $5 million towards the Regents’ Scholarship as well as places limits on the amount of scholarship funding available to non-public institutions.

 * USHE Board of Regents took an official position in support