Tuitions at Utah's colleges and universities may rise during coming years, according to Gov. Norm Bangerter.
But Democrat Ted Wilson believes he can keep costs down, and independent Merrill Cook says tuition increases will be small if voters pass three tax-limiting initiatives.In answers to questions during three-way debates at Southern Utah State College Thursday and the University of Utah Friday, Bangerter said tuitions will likely have to be raised to cover more of the cost of providing an education.
Students should pay between 20 percent and 25 percent of the overall costs, with state government paying the rest, he said.
He urged Utahns to spend their personal incomes wisely so they will have money left to educate their children. Bangerter told the SUSC audience his father drove the oldest car in the neighborhood because he wanted to save money for his children to attend college.
"We all had the opportunity to go to college because dad had his priorities straight," Bangerter told the audience of students and faculty. "The responsibility lies with ourselves. The government isn't going to be able to provide all the money. You're going to have to pay your share."
Later Thursday, speaking to a group of students at Dixie College in St. George, Bangerter urged young people to spend their money on education before they buy other luxuries.
"If you use your first money to buy a four-wheel-drive truck, it may be your last four-wheel-drive truck," he said.
But Wilson said college tuition does not have to be raised.
"Let's not put more of a burden on students," he said. "If they want to go to law school or medical school, let's pay for it."
Wilson said teachers at SUSC earn 21 percent less than their peers at similar colleges. He said he would establish a fund for education and ask businesses to donate.
Wilson told U. students Friday the biggest threat to tuition is the tax initiatives.
"I'm going to break my neck to beat those tax initiatives," he said, as students and teachers applauded.
Cook, however, said tuitions will rise 5-8 percent if voters pass the initiatives. The initiatives would reduce state income, gasoline, cigarette and property taxes and provide tax credits to parents whose children attend private schools.
Initiative opponents say the tax reductions would devastate education budgets. Cook, however, believes industries would move to Utah if its taxes were lower, thus providing more money for state coffers.
He also wants university instructors to spend more time teaching and less time researching.
"I believe the voters are going to vote not to maintain a tax system that is driving business and people out of the state," Cook told the audience at SUSC. "If you think education can be funded around a collapsing economy, you're just wrong."
The candidates also argued over how to grant raises to college and university instructors.
Wilson said he would let college presidents issue bonds to cover raises. He said many professors are leaving the state because they earn better salaries elsewhere. When they leave, they take valuable research grants with them.
"We want to be able to compete," Wilson said. " I'm the candidate that's talking specifics these days. We can't be mushy-mouthed about it."
But Bangerter and Cook said the bonding plan would lead to higher taxes.
"Ted continues to promise never to raise taxes," Bangerter said. "Instead, he wants to borrow for everything."