Legislature looks at problem of enrollment growth

They still don’t know what they’re going to do, but they have a lot to think about.

The House appropriation committee for higher education met yesterday to discuss what to do about unfunded enrollment growth in higher education, in the words of chairman Bradley Johnson, R-Aurora.

After two hours of discussion, several issues had been discussed but no plan of action was decided for how to pay the $43 million deficit, let alone the 10,553 new students this year who aren’t funded by the state.

Options for improving the quality of incoming students were also proposed. If growth is not funded, the schools only have one-third of the money needed for the students’ education.

That one-third comes from his or her tuition. The U has 401 more students, regardless of the enrollment cap limiting the number of new freshmen admitted.

Some representatives, including Susan Lawrence, R Salt Lake City, were concerned that if the past debt wasn’t paid, schools wouldn’t get the money they need for this year’s growth.

Legislative fiscal analyst Boyd Garriott said the committee needs to consider changing its funding formula. The current formula only increases funding to those schools with increased enrollment.

If the state is unable to fund growth, a new formula for deciding how to appropriate funds needs to be decided, Garriott said.

Luwanna Shurtliff (D-Ogden) suggested a reconsideration of a new formula proposed by the state Board of Regents in previous years.

Garriott reminded the committee that the proposed formula was still enrollment driven and wouldn’t solve the problem.

His comments were disregarded and George Mantes, co-chairperson of the Board of Regents, agreed to again propose the new formula.

Kermit Hall, president of Utah State University, and Richard Kendell, commissioner of higher education, both pleaded with the committee to raise the standards for admission at the U and Utah State in order to halt enrollment growth and improve the quality of each school’s student body.

Hall also urged the committee to remember graduate and professional students when appropriating money. Kendell urged community colleges be strengthened to handle more growth.

Concern with rising tuition was also mentioned and debated for several minutes.

No ideas were ever proposed for how to pay off the enrollment growth deficit, but the issue of raising the bar for incoming freshmen was.

In a joint meeting with the appropriations committee for public education, Kendell and State Superintendent of Public Education Steven Laing proposed that incoming freshmen repay the full cost of remedial university courses in math and English.

In Garriott’s words, when a student admitted directly from high school is ill-prepared to do college-level work, then taxpayers supporting remedial education on the college campus are, in effect, paying twice for that student’s education.

If the proposal is adopted, incoming freshmen would pay nonresident tuition for remedial courses.

Several representatives, including James Ferrin, R Orem, supported the initiative. No one opposed the measure.

The co-chairperson of the public education committee, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R Draper, denied several motions to ratify the proposal in favor of further discussion on ill prepared high school graduates.

No vote was taken.

[email protected]