Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Students study in the Marriott Library at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's college students could be paying anywhere from $108 to $278 more in tuition next year, with additional increases in student fees at some institutions.

Tuition rates are expected to go up at each of Utah's eight public colleges and universities by an average of 3.7 percent, bringing Utah's average yearly tuition amount up to $4,873, according to the Utah System of Higher Education.

It contributes to decades of annual tuition hikes, and it falls short of a goal from the Utah State Board of Regents early this year to keep increases to 2.5 percent. But education officials say it's the lowest tuition increment since 1999, second only to last year's increase of 3 percent.

The board is scheduled to consider and approve the funding proposals Friday.

"I am pleased that the recommendation is the second-lowest in a long time, I think 17 years. Of course, it would be nice to be even lower," said David Buhler, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education. "We'd like to continue that overall trend."

Under the recommendation, six of Utah's eight public institutions will see increases of 3.5 percent in tuition rates. For resident undergraduate students taking 15 credit hours, annual tuition will vary at each institution:

  • Students at the University of Utah would see the largest increase of $278 for a total of $7,408.
  • Utah State University students would pay $197 more for a total of $5,814.
  • Weber State University's tuition would go up by $156, reaching $4,611 overall.
  • Tuition at Southern Utah University would rise by $196, totalling $5,774.
  • Snow College would see the smallest increase of $108 for a total of $3,196.
  • Tuition would go up by $195 at Dixie State University, totalling $4,103.
  • Utah Valley University students would pay an extra $162 and $4,840 overall.
  • Salt Lake Community College's rate would increase by $109, putting total tuition at $3,239.

A large portion of the statewide increases will go toward higher compensation for college faculty. State lawmakers and college leaders have traditionally agreed that when new funding is set aside for faculty compensation, 75 percent of it is covered by state funds and students make up the difference through tuition.

This year, the Legislature provided $23.8 million devoted to competitive compensation increases for faculty and staff. It's a necessary expense to be able to compete for quality faculty with colleges and universities in other states that have higher tuition rates, Buhler said.

The Legislature also set aside more than $100 million for new buildings and renovation projects on five campuses.

While tuition increases this year don't include building costs, it still adds to the continual cost rise for students, most of whom have to work while going to school.

"It's minor this year, but I think it speaks to the larger question of how tuition has really made college unaffordable" for many students, said Southern Utah University spokeswoman Ellen Treanor. "It's difficult to put all these costs on the backs of students."

Lawmakers didn't meet each funding request from the Board of Regents this year. The board sought $9.5 million, which wasn't included in the state budget, to enhance affordability and access to college for students.

Had all the board's requests been met, tuition likely would have had the lowest increase in decades of 2.5 percent.

"It definitely is influenced by the legislative appropriation," Buhler said. "This was a remarkable legislative year as far as capital development, a record year which we are very appreciative of. But there's only so much money."

The proposal would allow tuition to rise by 3.9 percent at the University if Utah and 5 percent at Dixie State University, beyond the normal increase of 3.5 percent. The extra funds would be used for student services, such as academic counseling and providing more course sections in high-demand classes.

"This new tuition-based funding replaces existing student fee funding, allowing students to allocate their funding for other needs," Dixie's vice president of administrative affairs, Paul Morris, said in a prepared statement. "DSU is focusing on student success to help students in their efforts to obtain degrees quickly and affordably."

The Board of Regents is also expected to approve a new set of fee increases at all but two institutions.

Student fees cover a variety of costs on campus, such as academic programs, athletics, buildings, information technology infrastructure, student health services and transportation.

Utah's college students can expect fee increases anywhere from $5 at USU to $43 at the U. Total annual fee amounts for full-time students each year would then range from about $451 at Salt Lake Community College to $1,110 at the U.

But UVU plans to decrease its fee schedule for the second year in a row under the recommendations, saving students $18 per year. Fees would neither increase nor decrease at SUU.

Buhler said he is pleased with efforts by leaders at each institution to improve efficiency and lower costs to students, which have put Utah as having the third-lowest tuition in the country for four-year institutions.

Those efforts have included administrative restructuring, eliminating academic programs that don't meet workforce needs, and using open education resources to reduce the amount students spend on textbooks, among other initiatives.

SLCC recently announced a new program to cover tuition and fees for students with significant financial needs who agree to take a full academic workload.

USU has also raised the total amount of scholarship funding available for its students from $14.6 million to $46 million over the past 10 years.

"I am pleased that we have received enough funding from the Legislature over the past few years and that the presidents and their administrations are trying to be very careful to stretch dollars and not go to tuition unnecessarily," Buhler said.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

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