The 2021 legislative session is already underway in Utah, running Jan. 19 through March 5.
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) and the Board of Higher Education (BHE) have set a list of priorities for consideration by the legislature. These categories offer an indicator of what college students and employees should pay attention to throughout the upcoming session.
Scott Brown, the director of local government relations at Salt Lake Community College, identified some important issues for Bruins and the college at large.
Going into 2021, USHE is looking for parity in salary and benefit increases for USHE and state employees.
“Usually, employee compensation is the first item on the BHE list. This year the system is asking for higher ed employees to be treated similarly to how other state employees’ compensation will be addressed,” Brown stated. “Right now, it looks like 3% compensation increase and 4.3% increase for health benefits are the starting place for the session. Of course, a lot can happen that impacts where we end up.”
The group is also looking to secure full funding for each institution of higher education in the state of Utah.
Technical Education Funding Priorities
“Technical Education is a separate item for SLCC due to the two roles that SLCC is designated for Salt Lake County. SLCC is both the two year college and the Technical College assigned to Salt Lake County,” Brown explained.
According to Brown, SLCC is seeking funding that will go toward the certified nursing assistant program, welding technology, more support for students, expanded education equipment, and tuition equalization financial support to help students who have trouble paying for college.
Promotion and Tenure
With this legislation category, SLCC is looking to support faculty through equity adjustments. They hope to be able to provide Salt Lake Community College with a pay increase to account for changing situations within the school and outside of it.
Capital Facilities & Operation and Maintenance
SLCC has ten campuses, two of which have funding contingent upon the upcoming session. The Westpointe Center needs financing to continue operations and maintenance, and the Herriman Campus expansion is currently stalled.
“The main specific request from SLCC is that the Herriman Campus Building be approved again this session. We received the promise of funding last session, however, the budget was reshaped to respond to COVID. The result was that funding for all new higher education buildings was removed from the budget,” Brown expounded.
Brown continued by saying, “Our hope is that the building will again be approved and that construction will begin in the next few years.”
The USHE has some goals shared by the entire organization, to help all state institutions of higher education. One goal involves funding for a shared services consultant, to help reallocate funding and resources within the state in areas where the service is found in multiple places. This will help to limit redundancy and save money overall, by combining the work that needs to be done.
Another goal is to secure the money for a specialized Title IX Attorney General to handle the increase in case volume, implement recent changes to Title IX required at colleges throughout the state, and conduct institutional hearings across the system.
Performance Funding Priorities
This category includes financing for workforce demand and faculty, pathway advising, and institutional sustainability. It touches almost every part of SLCC and its campuses.
“The Performance Funding category is where a lot of the funding institutions receive will come from,” Brown described. “The funding is based on formulas that each institution is expected to achieve to receive 100% of the dollars available. Each session the dollars available is dependent on how the economy is doing and the priorities of the legislature.”
Readers can view the full USHE Budget Request for more information.