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Regents hike tuition at Utah’s colleges and universities

First Published      Last Updated Apr 01 2017 08:15 pm

Higher education » Officials say increases will address inflation, improve student services.

Utah's Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to raise tuition by an average of 3.4 percent.

The change will cost college and university students in the state an extra $80 to $290 next year, depending on their school.

"All of us are concerned that tuition remain as low as possible," Regents vice-chairman France Davis said. "But it is out of necessity that we find ourselves having to deal with recommendations for increases."

Each of the eight campuses in the Utah System of Higher Education will see tuition rise by at least 2.5 percent, a uniform increase known as "Tier 1" tuition.

But administrators at the University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University and Dixie State University also requested additional increases, known as "Tier 2," ranging between 1 percent and 2.5 percent.

With the changes approved Friday, annual full-time tuition for Utah's resident undergraduate students now ranges from a low of $3,276 at Snow College to $7,697 at the University of Utah.

"It's not about a disregard for tuition affordability," USU President Noelle Cockett said. "It really is [about] trying to keep our universities strong."

Several school presidents said the tuition increases are intended to address cost inflation, as well as to support student services such as academic advising and faculty retention.

University of Utah President David Pershing said the U. is looking to maintain and expand its "student success initiatives" and bolster degree completion.

"We've driven our graduation rate up over the past few years," Pershing said. "That's been through doing this kind of thing and we're going to continue that."

He also gave the example of a talented employee who plans to leave Utah for a higher-paying job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Retaining star professors, Pershing said, requires competitive pay.

"This is a real problem because the very best faculty are a really hot property," Pershing said. "That's who we want teaching our students."

David Buhler, Utah's commissioner of higher education, said faculty retention is an issue statewide.

"It is a major concern," Buhler said. "We are in a very competitive environment for higher education faculty."

Buhler said the tuition levels approved Friday are among the lowest percentage hikes in recent years, particularly at the four schools that did not request Tier-2 increases.

And the schools that did ask for additional tuition, Buhler said, did so for worthwhile reasons after consulting with student leaders.

He also praised lawmakers for approving funding for higher education enrollment growth and salaries, which relieved the burden that otherwise would be borne by tuition.

"It really does make a big difference," Buhler said of state funding.

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