Tuition won't be taking as big a jump as was expected after legislators failed to shell out impressive funding for higher education this year. But it's still taking a jump.
The Utah State Board of Regents Friday approved the lowest tuition and fee increase since 2001, an average of 5.7 percent across the 10 public colleges and universities and the Utah Electronic College. Last year, students paid an average of 6.6 percent more in tuition and fees.
Earlier this year, higher education officials asked lawmakers for roughly $68 million but received about $38 million, making implementation of some programming and other upgrades difficult without passing some of the cost onto students.
"State appropriations into higher education have assisted our institutions and have helped to ensure we can make modest tuition increases," Dave Buhler, interim commissioner of higher education, said. He added that individual schools have also done their part in keeping costs low for students.
The regents' approval came during a regularly scheduled meeting in St. George in which the leaders discussed ways to retain greater numbers of students. Regent David Jordan said he was troubled by the statewide increases.
"We're heading in the wrong direction for funding education in our community colleges," he said. "We need a different funding model to meet our community college mission."
Second-tier tuition increases proposed by the state's colleges and universities ranged from 3.5 percent at Southern Utah University, the highest, to a low of 0.5 percent at the College of Eastern Utah.
Dixie State College proposed a 3 percent increase, while Salt Lake Community College sought a 2 percent increase in the second-tier tuition scale. Those increases come in addition to the 3.5 percent general tuition increase on the first tier.
"We are aggravating the retention problems we already have," Jordan said. "It's going to cost students 5 1/2 percent more to get into SLCC now. Granted these are tough times for the institutions, but we have to remember it's tough for our students as well."
SLCC President Cynthia A. Bioteau said the second-tier increase was necessary due to the Legislature not funding any of the college's requests this year.
DSC President Lee Caldwell said their increase was necessary to help pay for some of the more expensive technology-driven programming being offered at the college.
"I would point out that our health science faculty are very expensive," Caldwell said. "We have a clinical ratio of eight to one in those academic programs. The economic stresses are very difficult. They cost two to three times the cost of other academic programs."
First-tier tuition, which funds the institutions' 25 percent share determined by law, will increase 3.5 percent at nine institutions. The initial increase also covers a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment and 1 percent discretionary salary increase for faculty and staff, approved by the Legislature.
Second-tier tuition is set by each individual institution, addresses specific needs on each campus and funds such things as compensation, classroom and technology upgrades and student initiatives.
Student fees, which fund activities, intercollegiate athletics and other student operations, are set to go up by an average of 3.49 percent in the coming year. The overall increases are the lowest that students have had to shell out in the past seven years."The Board of Regents is committed to improving access to postsecondary education," said regents Chairman Jed H. Pitcher. "We believe that by keeping tuition increases relatively low, we can assist more students as they make one of the greatest investments in their lives."