The 6,541 new students who have overwhelmed the college enrollment numbers this fall have prompted the State Board of Regents to seek a supplemental appropriation from the Utah Legislature.
The regents, the 16-member governing body of higher education, agreed Friday to go after more money for this year's enrollment - an unusual move - in an effort to cope with an 8.06 percent increase in students.The enrollment percentage, which had been set at a 7.8 percent last week, was revised upward Friday after the correction of some reporting inconsistencies among the colleges.
The regents, meeting at College of Eastern Utah, asked Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr to determine the exact amount of the supplemental request and report back in November. No amount was pinpointed Friday, but, based on other appropriations, it will probably be several million dollars. It will be made to the Legislature in January.
This fall's enrollment growth is far greater than expected. The commissioner said the state's nine colleges and universities were funded for 62,506 full-time equivalent students but 66,952 FTE students showed up. That leaves 4,446 FTE students unfunded by legislative appropriations.
"No one is to blame for this. The Legislature funded our request last year, but many more ultimately enrolled. Nevertheless, it is unrealistic, almost unconscionable, to expect our institutions to absorb more than 4,000 students without funding," Kerr said.
The commissioner said that the institutions are scrambling to hire instructors, increase class sections, expand class sizes and make other accommodations.
"We will continue to try to stretch our capacity," he continued. "But how much more can we stretch the elastic without breaking it? That's the issue we're struggle with. How far can we expect these institutions to stretch?"
Besides the supplemental request, the regents juggled its budget request for next fall, adding $6.2 million for enrollment growth. The regents had planned to ask for 4,188 new students, but upped that number to 6,551 because of the rising enrollment. The request would be $19.5 million in new state funds for enrollment growth.
The total higher education 1991-92 budget request will be $68.7 million in new funds, including $57.6 million in state funds. That is a 19.5 percent increase.
The regents have adopted enrollment growth as the No. 1 budget priority.
The commissioner said his office will study immediately the composition of the enrollment boom to assess where the students are coming from and what it means for future enrollment projections. He said a preliminary report will be given to the regents next month.
Regent Ian Cumming also asked for a revised forecast of enrollment growth in the next five to 10 years so the regents "have a range of potential disasters that face us."
He also requested an updated projection of higher education's financial needs and an examination of the institutions' capital facilities needs in light of the updated enrollment.
"If this (enrollment boom) continues, we will have to engage the Legislature in discussions of whether we can or (or whether we) shouldn't - I emphasize the shouldn't - cap these institutions' " enrollment, Cumming said.
Too many students can handicap the institutions' ability to deliver their educational promises, and the regents must find a way to manage the system, he said, mentioning enrollment caps as one way.
Later in the meeting, the regents, acting upon Cumming's request, also asked the commissioner's office to propose different strategies for managing enrollment.
College of Eastern Utah President Michael Petersen cautioned about focusing any enrollment growth discussion too much on the number of students moving out of public education. "It's far more complicated than the number of graduating high school students," he said.
He pointed out that many students are adults seeking retraining and new opportunities.
More college students
Fall '89 Fall '90 Increase
U. 24,432 25,425 4.06%
USU 14,361 15,572 8.43%
WSC 13,650 14,113 3.39%
SUSC 3,502 4,003 14.31%
Snow 1,734 1,872 7.96%
Dixie 2,381 2,528 6.17%
CEU 2,341 2,960 26.44%
UVCC 7,758 7,886 1.65%
SLCC 11,003 13,344 21.28%