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Bill to charge high school students for concurrent credit passes House committee

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 5:39 p.m. MST

High school students will see the costs of concurrent enrollment courses rise in the future if a bill advanced Thursday by the House Education Committee becomes law. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) High school students will see the costs of concurrent enrollment courses rise in the future if a bill advanced Thursday by the House Education Committee becomes law. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — High school students will see the costs of concurrent enrollment courses rise in the future if a bill advanced Thursday by the House Education Committee becomes law.

SB162, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, cleans up the language in a law that was passed last year but never implemented due to a series of cumbersome exceptions included in the statute. The law calls for students to pay up to $30 per credit hour in an effort to ensure the financial strength and continuation of concurrent enrollment offerings.

Because high school students currently pay none of the costs associated with the classes, the expense of providing concurrent enrollment is transferred completely to the institutions of higher education and trickle down to enrolled college students through tuition, Urquhart said.

"That means that college students are picking up the costs of the credit for high school students," he said. "That's probably not the best thing to have someone receiving a benefit and another struggling student paying for that benefit."

Urquhart said the bill is being introduced out of necessity, as limited funds have resulted in colleges and universities scaling back their concurrent enrollment offerings. He said it's unfortunate that some students may be deterred from concurrent enrollment courses due to the increased costs, but a compromise is necessary to ensure the courses continue to be offered.

"I really wish we didn't have to run it, but I think we do have to run it so that there's money going into the program," Urquhart said.

The bill does away with a number of exceptions and waivers that were added to the law that passed last year, namely a discounted cost for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or STEM — courses and a bulk rate for students who take multiple concurrent enrollment courses.

The discount provided for students who quality for free or reduced lunch will remain in statute under the current terms of the bill.

Dave Buhler, state commissioner of higher education, expressed his support for the bill, saying it would help the Utah System of Higher Education continue to offer an important and valuable program.

Buhler said students will begin being charged $5 per credit this fall, based on decisions made last year, and the remaining increases will happen judiciously and gradually with continued collaboration between public and higher education.

"This will help us to gain a small amount of revenue," he said. "We're working very hard to make sure that concurrent enrollment for general education courses are broadly available across the state."

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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