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Special Report on the
2007 Legislative Session

March 2007

The 2007 Utah legislative session was a very positive one for higher education as well as other state agencies. There were numerous helpful developments, set against the backdrop of a very strong state economy. The biggest winners in terms of funding increases were transportation and public education. Legislators reduced the sales tax on food as part of an overall $220 million tax cut.

For higher education, the Legislature provided ongoing funding increases for salaries, health care benefits, fuel and power, operation and maintenance of new facilities, the Engineering and Nursing initiatives, information technology, institutional priorities, institutional partnerships, translators for the hearing impaired, seismic monitoring, libraries, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, mission change (university status for UVSC), and student financial aid. One-time funds were appropriated for IT equipment, seismic monitoring, public broadcasting, course management systems, the Engineering Initiative, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and student financial aid, among other things. Capital construction funding was approved for renovation and expansion of the Nursing College building, including a new chiller plant to serve the upper campus. The Legislature also approved the non-state funded Student Life Center. Details are provided in what follows for appropriations specific to the University of Utah.

Overall Funding Change. The University’s ongoing tax-based state funding was increased by $20.35 million or 8.7 percent, plus funding that will come to the University through allocations made by the Regents (shares of funds for the Engineering Initiative, IT, translators for the hearing impaired, and the library consortium) as well as $4 million in new ongoing support for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. With these additions, the total increase in tax-based support will easily exceed 11 percent. As in past years, the additional funds are designated for specific purposes, as outlined in what follows.

Compensation. The Legislature provided funding for a 3.5 percent cost of living increase in compensation for all faculty and staff paid from state funds. The Legislature provided an additional amount to the University as a whole, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the total compensation pool, to be used for retention of key faculty and staff. The Legislature also provided support to partially offset increases in the cost of the University’s health insurance premiums.

Fuel and Power. The Legislature appropriated $3.45 million in ongoing funds to cover the increased cost of fuel and power projected for 2007-08. A much smaller amount, $229,200 was provided as a one-time supplemental appropriation to address current year costs.

Operation and Maintenance. The University will be opening a number of new facilities in 2007-08. The Legislature provided ongoing funding of $768,700 for operating and maintaining these facilities.

Engineering Initiative. The Legislature appropriated $3 million in ongoing funding and $2 million in one-time funding to the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) for the Engineering Initiative, now in its seventh year. The Technology Initiative Advisory Committee, comprised of Utah industry representatives, will recommend to the Regents how these funds should be distributed. In past years, the University has received a significant share of the available funds.

Nursing Initiative. The Legislature appropriated $500,000 in ongoing funds to USHE of which $122,200 will go to the University as part of the Nursing Initiative. These funds will help the College of Nursing educate additional graduate students to expand the pool of nursing faculty as well as allow the college to expand its baccalaureate program.

Institutional Priorities. The Legislature appropriated $1,000,000 in ongoing funds to support enhancements in digital media instruction, science education, and academic advising, all designated by the President as institutional priorities.

Institutional Partnerships. The University has been exploring opportunities to partner with Dixie State College (DSC) in St. George. The Legislature appropriated $1 million in ongoing funds in support of this effort. The University will use these funds to provide several graduate programs at DSC.

Student Financial Aid. The Legislature appropriated to the USHE ongoing funding of $2 million for need-based student aid (UCOPE), $437,500 for New Century Scholarships, $1,200,000 for T.H. Bell scholarships, and $210,300 for a federal match, along with one-time funding of $500,000 for the State Scholar Initiative and $2 million for UCOPE. University students will receive a share of these funds.

Information Technology. The Legislature appropriated $1,364,100 in ongoing funds to the USHE to address information technology costs such as software licensing, along with one-time funding of $3 million for IT equipment and $480,000 for IT course management software. The University will receive a share of these funds.

Seismic Monitoring. The Legislature appropriated $327,000 in ongoing funds and $720,000 in one-time funds to strengthen and expand the seismic monitoring activities conducted for the state by University faculty and staff.

