Utah's nine colleges of applied technology would be governed largely by the institution's board of trustees instead of its president if the bill presented to the Higher Education Task Force on Thursday passes in the upcoming session.

The draft bill, which also asks the Board of Regents to review the annual budget and capital facilities requests from the Utah College of Applied Technology, is meant to further integrate the system and help it grow in the way the institution was intended at its formation in 2001, said task force chairman, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights.

"Our intent is to preserve the independence and life, as we know it, of UCAT," he said.

Regents would not have the authority to make changes or veto anything but could provide feedback and would be able to offer advice to one if its largest operating institutions. UCAT serves more than 60,000 students annually with its career and technical education programs. The lists could then be refined before going to the Legislature and the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, as previously stated in state code.

The bill asks for a study to identify how available space is being used, as well as a facilities master plan. With nine other higher education institutions in the state, money for new buildings and projects is limited.

"I just don't see us spending the kind of capital that would support the aggressive development of 18 campuses," Bell said. "But we want to help it not only survive but flourish like it should."

Most of the recommendations in the draft bill are not new; they come from a list presented by Rich Kendell, commissioner of higher education, earlier this year. He said the priorities of UCAT are much the same as Utah's System of Higher Education and the Board of Regents, "compensation and driving the work force."

The bill does, however, contain new language giving UCAT's 15-member Board of Trustees authority to establish a salary and compensation range for its various campus presidents. Traditionally, presidential salaries on UCAT campuses, as well as college and university campuses in the state, are comparative to those of similar schools in the region.

The amendments to UCAT's governance follow the resignation of former UCAT president Robert O. Brems. Lawmakers believe the institution needs additional checks and balances to keep it moving in the right direction. Bell said the bill is not meant to pare back the autonomy or authority of UCAT.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com