Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE - Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Utah students of limited means would pay no tuition or fees for two years to attend state colleges, universities and technical colleges under HB260, sponsored by Owens, which passed the House on a vote of 69-3 on Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah students of limited means would pay no tuition or fees for four semesters to attend state colleges, universities and technical colleges under HB260, which passed the Utah House of Representatives Thursday by a vote of 69-3.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, creates the Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program.

The scholarship program would be patterned after existing initiatives at Weber State University and Salt Lake Community College that cover costs of tuition and general student fees where federal financial aid falls short for low-income students who take full academic loads. HB260 would extend the needs-based scholarship statewide.

An earlier version of the bill envisioned phasing out funding for the state-funded, merit-based Regents' Scholarship and channel the resources toward this initiative, Owens said.

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The Regents' Scholarship, for instance, encourages Utah high school students to prepare for college academically and financially.

After some pushback, the bill would maintain state merit scholarship programs and fund Access Utah Promise Scholarships.

Moving forward, the Regents Scholarship would only cover tuition and fees, Owens said.

"State financial aid should not be a cash award," he said.

Access Utah Promise Scholarship Program would be only available to students who attend state institutions.