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RAISING TAXES IS MOST FAVORED PLAN TO AID UNIVERSITIES

The 1992 Legislature left Utah's colleges and universities with the prospect of 9,210 new students next fall but the money to pay for only 28 percent of them.

Later this month, the state Board of Regents will weigh a variety of options, including enrollment caps, tougher admission standards, higher resident and non-resident tuition, fees or limits on remedial classes as solutions to the budget crunch.The proposal that won the greatest favor for resolving higher education's funding woes was raising taxes, according to the latest Deseret News/KSL-TV poll.

Utahns selected enrollment caps - a limit on the number of students that can enroll in the public schools - as their second-choice solution. The current situation on campuses around the state - crowded classrooms and a wait for desired classes - is low on the list of desired solutions.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found that 28 percent of Utahns favor higher taxes for higher education, while 22 percent would opt for enrollment caps. Less appealing alternatives are crowding more students into classrooms (8 percent) and having students wait for classes to open up, thus extending their time to graduate (17 percent).

Cecelia Foxley, deputy commissioner of higher education, sees the poll's results as a message that more state resources should go into higher education. "I'm pleased that raising taxes was the first choice because that means there is a recognition that we can't have quality education without paying for it," she said.

The choice of higher taxes ignores ideologies. It is the No. 1 choice of conservatives and liberals alike in the poll.

But Jones found that the higher-taxes or enrollment-caps choices are a toss-up for those who label themselves as very conservative. Both choices grab 21 percent of the very conservative respondents. However, 30 percent of very liberal respondents select higher taxes, while 26 percent of very liberal back enrollment caps.

When listed by party affiliation, Democrats prefer enrollment caps (27 percent) to higher taxes (23 percent), while Republicans choose higher taxes (32 percent) over enrollment caps (19 percent).

Predictably, the higher-taxes solution finds more support among those who earn more money. It is chosen by 31 percent of those who have incomes over $40,000, but 23 percent of those with incomes less than $15,000. For the over $40,000 group, 21 percent choose enrollment caps, while 22 percent of those making less than $15,000 want enrollment caps.

On another education question, Jones found Utahns like the lawmakers' decision to redistribute property taxes for public school buildings. Under the so-called "Robin Hood" bill, the Legislature decided to take property taxes from "rich" school districts like Salt Lake, Murray and Park City and give the money to "poor" school districts like Davis, Jordan, Granite and Alpine.

Of the respondents, 77 percent say they strongly or somewhat favor the redistribution of property taxes while 18 percent somewhat or strongly oppose it.

Support, however, is weaker in Salt Lake County, where two of the four school districts will lose tax money. Of Salt Lake County residents, 65 percent favor equalization while 22 percent oppose it. In Davis County, where the school district will gain funds, 80 percent like equalization compared with 18 percent who don't.

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(Poll)

As you know, the Utah Legislature just ended its 1992 general session. Legislators were unable to find enough money to fund all new students entering public colleges and universities. So more than 6,000 new students will attend college with no money to pay for their education. With this in mind, which of the following alternatives would you favor most:

Limit the number of students that can be enrolled at public universities

22%

Crowd more students into university classrooms 8%

Have students wait for classes to open up, thus extending the time necessary to graduate 17%

Raise taxes to be earmarked specifically for colleges and universities 28%

Other 17%

Don't know 10%

Deseret News, 1991