Utah House Bill 254 was passed on a bi-partisan basis and signed into law on March 31, 2013, by Governor Gary Herbert. The law requires colleges and universities to award credit for military service and training for veterans. The Utah State Board of Regents is responsible for designating an accreditation agency.
The effective date of H.B. 254 was May 14, 2013. A lack of communication has created uncertainty and concern regarding the role of the Utah Board of Regents and the implementation of the law.
“In my ideal world, I would think they pass legislation and something would need to be given out for us to implement and to know what to do. There hasn’t been that structure, and it’s concerning because nobody knows what to do,” says Darlene Head, the manager of Veterans Services at Salt Lake Community College. “I got an email yesterday from one of the schools saying ‘I know that [H.B. 254] is put in place, does anybody know what we’re supposed to be doing?’ I can’t answer, and I’m pretty involved.”
Head has given her feedback regarding H.B. 254 from the beginning. One of her concerns regarding the law is that too many credits will be awarded and that it will have a negative impact on the veteran’s eligibility for financial aid.
“People who are writing and passing the bills don’t ask for the full scope. They’ll ask somebody who is high up, but they don’t ask the workers. They don’t ask the people who are into implementing it to see if it will work,” says Head.
Roger Perkins, the director of the Veterans Support Center at the University of Utah has similar concerns regarding H.B. 254.
“It seems to me that none of the schools are being proactive. I’ve talked to my counterparts at various schools, and they’re all saying nobody has told them what to do,” says Perkins. “If you want to help veterans, you should take the step and set the example and start doing these things, and not wait for the Board of Regents.”
The statute in H.B. 254 requires the Utah State Board of Regents to designate a postsecondary accreditation agency.
“The [vice presidents of] student services met a few weeks ago and agreed that it’s the ACE (American Council on Education) standard they need to formalize. They made the request and our office is now sending it to the board,” says the Board of Regents assistant commissioner for Public Affairs, Spencer Jenkins.
ACE is likely to be approved according to Jenkins. It’s currently the only standard the Board of Regents has. Once the statute is approved, it’s up to student services to implement it.
Perkins would like to see the Board of Regents play an active role in implementing H.B. 254.
“I worry that the application isn’t going to be as earnest as it should be because it’s different. It’s out of the norm. When you transfer stuff in from SLCC, everyone knows how to do it,” says Perkins. “This is going to require a different administration process. It will require people to learn something different, and people shy away from that, so that worries me.”
The Board of Regents is responsible for approving the accreditation agency and enforcing the statute according to Jenkins.
“It’s not our job to make sure counselors are doing things correctly. We’re not the experts. Those are the institutions. We’ve been communicating with the student services VP. I don’t know if it’s gotten down the full chain of communication to the counselors. It will probably take a few months,” says Jenkins.
The Board of Regents will be holding a meeting on July 19, and more information regarding H.B. 254 may be available after the meeting, but until then the confusion will remain.
“We are mandated to have [H.B. 254] going. Everybody has waited for the Board of Regents to give that direction. I’ve not heard anything official, so I haven’t moved forward because I really need to know what their direction is,” says Head.