Every year, the Utah System of Higher Education sets a list of priorities for the legislative session for institutions like Salt Lake Community College and other colleges in the state.
The 2022 legislative session began Jan. 18 and continues through Mar. 4. Scott Brown, director of local government relations at SLCC, thinks it could be a good year to secure additional funding for higher education programs and initiatives.
“Anytime the session starts with over a billion [dollars] to be spent usually leads to people being pretty positive going in,” Brown said, outlining some of SLCC’s goals and priorities for the legislative session this year.
Utah’s available revenue for the 2022 session is an estimated $1.1 billion for the education fund.
Each year, USHE seeks parity in salary and benefit increases for USHE and state employees. This is considered a top priority each session, according to Brown.
“The goal is to treat all employees of higher education like state employees,” Brown said.
The USHE outline asks for a 3.5% increase in compensation for cost of living adjustments and a 6.7% increase to health benefits from the state.
Some SLCC students think these increases in compensation should include student employees. Chen Quan Lin Wu, an animation major at SLCC, said student employees need more to match rising costs in Salt Lake.
“I work and try to get financial aid, but it gets really hard to pay my bills,” Lin Wu said.
USHE system priorities
The USHE includes systemwide priorities for the legislature to consider. One of the priorities this year involves a statewide advocacy and awareness campaign to illustrate the continued value of a college education to the general public.
Brown said the campaign would be focused around the value of higher education to change the growing narrative that college may not be worth the cost.
“We need to tell the real story about the value of higher education,” Brown said.
Some students believe colleges and universities should prioritize ways to educate students about financial aid options available to them. McCaulee Blackburn, a general studies major at SLCC, said she was frustrated to learn about potential financial aid partway through the previous semester.
“There should be an awareness campaign about what aid people can qualify for,” Blackburn said.
Furthermore, Brown said USHE has a continued goal of increasing funding for mental health initiatives throughout higher education in the state.
Beyond the broader goals of USHE, SLCC has its own legislative priorities, including the expansion of its Veteran Business Resource Center, a program that works with veterans trying to grow their own business or even start their own business.
“We’ve got a track record now of not only being able to reach out to veterans, [but] we can show that their businesses are growing, and because it’s successful, we’re looking for some help to make the program even bigger,” Brown said.