Regents approve 5 percent statewide tuition increase

Published: Saturday, March 30 2013 12:04 a.m. MDT

The tuition increase at the University of Utah will be $310, which is the largest increase in the state.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — College and university students in Utah will pay 5 percent more in tuition next year after the Utah Board of Regents approved the boost on Friday.

For most students, the increase will be the smallest tuition hike in a decade, but it continues a trend of the last several years that has seen students shouldering a higher burden of the costs for education.

The latest increase marks a 44 percent jump in tuition costs at the University of Utah since 2008, according to Utah System of Higher Education data. The remaining schools in the state have seen smaller, but comparable, tuition jumps since the beginning of the recession.

"I don’t really like that, but I guess there’s nothing I can really do about it, right?" University of Utah student Soni Kinikini said Friday. "If it’s going to benefit us as students then I guess that’s what they’ve got to do. But if it's just another 300 bucks for them to throw around, then that’s kind of a waste of time and a waste of money for us."

Students' wallets will be hit this fall with an extra $310 at the U., which is the largest increase in the state. Students at Utah State University will pay $252 more per year, $246 more at Utah Valley University and $165 at Salt Lake Community College.

UVU and SLCC were the only schools to request a second-tier, or school-specific, increase, bringing their total increases to 6 percent. Last year, UVU and SLCC were the only schools to request no additional second-tier funding.

David Buhler, commissioner of higher education, said reductions in state funding since the recession have resulted in more of the cost burden for education being shifted to students. Since 2008, he said, the proportion of college and university operating revenue funded by the state has fallen from 63 percent to roughly 49 percent, depending on the institution.

The trend mirrors what has been happening with higher education around the country, he said, but added that Utah continues to have lower tuition and a lower student cost burden than many states.

"There are states where students are paying 70 or 80 percent of the cost," Buhler said. "This is happening in every state of the country, it's not just Utah."

During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers approved a roughly 6 percent increase in funding for higher education. Buhler said he is optimistic that the effects of the recession have plateaued and schools will be able to begin shifting costs away from students. He said keeping costs low is critical to maintaining access for students, especially considering the state's goal of having two-thirds of adults holding a degree or certification by the year 2020.

Lawmakers recently endorsed the 2020 goal, an action that Buhler described as an "important first step" that will be followed with discussion by educators and lawmakers alike.

"Going forward, there will have to be more investment from the state and more innovation by higher education," Buhler said.

University of Utah student Meagan Hydok believes the increases aren't unreasonable, but said they will add to the financial difficulties already faced by students.

"I think any increase, and especially in these economic times, is really hard for students in general," she said.

During her three years at the university, paying more each year, she said she couldn't see any difference in the quality of education she has received. She also said it is frustrating that many of her classes, particularly her business classes, are taught by graduate students.

"You don’t even get a real professor," she said.

Gregory Stauffer, associate commissioner of higher education, said the majority of revenue from the tuition increase will be absorbed by employee compensation and benefits.

Contributing: Cara Hasebi

E-mail: benwood@deseretnews.com

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