If you're a high school student planning to enter a Utah college next year, the good news from Capitol Hill is that a legislative appropriations subcommittee will recommend increased funding for enrollment growth.
The bad news is that the recommended enrollment increase is still 1,289 students short of the enrollment that the colleges say they can expect.The Higher Education Joint Appropriations Subcommittee agreed Wednesday to recommend funding for 1,683 new full-time equivalent students or 61 percent of the number requested by the state Board of Regents for the 1989-90 budget. Last year, the Legislature funded only 20 percent of the enrollment growth requested by the regents.
Vicki Varela, assistant to the commissioner of higher education, said the colleges have lived for several years with unfunded enrollment. The fact that the recommended figure is 1,289 less than the regent request doesn't necessarily mean students will be turned away, although it may mean that for some of the state's nine colleges and universities.
But it could mean students will have to deal with larger classes, difficulties in getting specific classes or majors, classes offered at awkward times and inability to attend the college that they want or to carry a full load of classes, she said.
Those recommended for the biggest increases in new students are Southern Utah State College, Utah State University, Weber State College and Salt Lake Community College. No funding increase for enrollment was recommended for the University of Utah because this year's enrollment is below its funded level.
Of the recommended 1,683 additional students, the increase is 313 more than suggested by the legislative analyst.
The addition came Wednesday when Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Salt Lake, suggested putting $1.3 million expected in savings from fuel and power into enrollment growth and reimbursed overhead to protect them for higher education when the subcommittee's recommendation goes to the Executive Appropriations Committee Thursday night. The legislative analyst has recommended fuel and power savings from all state agencies be returned to the state.
With the subcommittee's recommendation, the colleges would also be allowed to keep 96 percent of their reimbursed overhead, the amount that research grants reimburse colleges for their indirect costs such as lab renovation and equipment. Although the 1987 Legislature agreed that the colleges be fully reimbursed, that hasn't been possible because of financial restraints. The colleges have had to turn over 24 percent of their reimbursed overhead to the state general fund.
The total higher-education budget recommended by the subcommittee is $367.5 million. That figure is less than the $377.2 million requested by the regents but about $2 million more than that recommended by the governor or legislative analyst. The higher education budget is about one-fifth of the total state budget, and the subcommittee recommends $271.5 million in state money.
Higher Education Commissioner Wm. Rolfe Kerr seemed satisfied with the subcommittee's recommendation.
"The regents worked hard this year to prepare the most conservative budget request since the Board of Regents was created in 1969. We feel the higher education committee's proposal recognizes the limited nature of the request. We commend them for their efforts to balance the crucial enrollment, research and mandatory costs in higher education," he said.
One big difference between the subcommittee's and regents' budget is that the regents want a 4.5 percent salary increase. Although the subcommittee has delayed salary recommendations until after the state revenue projections come out next week, its recommended budget uses the 3 percent pay raise for state employees sought by the governor.
Kerr said higher education won't abandon its lobbying efforts for a larger pay raise. "Our efforts at the Legislature over the next two weeks will be to maximize to the extent possible salary increases for our faculty and staff."
The subcommittee also recommended full funding for increased costs of employee benefits. The governor wanted funding for only half of the increase.
The regents were expected to offer their reaction to the subcommittee's proposal on Thursday.