Utah college students are experiencing "sticker shock" over higher tuition and book bills and a "psychological barrier" to taking full loads under the inaugural semester system at the state's colleges and universities.

"It's a healthy chunk. Even at our place it's 300 bucks for books," said Snow College president Gerald Day. "It's a heavy hit for our students at this time."Enrollment figures won't be known for a couple of weeks, but college and university presidents told the Utah State Board of Regents Thursday that the regent-mandated change from quarters to semesters is affecting student credit loads at several institutions.

The impact appears to be different across the system, although firm figures won't be available until the end of the class drop/add period.

At Snow College, for instance, enrollment appears to be down about 6 percent, Day said. Utah State University president George H. Emert reported declines in off-campus enrollment.

Dixie College president Robert Huddleston said students appear to be "overwhelmed" by the change. "They think they're taking too many classes. That mental thing of all those classes listed is quite confusing," he said.

Regent David Jordan questioned whether students aren't taking classes because the courses they need aren't available.

Salt Lake Community College president Frank Budd said a combination of factors are at work.

"The students, as you might expect, want to be done by 12 o'clock," Budd told the regents, meeting Thursday at Utah State University. "We do have students not getting classes at the times they want. It's a space problem."

University of Utah president J. Bernard Machen said he believes enrollment at the U. will end up "about flat."

He cautioned against reading too much into the fall 1998 numbers.

"It's wise for everyone to understand we're going into a very atypical year we shouldn't model after. Let's wait until this meeting next fall," Machen said.

While lawmakers have in intent language vowed to hold harmless institutions that experience enrollment decreases as a result of the semester conversion in terms of state funding, institutions will have to cope with tuition revenue losses on their own, said Regents chairman Charlie Johnson.

"At the end of the day you're still going to have to manage very carefully," Johnson said.