Following the close of the 2023 General Legislative Session, Utah State University reviewed the appropriations and bills that will directly impact the university, its employees, and its students. An initial summary of those actions are listed below:
The Utah Legislature provided funds for a 7.65% salary compensation increase for higher education employees for fiscal year 2024 beginning July 1, 2023. USU leadership will determine how the salary compensation increase will be split between an across-the-board salary increase and discretionary increases to address issues of salary compression, employee retention and pay equity. More information will be provided to employees in the coming months. The state also provided additional funds to help cover the increased cost of health and dental benefits.
ASPIRE Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center housed at USU, received $2.1 million in ongoing funding through Senate Bill 125, Transportation Infrastructure Amendments. ASPIRE conducts vital research to pave the way for real-world deployment of electrified transportation systems. It partners with the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and eight other universities across the world in its research, which is supported by NSF, industry partners, and research grants from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation.
With this new ongoing funding, ASPIRE will facilitate the strategic planning and development initiative that will guide the transition to an electrified and intelligent system in the state. The center will provide annual reports and briefs with actionable goals to policymakers that detail the vision for electrified transportation systems in Utah, and an analysis of how each of the industries involved must change to realize the vision.
In 2019, the state provided $3 million in one-time funding to support ASPIRE’s launch, and since that time ASPIRE has raised $58.9 million in federal and industry research support, with an additional $24.6 million expected from NSF in 2025.
Utah Earthquake Center
USU received $2.5 million in one-time funding to launch the Utah Earthquake Engineering Center to help promote resiliency and prepare for a more rapid recovery across the state following a major earthquake.
USU has a strong engineering tradition and cohort of faculty with significant experience in earthquake engineering. While the University of Utah’s Seismograph Stations provide invaluable research and science, the Utah Earthquake Engineering Center will focus on engineering services for seismic infrastructure design and retrofitting. Currently, Utah is the most seismically hazardous state in the nation without a dedicated earthquake engineering center.
This center will serve the entire state and is supported by transportation districts, county government offices, school districts, utility companies, and state organizations like the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center
House Bill 319, Uintah Basin Air Quality Research Project Amendments, provides $150,000 annually and removes a sunset on an additional $250,000 ongoing appropriation for USU’s Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center in the Uintah Basin. The project was initially funded in 2016 for seven years. This year’s action ensures continued funding.
The Bingham Research Center has already developed a project to forecast ozone and alert the oil and gas industry when poor air quality is expected, allowing them to reduce emissions when it matters most. Research has also been used by the Utah Petroleum Association to encourage industry to reduce pollution from well pad equipment. Since 2016, there has been a decline in days with ozone higher than the EPA standard by nearly four days per year, potentially avoiding millions of dollars in additional compliance costs.
The ongoing funding will allow the center to replace aging laboratory and field equipment, increase staffing levels to carry out research requested by stakeholders, and hire local students. The center has widespread support from infrastructure coalitions, local governments, the Utah Petroleum Association, and the Utah Clear Air Partnership.
Electric Train Partnership with Stadler Rail
USU received an appropriation of another $6 million in one-time funding to continue its partnership with Stadler Rail in electric train research. USU and its ASPIRE Engineering Research Center has an existing partnership with the Swiss-based Stadler to develop a battery-powered passenger train that will be the first of its kind in North America. In the collaboration, USU will focus on the charging infrastructure, workforce development, and its potential impact in Utah.
USU received $200,000 in ongoing funding to plug gaps in the provision of medical interpretation across the state. While hospitals and clinics that received federal funding must provide medical interpretation for patients with limited English-language proficiency, there is a pressing lack of medical interpreters, especially in rural and underserved areas of the state. Opportunities to become certified in medical interpretation are also limited. This funding will support efforts to provide certification training to qualified Utahns anywhere in the state at no cost to them, leading to more access to high-impact careers for interpreters and better care for patients.
Agriculture and Rural Small Business Innovation Initiative
USU Extension will use a one-time appropriation of $1.11 million over three years to build upon a 2018 project funded by the Utah Legislature that established the Rural Online Initiative. The new initiative aims to provide specialized training in remote work best practices by integrating digital tools and e-commerce training for small businesses and new ventures in those areas. The new appropriation will go toward program staff salary, benefits, and operating budgets to make these resources more available to a changing market throughout Utah.
Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water, and Air
The Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water, and Air secured $300,000 in annual operational funding from the Utah Legislature. The center launched two years ago with an interdisciplinary goal to bring together USU’s land, water, and air researchers and connect them with Utah policymakers. The center’s experts compile an annual report on these issues that is distributed to state, county, and municipal officials.
Utah Women and Leadership Project
The Utah Women & Leadership Project received an additional $500,000 in ongoing funding. The UWLP, housed at USU, works to strengthen the impact of Utah women and girls by producing relevant research, cultivating valuable resources, and convening events that ignite growth and change for all Utahns.
Center for the School of the Future
USU’s Center for the School of the Future, housed in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, received $200,000 in one-time funding. The purpose of the center is to promote best practices in the state's public education system and encourage cooperative and research development relationships between public and higher education.
Behavioral Health Initiative
To address the critical shortage of behavioral health workers, the Legislature appropriated $1,167,800 in ongoing funds and $931,300 in one-time funding that will be distributed among USU, the University of Utah, Weber State University, and Utah Valley University.
Building Fund Approvals
USU was approved to use $10 million of its allocated building funds for fiscal year 2024 to support the construction of a new business building focused on experiential learning, which will allow students to participate in meaningful and relevant learning in and out of the classroom. This funding supplements private gifts already received by the Huntsman School of Business for the project. USU will also use $4.2 million of its building funds to remodel the Science Engineering Research building on the Logan campus. USU also received $530,000 for operations and maintenance of various campus buildings.
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