The student-body presidents of Utah's colleges and universities have added their voices to those opposing the removal of the sales tax on food.

The council of presidents of the Utah Student Association, an organization representing more than 100,000 students at public and private institutions, said it opposes Initiative A because it would mean a loss of between $6 million and $31 million to higher education.A revenue loss would force higher education to increase the financial burden to students, to restrict enrollment or to lower the quality of education to students in the system, the presidents said in a prepared statement.

The presidents said they don't support the food tax but feel it is more important to protect higher education.

"The council (of student-body presidents) believes the issue surrounding Initiative A goes beyond the elimination of the food tax. It involves the state's commitment to the future through education. It is unfortunate that higher education and social services must be partially funded through the food tax," they said.

Meanwhile, University of Utah officials challenged figures being used by food-tax removal proponent Merrill Cook, who has charged that Utah higher education is subsidizing out-of-state students at a higher rate than other states.

Anthony Morgan, U. vice president for budget and finance, said an out-of-state student at the U. carrying a normal class load pays $5,310 for three quarters or 92 percent of the full cost of instruction. Cook has been quoted as saying out-of-state students at the U. pay $3,100. A State Board of Regents policy sets out-of-state tuition at about three times higher than Utah residents.

Besides tuition and fees, out-of-state students also spend, on average, about $3,200 on room and board, he said.

"Many out-of-state students who come to the University of Utah, particularly those at graduate levels, choose to remain in Utah and contribute in important ways to Utah's highly educated work force," Morgan said.