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University of Utah set to raise tuition by up to 9 percent

Published: Tuesday, March 8 2011 7:23 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah trustees on Tuesday approved a tuition increase of between 7 and 9 percent, depending on the amount state lawmakers cut from higher education.

The change would raise tuition as much as $488, while the trustees also increased fees by $66 per year.

The U. is the first state school to announce its intended tuition hike. Other colleges will set their rates later this month before the Board of Regents sets the statewide "tier one" increase at its meeting March 25. That portion, which usually covers compensation costs, is expected to rise 5 percent.

Each college or university decides how to use its own "tier two" tuition, the portion set Tuesday by the U.'s trustees, which also has to be approved by the regents.

A year at the U. costs $6,274 for in-state tuition and fees. The cheapest public school in the state is Snow College, at $2,746.

Though still relatively low, tuition has more than doubled statewide as state funding has steadily decreased. David Pershing, the U.'s senior vice president for academic affairs, said the school tries to keep tuition as low as possible.

"At the same time, we have to maintain quality at the U. to the extent we can," he said.

The trustees approved a range instead of a specific increase because of the uncertainty of state funding for higher education. The Legislature is expected to cut 2 percent from higher education as it finishes its work this week, but the actual impact could be worse as legislators are poised to make college employees pay more for their retirement and health plans. That could effectively cut another $8.5 million from higher education.

The U. needs second-tier tuition money to support academic programs and student services. Meanwhile, the school faces a $2 million hole in unfunded operations and maintenance costs for its buildings, according to associate vice president for budget and planning Paul Brinkman.

The trustees increased fees for transportation — to cover an expected 13 percent fare hike from the Utah Transit Authority — and for athletics, although officials said that was unrelated to the U.'s move to the Pac-10.

They also raised the fine arts fee to subsidize tickets for performances on campus, and created a new money management fee, which will fund an office offering free financial advice to students.

In other business, U. President Michael Young told trustees a $50 million infrastructure project to replace high-temperature water pipes and an outdated electrical grid, which he said caused yet another power outage at University Hospital on Monday, appears dead in the Legislature. In November, an accident involving one of the water pipes seriously injured 12 workers.

The U. was hoping the Legislature would bond for at least $10 million to get the project started, but no bonding has yet been approved and it has fallen down a list of priorities. Young said the apparent snub is "a tragedy for the state."

The Legislature has approved a non-state-funded $20 million expansion of the Dee Glen Smith Athletic Center.

E-mail: pkoepp@desnews.com

Twitter: pbkdn

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