The 2023 Utah Legislature was productive for the University of Utah.
Overall, the U received more than $250 million in direct funding for buildings, authority to bond for up to $600 million to build campus housing in the University Villages, and up to 5.5% raises for university employees.
Of those appropriations, $108 million is dedicated to completing the state’s portion of funding for the John and Marcia Price Computing and Engineering Building.
State lawmakers also approved $100 million to help relocate the Utah Army National Guard 76th Operational Response Command’s personnel and operations from Fort Douglas to Camp Williams.
In coordination with the Utah National Guard and the United States Army Reserve, the appropriation will help the university eventually take over the 50.9 acres of land on the east bench of campus above Mario Capecchi Drive. An executive committee will work to update the campus master plan, but initial proposals for the land include additional student housing, health sciences offices and clinics, and research space.
“This was a very successful year—the most the university has ever received in direct appropriations,” said Jason Perry, vice president for government relations. The Fort Douglas funding “will be a game-changing opportunity for a land-locked university.”
Finally, the university’s West Valley City campus project received $25 million in ARPA (or COVID relief) funding to help plan for a new, $500 million, full-service hospital, which is scheduled for groundbreaking next year and opening in 2027.
In addition to receiving state funding, U leaders engaged with state lawmakers on several hot button issues during the session, including equity diversity and inclusion efforts in hiring, admissions and campus engagement. Legislators are slated to discuss EDI in higher education during the summer interim period.
“I think we’re going to have some important conversations over the summer,” President Taylor Randall told the university’s Board of Trustees at a March 14 meeting. “Some of what we need to do is explain the important role many of our programs play in the lives of our students on campus. These programs improve access, help create a place of belonging and boost our graduation rates.”
“Some senators and legislators do have some concerns,” the president added. “We’ve got to listen and be respectful of those concerns and understand them. We will need you in those discussions.”
Finally, university faculty on the Great Salt Lake Strike Team will continue to meet with their counterparts at Utah State University and in the state departments of Agriculture and Food, Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources to discuss research and advise lawmakers on water policy.