SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers voted Monday to exempt technology-intensive courses and low-income students from a bill that would allow high school students to be charged for concurrent enrollment credit.

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, sponsored SB284, which permits the State Office of Education and State Board of Regents to charge students up to $30 per credit hour of college credit earned through concurrent enrollment courses. Those credits are currently offered free of charge to Utah high school students. 

"Concurrent enrollment is fabulous, it's doing great things," Urquhart said. "We want to make sure we don't damage it."

Urquhart said that under the terms of the bill, concurrent enrollment courses would continue to be offered free as part of a public education curriculum, but students would be required to pay a fee to receive college credit. That fee would be paid directly to the colleges and universities that offer the credit.

Urquhart introduced an amendment Monday that would exempt students who qualify for free and reduced lunch as well as removing the fee for credits earned from technology-intensive concurrent enrollment, or TICE, courses. That amendment was passed by the Senate.

The bill does not specify the amount of fee but rather instructs the Board of Regents to determine the appropriate cost of college credit for high school students, not to exceed $30 per credit hour. Urquhart said that the practice of offering the credit for free places the burden of cost on current college students.

"They're having to pay higher tuition so we can subsidize concurrent enrollment," Urquhart said. "That's not a healthy practice."

If the fee was set at the maximum of $30 per credit hour allowed in the bill, that would still represent an 80 percent discount from the average $150 per credit that college students pay, Urquhart said.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said she supports the bill but expressed opposition to not requiring the fee from all students.

"Every high school student of any income level is benefited by this bill," she said.

Sen. Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake, said had the bill been in place when he was a student, he may not have had the resources to pay for the fee and, as a result, might have avoided concurrent enrollment. He asked whether the bill allows for students to complete the courses at their high schools but not purchase the college credit until later on when they are enrolled in college.

Urquhart said that would be up to the Board of Regents but the language of the bill would not impede such a program.

"We need to set broad policy," he said. "We need to let the regents do their thing."

The bill passed a preliminary vote of 22-5 and will come before the Senate again for a final vote before advancing to the House.