After all the moaning over what the 2004 Legislature didn't provide for higher education, Salt Lake Community College stood out as the big winner Friday with a $21 million chunk of the $86 million general obligation bond.

The money for SLCC will go toward a $26.6 million health sciences center.

The deal left some with the questions of why, when the SLCC project was fourth on the State Board of Regents' priority list. And, when the University of Utah lobbied hard for at least half of the $45 million requested to renovate the Marriott Library. The U. ended up with nothing, even though it placed second on the regents' list of capital development projects.

Some say Senate President Al Mansell was the key.

"Al was interested in helping," said SLCC President Judd Morgan, "but there were so many other legislators who helped us."

The list of legislative "friends" is long and includes names like House Majority Leader Greg Curtis. And

there were other behind-the-scenes people with SLCC and the health-care industry, which has donated its own resources to help the school train nurses.

It also helped that for years SLCC got little attention from lawmakers for big building projects while schools like Utah Valley State College, on its way to becoming a four-year university, got everything it needed in some people's eyes. This year UVSC requested help in funding a $32.5 million digital learning center, a project ranked third on the regents' list, but received no state monies.

It didn't hurt that the 2004 Legislature got an earful about the state's nursing shortage and that SLCC currently has a long waiting list for students to get into its nursing program.

Then there are the "crammed," scattered and inadequate facilities SLCC has had to use to train nurses.

So, with all of that history in its corner, SLCC officials began their lobbying last fall, even taking some lawmakers on tours of their facilities.

"Maybe it was our turn," Morgan said. What's more, he added, it's a boost for the nursing initiative, which higher education had hoped to fund with $6 million in state funds but which received less than $1 million.

The only other schools that benefited from the obligation bond were Weber State University, with a $5.5 million share for a renovation project, and the College of Eastern Utah, which will receive $2.4 million for a library, a project that was ranked second to last by regents.

The remaining hurdle now for SLCC will be to come up with $5.6 million from "somewhere in the community" to complete the funding puzzle or risk scaling back the project, which Morgan, after fighting for so long, says he's not prepared to do.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com