University of Utah trustees approved a 4.4 percent hike in tuition and fees Tuesday, its smallest increase in more than 10 years, as the state's other public colleges and universities weigh their own prices.
"I'm committed to being the best value in the Pac-12," said U. President David Pershing, referring to the conference the school joined two years ago.
U. trustees, though, kept their eye on the bottom line, expressing concern about students being able to afford college.
"Every business wants more money, and this is another business that wants more money," said trustee Tim Anderson. "It's hard to vote in favor of an increase, yet it seems like the justification for it is very precise. It's hard to challenge the justification for it."
Half of the U.'s tuition hike will go to faculty and staff retention and increases.
"We don't want any tuition increase, but ... we've got to pay our people more," said Board Chair Clark Ivory. "We can't lose our teachers and professors."
The numbers won't become final until the Utah Legislature completes its budget this week and the Board of Regents approves increases for all eight public colleges and universities later this month.
The Regents will weigh an across-the-board increase at their meeting on March 29. Last year, that amount was 4.5 percent. Each school's board of trustees can then add an additional increase the U. added 1.5 percent last year, for a total increase of 6 percent.
If the Regents suggest an amount less than the increase approved by U. trustees Tuesday, the U. will again tack on its own hike to make up the difference. Utah State University last week approved its own increase of 0 to 2 percent above the statewide rate; other schools will take up the issue later this month.
Tuition at the U. for in-state undergraduates is set to increase 5 percent, or $155 a semester. Fees will go up just under 1 percent, or $4.15 a semester, for a total cost increase of just over 4.4 percent.
U. tuition this academic year was about $6,200 a year for residents and $21,700 for out-of-state students, according to numbers provided by the Utah Legislature.
Keeping tuition and fees low is essential to help students finish college, said Octavio Villalpando, associate vice-president for equity and diversity.
"The single biggest reason for students not to complete their education here is the financial burden," he said.
University of Utah tuition, fee increases approved
4.4 percent for undergraduates, or $159 more each semester
4.48 percent for graduates, or $160 more each semester
4.5 percent for undergraduates, or $547 more each semester
4.8 percent for graduates, or $554 more each semester
Source: University of Utah