Fed act may keep tuition near inflation

Like scores of other universities and colleges across the nation, the U could be on the receiving end of a tuition penalty if a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 16 is passed.

The Affordability in Higher Education Act, proposed by Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., aims to penalize institutes of higher education that increase tuition by more than two times the rate of inflation-which currently stands at 2.4 percent.

But the bill has more bark than bite, according to an official in the Utah System of Higher Education.

“It would be a very long-range thing because the bill got watered down quite a bit along the way,” said Gail Norris, associate commissioner for student financial aid.

Additionally, no institutions will be impacted by the bill until at least 2008, at which time schools would then be ranked according to an affordability index.

If schools are found to be in excess of the price line in 2011, they could find themselves frozen out of federal funding-though university students wouldn’t lose federal funding.

Although the U hiked its tuition by 11 percent in the last year, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs David Pershing said administrators have bigger worries than an overblown affordability index right now.

“I think we are more limited by the need to help our own students afford their education than by a proposed federal law,” Pershing said.

Though no school would feel the financial ax drop on it until at least 2008, even then the U shouldn’t be significantly impacted by the bill, Norris said.

“This bill would not prevent eligible students from receiving their money…It might hurt the U, but it wouldn’t kill it,” according to Norris.

Norris said any money taken away from a university as a result of the bill would come from federally funded programs.

“It could take $3 million or $4 million away from campus programs, but Pell Grant money won’t be affected,” he said.

Pershing says that he isn’t worried about the bill’s long-term effects at the U either.

“We don’t believe this is likely to be a huge problem,” he said.

Even with the 11 percent tuition hike U students were slapped with last year, Pershing said that still keeps the U below the national average.

“We have got to be very careful about increasing tuition, but even with our large increase, we still haven’t kept up with nation,” Pershing said. He added that the national average was a 14 percent increase in tuition.

Pershing also said that administrators will work to ensure the bill’s potential monetary hits won’t ever come to the U.

“If the bill were enacted, we’d make certain to follow all the rules so our students won’t be affected,” he said.

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