HB291: Bill aiming to improve Utah concurrent enrollment passes out of committee

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A bill being considered in the current legislative session seeks to create consistent criteria for instructors and students to improve Utah’s concurrent enrollment education. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A bill being discussed in the Utah Legislature would add clarifications and extend deadlines for legislation already in the works to improve the state’s concurrent enrollment programs.

Concurrent enrollment programs allow high school students to take college level courses from Utah’s public universities, according to Step Up Utah.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley, said HB291 builds on one of his previous projects from the last legislative session — legislation to implement consistent qualifications and eligibility criteria for concurrent enrollment instructors.

“We found that in different parts of the state we had different service areas having different levels of participation with concurrent enrollment,” Winder said.

Concurrent enrollment participation among 11th and 12th graders ranged from 45 percent in the areas around Snow College and Weber State University to 20 to 25 percent in the Salt Lake Community College and Dixie State University areas.

“It really concerned us because if you look at the concurrent enrollment data, there’s an amazing correlation, especially for first generation college attendees where if they can get a little bit of taste of college success in high school, they’re far more likely to go to college and to complete college,” Winder said. “We want to make sure that all students of our state have an equal opportunity to go for that.”

While investigating reasons behind the disparity, Winder and his colleagues found instructor accreditation varied throughout the state.

“There’s quite a patchwork of credentialing and we said, you know, if the credit is statewide and transferable statewide, then the instructor credentialing should also be statewide,” Winder said. “But we wanted to make sure we did it in a way that was building on our existing concurrent enrollment programs and we were moving forward and not backward.”

HB291 would amend the previous legislation to extend the Utah State Board of Regents’ deadlines to create the consistent credentialing.

The bill would also “build upon concurrent enrollment partnerships in an effort to increase concurrent enrollment offerings in all the college areas,” according to Winder.

“We don’t want the statewide standard to result in less concurrent enrollment offerings,” he said.

The bill also adds the wording “uniform statewide” in relation to criteria for students and instructors.

Winder said the Legislature would be careful not to micromanage the education guidelines at the legislative level. Standards wouldn’t be prescribed at the legislative level but would be set by the Utah State Board of Regents using guidelines from the Legislature.

Winder said he hoped the bill would create a “good, solid standard” for state concurrent enrollment education and stop the current problem of “willy-nilly patchwork around the state.”

Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, said she supports the bill.

“I think it’s a good idea statewide to help our students regardless of where they choose to have their higher education or where they go to high school,” Ballard said.

She said “this is a great way to streamline our resources as well as to simplify our opportunities for students and to give them the credit for what they’re looking for.”

HB291 was passed out favorably from the House Education Committee on Feb. 19.

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