Monthly Archives: March 2006

HB 151 and Concurrent Enrollment #

Rep. Steve Urquhart has published a piece focusing on the Governor’s veto of HB 151, which would have allowed higher education to charge students up to $30 per credit for concurrent enrollment ($90 for most courses).

To define the discussion, concurrent enrollment (CE), means classes taken in the high school for which college credit may be earned. Any high school student may take the course at no additional cost, whether or not the student chooses to pursue college credit. Concurrent enrollment does not include courses taken by high school students on local college campuses.

The Governor stated in his veto letter that “this bill would unfairly preclude some students from participating in concurrent enrollment classes.”

While all students would have access to concurrent enrollment courses, the financial barrier would most certainly have kept some students from enjoying the full benefit: college credit.

Fee waivers by another name

Utah provides “fee waivers” for most fees charged to high school students. (Especially for items that shouldn’t have fees at all, as they are an integral part of public education; fees for the use of textbooks being a notable example. This is an argument for another time.) The primary premise behind fee waivers? Equitable education, ensuring low-income students can have their shot at the American dream.

Colleges have “fee waivers” for low-income stundents too, just under a different name: Pell Grants. (Yes, Mr. Urquhart, I know this is a federally funded program, but the distinction is useful only to politicians and accountants, not to students.) There are many ways low-income students can fully finance a university education, but to my knowledge, none can be applied to concurrent enrollment courses. It seems a bit silly to tell students their (higher) costs will be covered if they take the course again in college, but we can’t offer support for the less expensive concurrent enrollment courses. It is less expensive for the State of Utah to fund concurrent enrollment than to subsidize state universities so students can retake the same courses.

If students are to be charged for CE credit (not necessarily a bad thing) some sort of financial aide program should be in place. This was my only complaint with regard to the bill. I am grateful higher education (before the veto) was stepping up to the plate, and was preparing a need-based scholarship/fee waiver program for low-income students.

Were it not for federal aid and military scholarships, I would not have been able to afford a university education. While in high school, I chose not to ask my parents to pay for AP tests, knowing they couldn’t afford it. I don’t want low-income students to miss these valuable opportunities. To be blunt, without a scholarship program, rich kids in wealthy schools would continue to enjoy the benefits of concurrent enrollment, while kids in high poverty schools would not. As one commenter put it, “Maybe the intent of the measure wasn’t to perpetuate the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots,’ but that’s what it does.”

It’s already funded

The veto request from the State Board of Education came in part because the costs HB 151 was intended to cover were funded by the Legislature under a different line item. The Legislature allocated just over $8M for concurrent enrollment, or about $44.80 per credit hour for the 185,000 credits USOE estimates will be earned this year. In response to my comment, Rep. Urquhart said:

… (2) by no means did we fully fund the costs of concurrent enrollment; we funded K-12’s portion and left higher education holding the bag.

Rep. Steve Urquhart, “Vetoes”
Referenced Wed, 29 Mar 2005 10:14 (MDT)

This grates a bit. During the legislative session, higher education suggested they needed about $20 per credit hour to cover their costs. It is expected that about 45% of the appropriation (just over $20/credit hour) will be paid directly to higher education for this purpose! I’m not sure what bag they’re left holding. (It’s worth mentioning higher ed has since come back with a revised number, suggesting their first estimate was too low.)

Public schools are limited in how they may apply the remainder of the funds. (R277-713-8) Instructor salary, staff development, textbooks, supplies, etc., are all paid from the public school portion, not by the fee paid to the institution of higher education.

Regents at the last Board of Education meeting suggested (prior to the veto) that with the funding from the Legislature, higher ed would likely not charge fees this year, implying the appropriation will cover higher ed’s costs this year.

Tuition varies?

Rural school districts, like Rich and San Juan, pay more than $54 per credit hour directly to higher education—which means they are paying more for concurrent enrollment than they are receiving. Larger school districts with a bit more bargaining power pay less than half that.

UVSC has been the most vocal about CE funds, hinting they may have to cut CE offerings despite the “largest allotment ever.” (Trib article) The director of staffing at USU suggested the allocation will keep CE programs funded for this year, but unless the Legislature accounts for growth, there may be problems in a few years. (Ibid.)

I’ve heard school officials complain their partner universities/colleges see CE as a “cash cow,” and are seeking to raise tuition to offset costs in other parts of the university. In response to this sort of thinking, there were rumors that the system might be changed to allow universities to bid for CE courses. Others have suggested a flat rate for all higher ed partners would be more appropriate.

Until higher education can explain the significant variance in rates charged by different institutions to local districts, I’m rather less inclined to believe anything over $20 per credit hour is insufficient. The legislature could help solve this problem and account for the significant growth in CE participation by applying a funding formula rather than a lump sum allocation.

It saves the state money?

The following table shows the state’s subsidy of tuition and fees at some of Utah’s institutions of higher education for a resident freshman compared with the state’s cost of concurrent enrollment per credit hour (i.e. the student’s tuition cost is not included):

State subsidy per credit hour (2005-2006)
Institution Credits Tuition + Fees Per Credit Subsidy Subsidy
per Credit
SLCC 6.0 $645.00 $107.5 55% $59.13
SLCC 12.0 $1,156.00 $96.3 55% $52.98
SLCC 15.0 $1,156.00 $77.07 55% $42.39
UVSC 6.0 $881.00 $146.84 43% $63.19
UVSC 12.0 $1,511.00 $125.92 43% $54.14
UVSC 15.0 $1,511.00 $100.73 43% $43.32
Utah 6.0 $1,137.84 $189.64 54% $102.41
Utah 12.0 $1,812.00 $151.00 54% $81.54
Utah 15.0 $2,149.08 $143.27 54% $77.38
USU 6.0 $1,027.44 $171.24 55% $94.18
USU 12.0 $1,728.50 $144.04 55% $79.22
USU 15.0 $1,836.01 $122.40 55% $67.32
Concurrent
Enrollment:
N/A 100% $44.80

In most cases, the state subsidy for college credit through concurrent enrollment programs is quite a bit less than the for a comparable program at a state funded university.

Wrap-up

Despite good intentions, HB 151 had some minor problems. I expect to see something similar in future sessions, but I hope a plan for providing fee waivers/scholarships will be in place before students are charged. I expect higher ed will iron out some of the inequities in what it charges districts. I hope the Legislature will not turn their back to funding concurrent enrollment.

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