Library Consortium. The Utah Academic Library Consortium received $300,000 in ongoing funding. The University’s libraries will receive a share of these funds.

Huntsman Cancer Institute. HCI received $4 million in ongoing funds and another $10 million in one-time funds in support of its research programs.

Commission on Aging. The Legislature appropriated $174,500 in ongoing funds and $5,900 in one-time funds to operate the Commission on Aging which will be housed in the University’s Center on Aging.

Public Broadcasting. KUED and KUER received $1,500,000 in one-time funds to help pay for the conversion from analog to digital systems.

Capital Funding. The Legislature appropriated $13,500,000 in one-time funding for the College of Nursing remodel and chiller plant. This will allow the College to upgrade its systems, create more faculty offices, and build a state-of-the-art simulation center.

Tuition and Fees Increase. The Regents approved a 4.0 percent increase in tier one tuition for all USHE institutions. Combined with tier-two and fee increases, the total cost of attending the University will increase by 6.96 percent in 2007-08. A large portion of the increase in tuition revenue will be used to match tax funds allocated to compensation. The rest will cover a variety of programmatic and staffing needs across the University. The Legislature allocated $1,626,900 in additional state funds to the University to reduce the student share of the compensation increase from about 35 percent to 25 percent, thereby returning to the ratio that was in place through most of the 1990s.

 

Legislation of Interest to the University Community

Among the hundreds of bills filed this year, the USHE tracked dozens of them for possible impact on higher education. Among them were:

HB 118, 1S, Residency Requirements for In-State Tuition, sponsored by Rep. Jack Draxler, allows each USHE institution to set a residency policy no less strict than one-year of continuous residency and no more strict than the current 60 semester hours or three years. Passed.

HB 195, Higher Education Tuition Assistance Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Scott Wyatt, was initiated by UHEAA and repeals some obsolete language in the code. Passed.

HB 224, Repeal of Exemption from Nonresident Tuition, sponsored by Rep. Glen Donnelson, repeals the provision that a student is exempt from the nonresident portion of tuition if the student attended high school in Utah for three or more years and graduated from a Utah high school. The bill failed to pass the House.

HB 309, 1S, Scott B. Lundell Tuition Waiver for National Guard Members’ Surviving Dependents, by Rep. Greg Hughes. Passed.

HB 371, 1S, Applied Technology Amendments, by Rep. Ron Bigelow, makes the statutory change necessary to merge the Southeast Applied Technology College with the College of Eastern Utah as approved by the Board of Regents. Passed.

SB 53, Higher Education Engineering Partnership, by Sen. Greg Bell, authorizes a partnership between Utah State University and Weber State University to offer bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering to meet demand in the state, including at Hill Air Force Base, funded at $710,800 in ongoing support and $865,400 in one-time money. Passed.

SB 62, College and University Tuition Tax Credits, by Sen. Greg Bell, creates a refundable tax credit of up to $300 for taxpayers with an income of $30,000 or less for tuition and fees paid to a USHE institution. Passed.

SB 70, Utah Valley University Institutional Name Change, by Sen. John Valentine, changes the name of Utah Valley State College to Utah Valley University (effective 2008), funded at $8 million in ongoing support. Passed.

SB 242, Income Tax Credit for Educational Savings Plan, by Sen. Greg Bell, provides for an income tax credit for Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP) contributions in the flat-tax income tax. Passed.

SB 251, 1S, Higher Education—Concealed Weapons Restrictions, by Sen. Greg Bell, is the result of sustained efforts by a working group, legislative leadership, and higher education officials. Current law prohibits anyone from bringing a firearm onto any campus in the state with a few narrow exceptions including concealed weapons holders. This new law allows residents of college dormitories to choose not to live with a person who has a concealed weapons permit. A person must be 21 years old to get a permit. Passed.

For more information about specific bills, legislative membership, or committees, see the legislative Web site at http://legislature.utah.gov.

 

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