ABC4 Utah

Degrees of success: 2 new Utah laws make finishing college online more affordable

CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Many Utahns who became unemployed during the pandemic are seeking to resume their careers with even better jobs by finishing their college degrees. Now, two new laws are making it easier for adults to get that long-delayed diploma.

At Southern Utah University, Monday, Governor Spencer Cox signed House Bill 328 and Senate Bill 136, which provide grants and scholarships to adults seeking to complete their degrees online. Rep. Lowry Snow (R – St. George) sponsored H.B. 328.

“What this bill does is provides a path for them to capitalize on that foundation in their education that’s already been laid,” Rep. Snow said Monday during an online panel discussion.

The grants are designed to help students like Israel Sanchez, a 33-year-old working husband and father of two from Washington County, who didn’t know if he’d ever be able to finish his bachelor’s degree.

“I have a family now. I’m 33 years old. How can I afford to do this? How can I find time? Can I go to a campus amidst everything else I was doing?” Sanchez said. “Online learning opened up a lot of doors and removed some of those barriers that allowed me to do homework before I went to work. After I came home.”

According to Western Governors University, 370,000 Utahns have some college but no degree. Many of them are women who paused college to raise children or financially support their husbands’ higher education.

Nina Barnes is the vice chair of the Utah System of Higher Education.

“Life happens. It’s perfectly natural to make that exit, but we also need to make it easier for them to get back on the on-ramp and complete their education,” Barnes said. “Figuring out a way to improve the scholarship funding, make it simpler, make it more accessible to that particular population who really, really needs it is critical.”

As for Sanchez, he plans to get his bachelor’s in business management from WGU and a higher-paying job in 2022.

“So, one year from now I’m planning to graduate with my degree in the Health Care Administration area,” he said. “And I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to finally finish that.”

To learn more about Western Governors University, go to: https://www.wgu.edu/newsroom/press-release/2021/04/higher-ed-briefing.html

To learn more about House Bill 328, go to: https://le.utah.gov/~2021/bills/static/HB0328.html

HB0328 – Home | Utah LegislatureInformation. Last Action: 17 Mar 2021, Governor Signed Last Location: Lieutenant Governor’s office for filingle.utah.gov

To learn more about Senate Bill 136, go to: https://le.utah.gov/~2021/bills/static/SB0136.html

SB0136 – Home | Utah LegislatureDate: Action: Location: Vote: 1/26/2021 : Bill Numbered but not Distributed: Legislative Research and General Counsel: 1/26/2021 : Numbered Bill Publicly Distributedle.utah.gov