Nolan Karras is the best choice for U students

From a student’s perspective, Nolan Karras is by far the better choice in the Republican primary for governor.

In debates, Jon Huntsman Jr. has proposed to eliminate the State Board of Regents, which Karras has headed for the past three years.

It is difficult for the average student to understand what the Regents do and even harder to care. Regents handle all the big decisions for all public colleges and universities in Utah-how much funding they get, whether or not they can build a new building and who their presidents are.

They don’t actually make the final decisions-the state Legislature does that. But the board thoroughly investigates the needs of every school and makes very educated and thought-out proposals, which the Legislature are supposed to heed when making its final decisions.

As head of that board, Karras is thoroughly familiar with the needs of higher education and he cares about those needs.

Huntsman said dissolving the board would give college and university presidents and their trustees more control of their schools. The last thing to come out of a politician’s mouth like this statement was the vomit the first President Bush spewed on the prime minister of Japan.

The Board’s existence serves at least four purposes that are critical to the U’s relationship with the Legislature. It mediates funding needs, combats regional loyalties, establishes a vision for funding and functions as an advocate.

Every school thinks its needs are dire and wants funding this year. When the school presidents present their needs to the higher education appropriations subcommittee, they sell their cases and compete with one another. Legislators have no understanding of these needs and which ones are more important. They do understand that if the school where their constituents go gets money, the constituents are happy. The Board of Regents is appointed, not elected, and therefore serves as an objective voice of reason in prioritizing the needs of each school.

Because fairness is usually believed to be the most objective way to appropriate money, the U becomes unpopular because it already gets the most money and this appears unfair. The Regents remind the appropriations committee that the state has a vision for higher education, a plan. In this vision or plan, the U gets a lot of money. If the vision is forgotten, the U will be forgotten. When the Regents make their recommendations to the legislature, they end up acting as a sort of advocate for higher education.

I sat in on almost every session of the higher education appropriations subcommittee this spring. The feeling in the room when school presidents presented their needs to the committee reminded me of the medieval high courts where officials entered on their knees and crawled before the king and queen to kowtow before making requests.

The Board of Regents is appointed by the governor and as such is on equal ground with the legislators, politically speaking. The Regents can function asan advocate for the presidents collectively.

Furthermore, the U has only one friend on that 14-member committee, Rep. Patricia Jones, D-Salt Lake City, and she holds little political clout on the committee.

The legislative committee has already shown how it feels about higher education when it refused to fund enrollment growth. It has shown what it thinks of the U when it refused to renovate Marriott Library. Karras will not only preserve that voice of reason standing up for the schools, but that board will be appointed by its former helmsman, its greatest advocate.

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