2017 Legislative Update – Week 1


The 2017 Session of the Utah State Legislature got underway Monday, January 23, and will conclude Thursday, March 9. It is anticipated there will be several bills with potential impact to the Utah System of Higher Education, all of which will be tracked and responses coordinated by the Commissioner’s Office and institutions.

2017-2018 Budget

According to the State’s consensus revenue estimates, the State has less new on-going revenue projected than last year, and no “one-time” budget surplus. Revenue growth in the coming year is projected to result in $267 million in new funds:

Total New Revenue Available (Education and General Funds, in millions):

General Fund$ 91$ 8
Education Fund$ 182$ -14
TOTAL$ 273 million$ -6 million

An updated revenue estimate will be available in mid-February.

Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee

The Subcommittee met twice this week, focusing on the existing base budget for higher education. There are several new subcommittee members, including a new Senate Chair, Evan Vickers. Other new members are Senators Deidre Henderson; Representatives Brad Daw, Karen Kwan, Kelly Miles, Val Potter and Mike Winder.

Commissioner Buhler, along with Regents’ Chair Dan Campbell gave introductory remarks providing an overview of higher education in Utah. Some highlights:

  • 9 out of 10 jobs filled since 2008 in the U.S. have been filled by workers with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • An educated workforce is by far the top priority for those recruiting businesses to Utah.
  • USHE institutions project adding 52,000 students by 2025 – the equivalent to current enrollments at Weber State University, Southern Utah University, Dixie State University and Snow College combined.
  • Utah public universities have the 4th lowest tuition, the lowest student debt and the lowest percent of graduates with debt in the country.
  • Utah’s public universities are some of the most efficient: they are among the top 10 states number of degrees and certificates awarded last year by public institutions and have actually reduced the number of executive positions since 1988.
  • 2015-16 USHE graduates will earn $400 million in additional wages over those with only a high school diploma.
  • 85% of USHE students graduate in high market demand areas.

Commissioner Buhler shared with the committee the 2017 Progress Report to the 10-Year Strategic Plan adopted by the Board of Regents in 2016. This report, adopted by the Board of Regents on January 20, provides an update on the metrics, the investment in higher education, and outlines the next steps of the Commissioner’s Office for 2017.

The Commissioner briefly previewed the 2017-18 USHE operating budget request, which will be considered in greater detail in the coming weeks. Starting next week, individual USHE institutions will be updating the committee:

  • Tuesday (January 31): Utah Valley University, Dixie State University, Salt Lake Community College
  • Thursday (February 2): Snow College, Southern Utah University, Utah State University, University of Utah
  • Monday (February 6): Weber State University

Capital Budget

The Infrastructure Subcommittee will begin hearing requests for capital development funding on Thursday, February 6 and 8, 2017.  The agendas are available here.

Legislation of Interest

HB 24, Student Prosperity Plan – Tax Amendments by Rep. Jeremy Peterson, creates a method for corporations to make donations to assist qualifying low-income students save for college through the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP). The bill was held in the House Revenue and Tax Committee and awaits further consideration by the committee.

HB 54, Campus Free Speech Amendments by Rep. Kim Coleman, creates requirements for USHE  institutions related to free speech activity. The legislation replicates policies related to regarding free-speech already in place at USHE institutions. The bill awaits House committee consideration.

HB 100, Institutions of Higher Education Disclosure Requirements by Rep. Kim Coleman, requires institutions of higher education to disclose information including job placement, wage earnings and average student debt programs at USHE institutions . The bill awaits House committee consideration.

HB 103, Campus Anti-harassment Act by Rep. Kim Coleman, defines discriminatory harassment and stipulates that an institution of higher education must take action against discriminatory harassment immediately after gaining knowledge of the act. The bill was scheduled for consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, but was pulled from the agenda by the sponsor.

*SB 35, Veterans Tuition Gap Program Act Amendments by Sen. Luz Escamilla, amends the federal programs to which the Veterans Tuition Gap Program relates and removes the requirement that a qualifying veteran using the program also qualifies for a federal program. The bill was passed by the Senate Education Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

* USHE has taken an official position in support; ** USHE has taken an official position in opposition. For more information on legislation, committee agendas, or to view or listen to floor debates, see: http://le.utah.gov/