Utah student body presidents are rallying together to make a difference in Utah's higher education tuition increases. They are doing this with the assistance of Utah Student Association (USA), the decision making body for students of higher education in Utah for all colleges including private institutions.
According to Dan Wood, CEU student body president, the organization is being reorganized and will include UCSP (Utah Council of Student Body Presidents), a lobbyist, the student regent, executive assistant and executive director. The constitution is being revised due to the separation between UCSP and UIA this year. UIA, Utah Intercollegiate Assembly, is to provide means for collegiate input to the legislative process of Utah, www.uia.utah.edu.
CEU's Wood said, "Unfortunately the experience was never created to be such and has lost much on the educational savor for which it was originally created. This year we have decided to make UIA an educational experience sanctioned and supported by USA but not controlled or funded by it.
"We also hired someone part-time as an executive director; the individual would focus on informing the members of USA and raising the body to newer heights. This step has already shown great results in our lobbying effort and the position has great potential. To make it a full-time position, it will require a student fee increase of 21 cents per student at CEU and has not been decided.
"USA's strongest ally is the combined voice of the approximately 130,000 students in Utah. When USA makes a decision, it concerns the all higher ed. students."
USA's initiatives for this fiscal year include advising, financial aid, library consortium and voting improvements. These goals are outlined in a brochure they presented to government officials.
Through the initiatives USA hopes to improve advising by $2 million, hire more advisors and streamline programs, continue funding for need-based financial aid through a $1.5 million of on-going need-based student financial aid.
They hope to increase funding for the Utah Academic Library Consortium through $500,000 to support the consortium as costs continue to increase. They hope to make improvements by raising awareness for the need to increase voting opportunities for students on campuses throughout the state.
"These voting improvements will hopefully include same-day voter registration and voting on individual campuses. Our ultimate goal is to help students become more civically engaged by getting out to vote. These changes are expected to be brought again to the legislature and, if passed, be implemented hopefully by the next presidential election," Wood stated.
USA Legislative Recap discussed businesses that are interested in economic environment. "Businesses are coming to the legislature willing to be partners in the process of economic development by increasing graduates for particular areas that are needed.
The bills USA are looking at are: HB0138: Nonresident Tuition for Higher Education Amendments
Sponsor: Rep. Lawrence
This bill would amend HB331 making instate residence accomplished when a nonresident student reaches 60 credits or 3 years. HB331 never specified how long in years it would take a student to become a resident. Without this amendment a student could take one class and still have to finish the other 59 credits before they could gain residency no matter how long they were living in Utah. With this amendment a student can achieve resident status after 3 years of living here or earning 60 credits. It would be better for students if it was less than three years, but this is better than what is stated in the current law. The Regents commissioner's office originally wanted to take care of it in the form of policy.
Status: House read first time (Introduced)
HB0220: State and Use Tax Exemption for Textbooks for Higher Education
Sponsor: Rep. Bordeaux
This bill allows any text book purchased for higher education at the nine state institutions to be tax exempt. The fiscal note on this is loss to the general fund and local revenue combined of $3,307,000 for 2006 and $3,707,000 for 2007. The Utah System of Higher Education is funded by the general fund.
Status: House has received it with the fiscal note and it has been sent to the House Revenue and Tax Committee for review.
HB93: Emission Inspection Amendments
Sponsor: Kerry W. Gibson
This bill repeals the requirement that college students and employees who park a motor vehicle on a college or university campus that is not registered in a county subject to emissions inspections are required to provide proof of compliance with an emissions inspection
"We support any action to lighten the current bill's effect on out-of-state students. House Bill 331 initially brought up to stimulate more revenue for the schools, it's actually had a adverse effect, especially on the USU and SUU because out-of-state students would rather stay in state and not pay out-of-state tuition. The money that they make does not compensate for the lost enrollment.
"I think it is a great idea to have tax free school books. Students come from different places with different emission requirements. They should not have to pay to change it just to come to school," Wood said.
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