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Independent research group compiles data, analyzes non-resident student bill impacts

By Sun Advocate

The Utah Foundation has released the independent public policy research organization’s report on non-resident higher education students at colleges and universities in the state.
Focusing on evaluating the state’s competitiveness in attracting non-resident students, the December research project was prompted by the implementation of Utah House Bill 331, explained the foundation.
The legislation made it more difficult for non-resident college students to obtain Utah residency.
Utah House Bill 331 was enacted partly to provide additional revenue for the state’s system of higher education, pointed out the independent research organization.
But the expected revenue did not materialize as many non-resident students seem to have opted to attend colleges and universities in other states.
The foundation’s December report examines how Utah compares to other western states in levels of tuition and residency requirements.
Highlights of the 16-page report include:
•Changes proposed in Utah’s higher education residency requirements did not produce the revenue gain expected from House Bill 331.
Some schools actually saw a reduction in non-resident students from the prior year.
•Although Utah higher education seems inexpensive on a national scale, other western states are also inexpensive, and Utah competes mostly with those western states for non-resident students.
•Over time, non-resident tuitions have increased faster than resident rates.
The results are gradually eliminating taxpayer subsidies for non-resident students at most of Utah’s colleges and universities.
•Utah higher education expenditures per full-time equivalent student have remained basically flat over 20 years when adjusted for inflation.
At the same time, resident and non-resident tuitions have increased while tax funds per student have generally decreased.
Utah is similar to other western states in fostering a high level of access to higher education for residents.
In fact, Utah spends a greater proportion of government funds on higher education than any other region in the nation, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Coupled with the sixth fastest growth in enrollment nationally, the policy has become expensive, leading to frequent tuition increases as state policy makers reduce growth in taxpayer subsidies for college tuition.
In the past, non-resident students have typically been able to attain residency before marking the second year in Utah, reducing the cost of tuition.
But the resulting situation, in turn, increased the costs to taxpayers to educate the non-resident higher education students.
Utah’s residency policy has been among the most lenient of western states.
Even with the new law, it is easier to become a resident in Utah than in most other western states, pointed out the independent research organization.
Even so, the change enacted last year seems to have driven many non-resident students to other states.
In doing so, the revenue expected from out-of-state students has not materialized.
Utah state government estimators projected 932 additional non-resident students during the current school year, pointed out the research organization.
The projected students would have generated $5 million in extra revenue for the state’s coffers, added the foundation.
Surprisingly, the non-resident population at Utah’s colleges and universities only increased by 16 students statewide, leaving a $4.9 million shortfall in the revenue estimate, according to the independent public policy research foundation.
“Recognizing that 54 percent of Utah’s non-resident students come from western states, we need to be sure we stay competitive with those states when making changes to our higher education system,” indicated foundation research analyst Sara Sanchez.
Utah Foundation is a non-profit, non-advocacy public policy research organization.

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