ST. GEORGE — The State Board of Regents voted on Friday to approve tuition increases at all eight of Utah's public colleges and universities.
The state's more than 173,000 students, as well as any who enroll in the upcoming school year, will now be asked to pay an average of about 7.5 percent more in annual tuition and fees, depending on the school they attend.
The highest increase happens at Dixie State College, which will see an 11.8 percent increase, while Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College and Snow College had at or below 7 percent increases — the lowest increases approved by the board.
Regent Chairman David Jordan said that even with the increase, "all of our institutions are relatively low" when compared to other schools in the Western states.
However, Jordan expressed concern with how little support is coming from the state. State funds used to cover 75 percent of a student's education and now, the number is creeping closer to 50 percent. Last year, students in Utah were responsible for 42 percent of the total cost of their education.
"While I approved the increase … I don't believe we're a bargain," said Snow College President Scott Wyatt. He said the two community colleges in the state are still more expensive than the majority of comparable institutions across the country.
"There are huge numbers of students who don't have access that is affordable to them," he said. Given Utah's uncommonly large family sizes and varied income structure, Wyatt said there are limited low-cost opportunities for students and "education is expensive here."
The Regents' official approval comes after student-held hearings at each campus, where students voiced overall support for the increases, as well as a system-wide 5 percent first-tier tuition increase. The first-tier increase is set by the Utah System of Higher Education to compensate for an approximate 2.5 percent decrease in the amount of state funding provided to higher education institutions this year and about a $100 million drop in the last three years.
The only opposing vote came from Regent Meghan Holbrook, who said she "thought long and hard about it" and "felt in this economy, I did not want to put a tuition increase on students."
Student Regent David Smith, who is a graduate student at the University of Utah, said that students in Utah "recognize certain realities on the ground" but want to keep an eye to the future, making sure that lawmakers help to reverse the changes that have been made over the last few years of declining revenues.
Second-tier tuition increases are set by individual institutions, as a means of covering institutional priorities and initiatives, but also require approval of the Board of Regents.
Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education William Sederburg said the increases are necessary to continue to fund record enrollment growth at Utah's colleges and universities as well as maintain accreditation and higher-ed industry standards.
"We are the third-most efficient system in the United States, as far as expenditures per degree generated. Our tuition is competitive," he said. "We could say no to tuition increases, but we have a responsibility to maintain quality and maintain high standards."
The group also approved various fee increases, ranging from the lowest, a nearly 2 percent increase (or $10) at Utah Valley University, to a 9.25 percent increase at Dixie, resulting in a $51 addition for full-time students each year. Southern Utah University, Snow and Salt Lake Community College opted to keep student fees the same as last year.
Increases will take effect summer term 2011.