Higher education received $2.8 million more for enrollment growth in Wednesday's eleventh-hour budget compromise, but it probably isn't enough to prevent enrollment restrictions next fall.
"It essentially funds students who we've already got enrolled without funding what we've projected for new growth," Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr said. "The situation's not as extreme as it appeared even 24 hours ago, but it (the appropriation) still falls short by about 2,000 students."Higher education had lobbied for $13 million in state tax funds to pay for 6,551 new full-time students. What it got was $10.1 million, which pays for 4,623 full-time students or 70.6 percent of its request. The main problem is that 4,500 of the 4,623 students are already on campuses. Last fall, more students crowded into the state's nine colleges and universities than had been projected, thus leaving enrollment underfunded this year.
Higher education did receive $3.1 million in a one-time supplemental appropriation to partially cover the costs of this year's unexpected students.
Last week, the state Board of Regents warned legislators that it would restrict enrollment for up to 2,800 students if it didn't get a $25.6 million increase in state funds.
It didn't get that much. Higher education received a $24.2 million increase in state tax dollars, or an 8.18 percent increase. The increase will boost higher education's share of tax dollars to $319.6 million and its total revenue, including tuition, federal grants and mineral leases funds, to $430 million.
The commissioner said the Legislature's last-minute infusion of enrollment dollars shows a recognition of higher education's enrollment crunch, but the funds still don't take care of needs.
The regents, who already have a task force looking at long-range strategies to manage enrollment, will soon assess the need for an access policy, in light next year's appropriation, Kerr said.
Disappointing news on salaries
The disappointing news for faculty and staff is that their salaries will fail to keep pace with the 6.3 percent inflation rate. Like other state workers, they will receive an average 4.5 percent compensation package. That translates into a 3.1 percent increase for salaries.
The expectation was for a 5 percent compensation package, which was approved in theory, but lawmakers only appropriated money for a 4.5 percent compensation package.
"It's going to be very bad. There will be a lot of unhappiness," said Jewell Rasmussen, executive secretary for the Utah Association of Academic Professionals, a statewide faculty organization.
Faculty are talking increasingly about some type of protest. "We need to do something to get their (legislators') attention. What it will be? I can't predict," he said.
Dixie College President Douglas Alder said the compensation package will be a tough sell to his faculty members, who have the lowest salaries in the state's higher education system. The average faculty salary is $26,000, and Dixie faculty average 18 years of service. A starting faculty member with a master's degree makes $19,000, Alder said.
UVCC a 4-year school?
The most controversial higher-education bills of the session - SB114 and HB276 - would have forced the regents into converting Utah Valley Community College into a four-year school. The bills were opposed officially by the regents and unofficially by some of UVCC's sister schools.
The Utah County legislators who introduced the bills eventually backed down, supporting a resolution that urges the regents to assess the feasibility and costs of converting UVCC to a four-year school. The study results will be reported to the 1992 Legislature.
As a short-term solution for the baccalaureate needs of Utah County and other areas, the Legislature funded University Centers that will allow UVCC, Dixie and CEU students to take baccalaureate classes on their own campuses.
Lawmakers approved legislation that will:
- Fund enrollment growth at 70 percent to cover $10.1 million or 4,623 students.
- Assess feasibility of converting UVCC to a four-year school.
- Created university centers at UVCC, CEU, Dixie with SUU as host school.
- Established matching endowment fund, but money wasn't appropriated for it.
- Changed institutional councils to boards of trustees.
Lawmakers defeated legislation that would have:
- Given a tuition break to more out-of-state students living near Utah's borders.
- Required disclosure of higher-education salaries.