The powder keg of higher education issues - concealed weapons, faculty workload and a proposal to sharply increase graduate tuition - didn't ignite during the 1998 Legislature.

But minor fireworks resulted when Richfield residents were successful in their bid to transform the Sevier Valley Applied Technology Center into Snow College South over the objection of public education officials.A bright spot for state colleges was the authorization to bond more than $165 million for building projects ranging from student housing to a weight training facility at the College of Eastern Utah.

The crown jewel of the projects, which isn't financed by the state, is the new student housing development at the University of Utah, which will double as the Olympic Village during the 2002 Winter Games. The state will permit the U. to borrow $110 million for that project.

Higher education programs were appropriated about $678 million, a 5 percent increase over last year.

Cecelia Foxley, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, said the state's colleges and universities didn't fare too poorly, considering highway needs and other competing agencies.

"While we understand those are all real needs of the state, we are hopeful higher education can get greater funding in the future," she said.

One disappointment was the state-funded capital budget, which provided about $21.5 million for Salt Lake Community College's Jordan Campus and $4.6 million to the buy land for a new physical education building at Southern Utah University. The SUU project has been on the state building list for at least five years.

State funds for building renovation and growth in higher education remain a crying need, Foxley said.

Earlier this week, U. President J. Bernard Machen lamented over library funding. The U. received less than half of the $850,000 it requested.

Since 1991, the U. has canceled 2,500 subscriptions due to dwindling funds. Last year, U. libraries, which subscribe to 13,000 journals, received enough funding to avoid periodical cancellations.

Meanwhile, college students can count on a 2.7 percent tuition increase, even though lawmakers didn't fully fund higher education salaries. Institutional budget cuts will cover the difference.

Lawmakers did fund an upstart occupational therapy program at the U., redirecting $174,500 previously identified for a new dental hygiene instruction program at Dixie College. The Dixie College funding was stored in a last-minute spending bill.

On a happier note, the state's colleges and universities will receive $1 million to bolster engineering programs. Likewise some $800,000 is forthcoming for apprenticeship programs.

- The Executive Appropriations Committee did pass intent language that permits the Utah Board of Regents to borrow to cover higher education's share of a new Utah State University extension building in Roosevelt.

Rep. Beverly Evans, R-Altamont, told lawmakers that student fees would be used to repay the debt. The equivalent of 1,700 full-time students attend USU classes in Vernal and Roosevelt.

Foxley said neither the regents nor Utah State University had requested funding for the project.