Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, presides during a Senate Education Committee hearing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate Education Committee on Friday endorsed SB102, which would create funds for state-funded college and university building projects and change the approval process.

SB102, sponsored by Senate Assistant Minority Whip Ann Millner, R-Ogden, would create project funds for state colleges and universities and another for technical colleges. It would also establish criteria for project funding.

Currently, colleges and universities submit building proposals to the Utah Board of Regents. The regents prioritize the requests, and their list is proposed to the State Building Board, then to Legislature's Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, and ultimately to the Legislature.

Former state lawmaker Gage Froerer likened the existing process to "sitting on Santa Claus' lap."

Millner said the unintended consequence of the existing process has been bigger projects "because you're only going to get a project every so often. Even if a smaller project might make sense, you're not going to do that because you know you're going to lose your place in line for a number of years."

Now, projects are proposed that cost "$50 million, $60 million, $70 million. That's really not sustainable," she said.

The goal of SB102 is to appropriate colleges and universities funding for cost-effective building planning, and then they'd have to go through additional processes to obtain state dollars for construction.

"They may have to save money over time if they want to do a project but they'll know it's available to them," she said.

Funding considerations would include an institution's enrollment, performance, regional growth in student population, facility age, and condition and utilization of academic space, including off-campus facilities.

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Both Utah Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler and Jared A. Haines, interim Utah Commissioner of Technical Education, spoke in favor of the bill.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said the sponsor may want to consider alumni giving as a factor for awarding funding. Not all colleges and universities are equal in the respect of alumni giving, he said, which makes many building projects possible at universities but less so on smaller campuses.

SB102 moves to the full Senate for further consideration.