Regents to discuss tuition increase

Tuition will go up for sure-it’s just not yet clear by how much.

On Friday, the Utah State Board of Regents will meet at Utah Valley State College, where Commissioner of Higher Education Cecelia Foxley will present her recommendation for a first-tier tuition hike.

For the last four years now, according to U Associate Vice President for Budget and Planning Paul Brinkman, the tuition system in Utah has been two-tiered.

The first-tier hike is an increase which stays constant for all public institutions of higher education in the state. The second-tier increase is specific to each school, and while it is originally proposed by each school’s administration, it is also subject to approval by the Regents.

While some media have reported that the first-tier increase proposal will anywhere from 3.5 to 4 percent, “We haven’t told [anyone] what the recommendation is,” said Dave Buhler, Utah associate commissioner for higher education.

In fact, according to the meeting agenda, Foxley’s recommendation will be “hand-carried to the meeting on Oct. 31.”

Nonetheless, “I think [the increase] will be consistent with the increases in the last three years,” Buhler said.

Brinkman said that if the increase is around anywhere from 3.5 to 4 percent, he wouldn’t be surprised.

“It’s kind of a typical level for the Regents to be at…They’re not going to say 10 percent, they’re not going to say zero,” Brinkman said.

Last year’s first-tier tuition increase was 4.5 percent and the second-tier increases ranged from 3 to 19 percent.

Foxley will make the recommendation on Friday, along with showing Regents some documentation of what past increases have been, as well as national and regional trends, Buhler said.

The Regents don’t necessarily have to pass Foxley’s recommendation, “but usually their decision is at lease close to what’s recommended,” Buhler said.

Regardless of the exact increase that is passed on Friday, discussions of second-tier increases won’t necessarily start until spring, he said.

Once each school decides what its second-tier increase-if any-will be, that number combined with the first-tier increase will equal the total tuition increase for next year.

The reason tuition increases stay fairly constant year after year is due to a few reasons.

In addition to keeping up with inflation for the last three years, “There’s been no additional state funding for more than 10,000 new students,” Buhler said.

For every new student in the system, the Utah State Legislature gives “growth money” to higher education institutions.

Every new resident student pay one-third of their educational costs, while the state pays the other two-thirds.

Because of the struggling economy, the state has been unable to keep up with student growth.

State funding is $930 less per student than it was five years ago-a drop of 17 percent, Buhler said.

Also, in the case of any increase in compensation for faculty and staff, the legislature “requires that a share of that be paid for with increased tuition,” Buhler said.

Any increase will effect the 2004-2005 academic school year.

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