Bill could allow students to gain residency in one year

By Jay Logan Rogers

The State House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday allowing out-of-state students to gain residency after just one year of living in Utah.

The legislation was approved by a margin of 68 to 1.

House Bill 118 allows institutions of higher education to choose the amount of time, between one and three years of college attendance, required of students in order for them to gain residency.

Kim Wirthlin, U vice president of government relations, said the administration supported the legislation, but had not determined what residency period it would require if the bill becomes law.

“We haven’t made that decision yet,” Wirthlin said. “We have to look at what the impacts are.”

If the State Senate approves it and the governor signs it, HB 118 will pass. Current law requires students to earn 60 credit hours or attend school three years before they can obtain in-state resident status.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, said this legislation gives Utah the same residency standards as neighboring states such as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.

The Utah State Board of Regents, which governs higher educational institutions in the state, also supports the legislation, Draxler said.

“Having a lower residency requirement should attract more out-of-state students to our institutions,” Draxler said. “Many stay here in the state after they receive degrees and contribute to our economy.”

Rep. Gregory Hughes, R-Draper, successfully amended HB 118 to ensure that foreign nationals legally in the United States have the same residency requirements as American citizens.

Out-of-state U students said they were enthusiastic about the possibility of residency requirements being reduced.

“I think it would make for a much more diverse campus. There are so many Utahns here now,” said Bryant Strain, a freshman in exercise and sports science from Idaho.

Katie Cunningham, a sophomore in mass communication from Oregon, said the bill comes too late to benefit her.

“This would’ve been nice a year ago,” she said.