The Board of Regents approved the budget priorities of the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) for fiscal years 2015-16 at its most recent Board meeting held Sept. 26 at Utah State University. By state statute, the Board is required to submit a unified budget request to the Legislature each year as part of its duty to “provide a high quality, efficient, & economical public system of higher education” (Utah Code Section 53B-1-101).
The amount of funds the Legislature appropriates to USHE each year is an important part of keeping Utah’s public colleges and universities among the most affordable in the country. Roughly half of a student’s cost at a USHE institution is covered by state tax dollars. That amount has been decreasing for several decades – a trend that affects tuition prices.
The USHE budget process started in May 2014 when the Board of Regents proposed a budget framework. Formulation of the FY 2016 USHE operating budget request also involves substantial consultation and discussion with USHE Presidents. The Board adopted the following 5 budget priorities:
1) Compensation (75% State Portion)
Since USHE institutions compete in a national talent marketplace, compensation is a top priority to hire and maintain the best talent for Utah college students. The Commissioner’s office reviews the salary levels at all USHE institutions on an annual basis. All combined, USHE is the largest employer in Utah with over 30,000 employees. Average compensation for USHE staff and faculty are consistently lower than their national equivalent peers. Proposed compensation is detailed in the following areas:
- 3% performance based compensation ($23,159,100)
- 5% health/dental benefit increases ($5,137,000)
2) Mission Based Funding
A. Student Participation – $15,000,000
The focus of these funds is to provide the capacity to ensure access to quality programs for a growing number of students. Specifically, institutions may use these funds for student-focused efforts such as:
- Increased capacity and quality
- Additional faculty and faculty support
- Additional advising resources
- Additional course sections (with an emphasis on reducing “bottleneck” courses)
- Expanding program offerings in the summer and off-peak hours
- Enrollment growth to maintain per-student funding
B. Distinctive Mission – $15,000,000
Distinctive Mission funding is used to assist institutions in initiatives that are distinct to the individual mission of each institution which also support statewide goals and objectives approved by the Board of Regents. For Distinctive Mission, each president proposes the specific uses and outcome measures for funds allocated. The Board of Regents statewide objectives are:
- Economic Development
3) Performance Funding
During the 2013 legislative session, $1 million in one-time funding was allocated for performance funding. This outcome-oriented funding focused on efforts to improve the rate of students successfully completing college. In the 2014 legislative session, $1.5 million in one-time funding was allocated for performance, and metrics for measurement were similar to the first year. It is proposed for 2015-16 that performance funding be changed from one-time to on-going funding and the amount increase significantly (more than tripled) to $5 million.
4) Research | Graduate School Funding
By statute, Utah has two research universities: the University of Utah, which is the flagship institution of USHE, and Utah State University, the state’s land-grant institution. By mission, each has a responsibility for graduate programs including at the doctoral and professional level. These advanced levels of education and training are critical to maintain the quality of instruction at USHE institutions, build Utah’s economy through advanced skills that attract higher wages, and promote innovation among Utah’s workforce. The Board of Regents requests $10 million in ongoing funding for Research Universities Graduate Program Support.
5) Statewide Programs
The Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of institutions within USHE are requesting $2,100,000 to better equip USHE institutions to protect against attacks on institutional networks. Higher education institutions maintain a variety of sensitive information and have a strong track record of employing the best technologies and practices to ensure properly secured data. However, as recent headlines have shown, the growth of well-equipped attackers who probe academic and corporate computer systems has created a heightened need to address vulnerabilities that could possibly be exploited, including identity theft, harvesting personal information, or stealing valuable research of clinical data.
The Utah Legislature enacted the Regents’ Scholarship in 2008 to encourage high school students to take a rigorous course of study to better prepare for college. Since its inception, the scholarship continues double-digit growth. Funds are needed to replace the one-time funding from last year’s legislative session of $3,000,000. More precise information will be provided in February of the amount of new funding necessary to fully fund the scholarship, and the amount of awards with no new funding.