Hale on the Hill: VP Val Hale talks state legislature
Val Hale, vice president for University Relations and UVU’s liaison with the Utah Legislature for the 2011 session
The 2011 Utah legislative session begins Jan. 24 and continues through March 10. Once again, the legislature will consider many issues that directly or indirectly affect Utah Valley University and higher education.
This year, UVU is promoting four key initiatives or issues at the legislature. First is compensation. UVU faculty and staff have not had a salary increase since July 1, 2008, despite the University’s dramatic increase in enrollment. Our employees are being asked to continue serving more students and respond to growing demands. We acknowledge that this will be another difficult budget year for legislators, but we are hopeful they will give institutions flexibility to allow for some sort of salary increase.
The second priority is approval of the Student Life and Wellness Building and a parking structure. We are not seeking tax funds for this project, as it will be funded by general student fees and parking revenue. However, the legislature must give permission to move ahead with the project. We are hopeful that legislators will recognize the need for this facility and allow us to proceed with planning and construction.
Third is our support of the Utah System of Higher Education’s request for mission-based funding. This concept solicits funding to support each institution’s mission and priorities. For UVU, it would primarily mean enrollment-growth funding, which is badly needed.
The final key priority is equity funding. State tax funds provide only 42 percent of UVU’s operating revenue, whereas the average for all state institutions is 56 percent. That means UVU students shoulder more of the cost of their education with tuition, and that UVU does not have sufficient resources to support key programs and services. UVU also has the least amount of funding per student in the state, and the fewest number of square feet per student in its facilities. In nearly every measure, UVU ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to funding and facilities. We believe legislators should begin taking steps to rectify the funding imbalance among the state’s institutions of higher education.
Promoting these priorities is no easy task. Legislators are currently considering an additional tax fund reduction of 7 percent for higher education. We are vigorously working to convince legislators that cutting budgets for higher education — and UVU in particular — would have dramatic effects on our ability to fulfill our mission.
So what can you do to help? First, find out who your legislators are. Go to le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp and type in your address, and you will be shown your representative and senator. If you click on the names of the legislators, you can find their contact information. Next, take a moment to write an e-mail or a letter to your legislators. Identify yourself as one of their constituents. Be positive and express appreciation for their service and continuing support of UVU — then state your concern or issue. You might want to identify one or all of UVU’s priorities for this session. Remind them how important UVU is for their constituents, and close by telling them how much we appreciate their support. And, finally, be sure to fill out the survey that your legislator sends you and mention the need for adequate higher education funding.
Imagine what would happen if every UVU student and employee took the time to write his or her legislator. It would provide a resounding message that UVU is THEIR University. It is definitely worth taking 10 to 15 minutes to communicate with your legislators. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions about reaching out to your legislator.
— Val Hale