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BYU, Westminster students could resume using Regents’ Scholarship under new bill

Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Qualifying students who attend private, nonprofit colleges and universities in Utah could resume using the state-funded Regents’ Scholarship under legislation endorsed by a legislative committee Tuesday.

The Senate Education Committee unanimously supported HB117, which would allow the award to be used by students attending Brigham Young University, Westminster College, LDS Business College and Western Governors University.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Daniel Hemmert, R- Orem, said the legislation would require the bill receive an additional $5 million in funding to go into the scholarship pool “for this bill to pass.”

Regents’ Scholarship is to be used as “last dollars in” to cover tuition and fees, since many students who qualify for the scholarship — which requires they take a rigorous course schedule in high school — often qualify for other scholarships, Hemmert said.

HB117 has a requirement that would prevent one college or university from having a greater percentage of Regents’ Scholarship awards than any other.

It also limits awards to “the average total cost of tuition and fees among the eligible institutions.” Tuition at Westminster College, for example, is much higher than other eligible institutions, which include public technical colleges.

Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Participating colleges and universities must be accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the bill states.

Several committee members said they were contacted by constituents after the conditions of the Regents’ Scholarship were changed as the Utah State Board of Regents shifted the focus of its scholarship program from high-achieving students to assisting low-income students as it seeks to make college more accessible and affordable.

The Utah System of Higher Education’s review of the program revealed some students with multiple merit scholarships were pocketing the Regents’ Scholarship because their education costs were sufficiently covered by other awards.

Under current guidelines, Regents’ Scholarship awards are limited to public colleges and universities, including state technical colleges.

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said she received a lot of letters about limitations placed on the scholarship last year.

“People were concerned it was actually hurting our students more than anything and they should have the choice to go where they think they can get the best education,” she said.

Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Students walk between their afternoon classes on the Westminster College campus in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News