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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Engineering college seeks tuition hike of 20 percent

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

Daniel Tucker has fought to keep his student loans below $10,000, but next fall he’ll have to double his annual loans to pay for increasing tuition.

Tucker, a junior in chemical engineering, is among about 1,600 undergraduate and graduate engineering students who will have to pay an extra $400 each semester in differential tuition to the College of Engineering, in addition to the 9 percent tuition increase for all U students.

“With the 20 credits each semester I’m taking next year, my wife and I will have to take out $10,000 in loans to pay for it all,” Tucker said. “On top of this increase, we also have the tuition hike for everyone.”

The College of Engineering, facing a possible 19 percent university-wide budget cut announced earlier this year, found that the only way to afford laboratories and teaching assistants next year was for students to pitch in and help cover the costs.

Engineering Dean Richard Brown said the college attempted to find alternate funding sources and pleaded with the Utah Legislature to cut the education budget less than other areas, but administrators realized they must ultimately charge students more for the education they receive.

“We could shut down all of the mechanical engineering department, and we would still not have met all the cuts,” Brown said. “In addition to the tuition increase, there have been discussions about faculty salary cuts and staff furloughs. We’ll definitely have to give up open faculty positions.”

The college organized meetings with members of the student advisory committees for each department for undergraduate and graduate students last week to propose the tuition hike, and offered a discussion panel Monday afternoon to explain how students will be affected.

Only junior and senior students taking classes above the 3000 level and graduate students will shell out an extra 20 percent for the differential tuition. Brown said most engineering students take upper-division classes and have labs that cost more than other classes on campus.

The college will take the tuition proposal, student comments and letters from the student advisory committees to the next Board of Trustees meeting for approval March 10.

Brown allayed some concerns students in the panel expressed about where additional tuition costs would go by announcing that each department would receive money from students registered in their classes. He said some of the money will likely go for additional need-based scholarships to assist students unable to afford as many classes in the fall.

“We are very concerned with how this impacts students,” Brown said. “We have several programs set up, including a low-interest rate loan program that has been way undersubscribed and a number of scholarships that are need-based. Last year, we had trouble getting rid of all of it.”

Brown also said that many engineering schools require students to pay differential tuition because of additional costs required to teach in labs and use additional materials, and that the U has one of the lowest tuition costs in the United States.

“It’s true, we have a pretty low tuition,” said Kristyl Bentley, a junior chemical engineering student who attended the meeting. “But when you plan out what your tuition will be every year, a 20 percent increase affects you a lot.”

The David Eccles School of Business has students pay a differential tuition, which more business and engineering schools also have required lately.

Bill Hesterly, associate dean of the business school, said students at the University of Kansas pay just under $2,000 in extra tuition, compared to the U’s proposed $840 for 24 credits each year. He said the additional tuition business students pay at the U has helped the business school afford faculty salaries and extra classes.

However, some students questioned whether engineering majors should be facing a tuition increase while new buildings are still being financed and retired faculty receive an annual salary.

The engineering college built the Warnock Engineering building two years ago, and the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative, organized by the Legislature three years ago to stimulate economic development by hiring new researchers, is erecting a new building across from WEB to house newly hired faculty, some of whom are engineering professors.

“I don’t see how we’re supposed to be getting better than these other schools by paying more money for the same services,” said Philip Dyer, a mechanical engineering graduate student on the panel. “If the money goes to hire new people, give raises, or goes to fund the USTAR initiative, I think we should take a second look at our priorities.”

Yet faculty members could face a cut to their annual salary by knocking their full-time equivalent to 95 percent, which would be a 5 percent decrease in pay, Brown said.

“During the academic year, professors can make up that money through research grants, but this would still mean a reduction for everyone,” Brown said.

Many students in engineering can expect high-paying jobs upon graduation, but for students such as Tucker who have families and loans, the increase will mean more money they have to pay back with no promise of what jobs the economy will offer in the next few years.

“I’m in the Air Force, and I’ve got to take extra classes for it,” Tucker said. “But when I graduate, I’ll only make about $34,000 a year. This means a lot of debt for me.”

[email protected]

Thien Sok

Richard Brown, dean of the U College of Engineering answers questions regarding tuition increases due to funding cuts. Engineering Students will need to pay an extra $840-per-year increase in tuition.

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