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ENROLLMENT CAP CLOSES COLLEGE DOORS

When Utah Valley Community College President Kerry Romesburg arrived at work at 6:30 a.m., he found an older student who had fallen asleep while waiting by the locked front door of the college's main building.

A working mother of three who couldn't find classes to fit her schedule, the UVCC student "was there to ask, to plead with faculty to let her into their classes," he said.Similar stories involving frustrated students come from other state colleges and universities.

Judy Budd, wife of Salt Lake Community College President Frank W. Budd, agreed to help her son, Matthew, an SLCC sophomore, register on the second day of phone registration. She started dialing at 6:55 a.m - five minutes before registration opened - and heard a busy signal. She kept hitting the automatic redial button, but it took her until 8:45 to get through. Matthew didn't get all of the classes he needed.

He was luckier, however, than the UVCC student who hooked his phone up to a computer and had it dial and redial the college during telephone registration. The furious student, whose computer unsuccessfully dialed UVCC 411 times in two days, dumped a computer log of his calls down in front of college officials.

Southern Utah University President Gerald Sherratt has his own computer printout. It's page after page of closed classes. "Not only are we enrolled to the max, we're over-enrolled," he said, pointing to numerous classes where professors have admitted anywhere from several to 15 students more than the limit.

Thursday was the first day of annual two-day budget hearings of the state Board of Regents. Traditionally, it is a day devoted to hearing the budget needs of each of the state's nine public colleges and universities. The 1992 message from many of them was loud and clear: The state schools are bursting at the seams under the regent-imposed enrollment caps this fall.

The state's higher-education system is in the midst of a 1992 enrollment funding crisis, and it is already casting a long shadow over the 1993-94 budget deliberations.

The 1992 Legislature funded only 28 percent of the higher-education enrollment request. The regents imposed enrollment ceilings in a struggle to match students and funding. In July, officials predicted that 3,106 full-time students would be turned away this fall.

But Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr said Thursday that the earlier estimate was low. All of the schools are experiencing intense demand, but the breadth of this fall's enrollment woes won't be known for several weeks, he said.

The commissioner pointed out that while thousands of students who can't get into the desired classes may walk away, the overwhelming majority of them will be frustrated but will remain in school. They will take fewer classes or classes they don't really need, prolonging their college experience and expense, he said.

In the preliminary budget presented Thursday, the institutions said they're seeking $55.4 million in new tax funds, or a 16.3 percent increase.

Of that, they requested enrollment funding in two different priorities. The first seeks $13.4 million in new tax money to fund 8,049 full-time students, including 7,300 unfunded students from this fall. The second priority block seeks another $5.7 million in new tax funds for 3,607 full-time students.

Together, the two budget building blocks total $19.1 million for enrollment alone with a total of 11,656 full-time students - the equivalent in full-time enrollment of a Utah State University.

But higher education's preliminary enrollment request represents more a wish than reality. State fiscal analysts have estimated the 1993 Legislature will have $100 million in new revenue to distribute among all state agencies. In the past few years, higher education's share of the budget pie has hovered around 17 percent. That would mean $17 million to cover all of higher education's requests for new funds.

Also included in the preliminary budget numbers are tuition increases of 7 percent for the universities and 4 percent for the community colleges; 4 percent increase in compensation for faculty and staff totaling $12.6 million plus various proposals for salary catch-ups at the different schools; and $4.1 million (from tuition) to help fund the schools' quality issues such as libraries, counseling, financial aid and equipment.

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(Chart)

Budget request for colleges

-A Total of $55.4 million in new tax money.

-Funding for 11,656 new full-time students

-4 percent faculty/staff compensation package

-Tuition increases of 7 percent at universities, 4 percent at community colleges