Students attending Utah Valley Community College can expect a minimum tuition increase between 25 percent and 30 percent next year if voters approve two proposed tax-limitation initiatives this fall, according to a State Board of Regents report.
The hike, the report said, could be even higher if voters approve a third initiative, the Family Choice in Education Act.UVCC President Kerry D. Romesburg, who discussed the initiatives Wednesday with the college's Institutional Council, said the Utah System of Higher Education could be seriously affected by the tax initiatives. Estimated revenue reductions for higher education, if the three initiatives pass, is projected to be about $33 million. Statewide, $326 million in tax revenue is expected to be eliminated.
The Regents' report, using data provided Aug. 31 by the Utah System of Higher Education, anticipates UVCC's annual legislative appropriation would be almost $1.5 million less next year and the school's total operating budget would have to be trimmed by another $1 million.
Enrollment would have to be reduced by nearly 1,000 students, and 54 faculty and staff positions would have to be eliminated.
"This cut would result in an unemployment compensation liability of approximately $282,000, which would need to be funded by either increased legislative appropriation or additional cuts," the report says.
Romesburg said he hopes the initiatives don't pass, but said the college will make needed adjustments if they do.
"If we (higher education) have to eliminate $33 million, and that's the plan of the Board of Regents, then that's what we'll do," Romesburg said. "UVCC will still be here. But we won't be doing as much for economic development and industry as we're doing now."
The council decided Wednesday topass a resolution opposing the tax initiatives.
Romesburg said the college would have two options if revenues are cut. Enrollment would have to be capped, or programs would have to be eliminated.
He said even if the state's education system is reorganized to generate savings, as proponents of the initiatives suggest, it's unlikely enough revenue would be saved to prevent higher education from being severely affected.
"You can only put so much on the back of the students by raising tuition," Romesburg said. "It'll be interesting to see how the students respond."
Romesburg, who became UVCC president in July, presided over Alaska's system of higher education when 38 percent of that system's budget was cut over three years because of dropping oil prices. The cuts spurred an exodus of both students and faculty, he said.
"In Alaska, people didn't believe we would make eliminations. But we did it. We had to," Romesburg said. If the proposed tax initiatives pass, Utahns, too, will become believers, he added.