Despite concerns over the appropriateness of raising tuition during the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s higher education board moved forward Thursday in approving hikes at seven of the eight public colleges in Utah.

The only one without an increase — Southern Utah University — was the only school not to request one.

Throughout the three-hour discussion, two board members pleaded for the other universities to follow SUU’s example and take into account the impact of the outbreak. Most students have had to quickly transition to online classes, some have lost their jobs, and many are feeling stressed and uncertain.

“This discussion is bringing tears to my eyes,” pleaded member Sanchaita Datta during the virtual meeting of the Utah Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s colleges and annually approves their individual tuition requests. “I don’t think tuition increases and pay raises should be discussed at all today. I cannot with my conscience support this.”

Member Thomas Wright added that, to him, it doesn’t matter how small the tuition increases are — and they are, across the board, the lowest in more than two decades. Any hike, he said, has the potential to hurt students as the economy dips. Some may not be able return to school in the fall because of it, if campuses have even been reopened by then.

“Why are we asking students to carry the burden even more?” asked Wright, who’s also running for governor.

The two were outvoted by the other 14 people on the board.

Tuition increases will go ahead at seven institutions, with the highest hike at Utah State University’s three southern campuses in Price, Moab and Blanding with a 3.5% raise. Its main campus in Logan, meanwhile, will jump 2.8%. The next highest is Dixie State University at 3%.

Besides SUU, which will not have an increase, Utah Valley University in Orem has the lowest, at 1.38%.

“I know the optics of all of this are troublesome,” Snow College President Brad Cook said while presenting his request to raise tuition 2.25%. “But with us, it’s only $38 a semester more.”

Other school presidents said they weren’t sure where they’d come up with the money to cover employee salaries without the hikes. A few said the universities need the funds so they can keep doing research during this critical time. Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin said it’s possible more students will enroll, seeking technical training if they lose their jobs amid the crisis.

The board members argued, too, that they believe the economy will recover quickly. “It’s the business-like thing to do,” said member Lisa Church.

All of the increases, she noted, are smaller this year than last. And overall, they’re the lowest since 1997.

As a compromise to the issues raised around the coronavirus, the colleges will also have the option to delay implementing the increases, which typically start in summer. Two plan to do so. The U. will postpone putting in place its 2% raise until at least January. UVU will start its in the fall.

Here are the approved increases, in order of the highest overall tuition to the lowest:

University of Utah

• Tuition increase: 2%, or $165 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $8,418 per year

• Increase approved last year: 3.2%

• Additional fee increase: None, fees remain $1,247

The state’s flagship university and research institution has the highest tuition of any public school in the state, but the increase requested this year is the lowest for the campus in nearly 20 years.

Most of the funds raised with the hike — about $2.2 million — will go toward annual staff compensation increases, said U. President Ruth Watkins. Each year, the Legislature designates 75% of the funds needed to go to those mandated raises. Schools are expected to cover the rest.

The school will also designate a half a million dollars to ongoing safety efforts after the October 2018 murder of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey. And it will put some money toward supporting equity on campus.

“What we want more than anything is that no one drops out,” Watkins added.

Utah State University

• Tuition increase: 2.8%, or $183 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $6,731 per year

• Increase approved last year: 3.25%

• Additional fee increase: $18 for a total of $1,128 in fees

USU is dividing its tuition increases, with 2.8% at its Logan campus and 3.5% at its southern Utah campuses. The latter will still remain cheaper, with the annual cost at $3,641.

President Noelle Cockett said she believes that’s the best option to address the separate needs in the different locations.

She’s also budgeted for $205,000 to go to more needs-based scholarships. Without approving the raises, she said, the school would have fallen into a $2.6 million deficit. “We’re already straining,” Cockett noted.

Southern Utah University

• Tuition increase: None

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $6,006 per year

• Increase approved last year: None

• Additional fee increase: None, fees remain $763

This is the second year in a row that SUU has not requested a tuition increase.

President Scott Wyatt said the student body has been growing by 10 percent each year, but the school has been able to reallocate funds to cover its expenses.

“We’re trying to compensate for increases that were more than what we should have done, seven, eight, 10 years ago,” he added.

Utah Valley University

• Tuition increase: 1.38%, or $70 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $5,192 per year

• Increase approved last year: 1.7%

• Additional fee increase: $16 for a total of $714 in fees

UVU has not had a tuition increase of more than 2.7% in the last five years. And this year’s is one of the lowest, too, in the past decade.

President Astrid Tuminez said most of the money from the school’s hike will go toward retaining staff. Without it, she noted, “It will negatively impact employee morale and retention.”

Weber State University

• Tuition increase: 2%, or $100 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $5,090 per year

• Increase approved last year: 2%

• Additional fee increase: $20 for a total of $1,016 in fees

President Brad Mortensen said the tuition increase at Weber State will raise $1.1 million.

Some of that will go to faculty promotions. A bit will change the minimum wage for hourly jobs on campus form $9 to $9.25. And the rest will be used to extend child care options and provide more services for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“We are actively looking at ways to see these increases have the least impact on our students,” he added.

Dixie State University

• Tuition increase: 3%, or $140 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $4,820 per year

• Increase approved last year: 5%

• Additional fee increase: $24 for a total of $840 in fees

Most of the money at Dixie State will go toward addressing the growing student body. Just this last year, the school gained more than 1,000 students — and it expects that to continue.

President Richard Williams said: “This is necessary for us to improve and meet the needs of our students. We’re fortunate that we’re growing every year.”

Salt Lake Community College

• Tuition increase: 1.5%, or $51 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $3,488 per year

• Increase approved last year: 2%

• Additional fee increase: $9 for a total of $501 in fees

SLCC President Deneece Huftalin noted that her school has saved students money by reducing or eliminating the fees on 99 courses. But she still needs some extra funding for staff recruitment and retention, she said Thursday.

Without a tuition increase, she noted, she wouldn’t have the $900,000 required to match the state’s salary requirements.

Snow College

• Tuition increase: 2.25%, or $77 more per year

• Total tuition cost now for average in-state student: $3,487 per year

• Increase approved last year: 2.5%

• Additional fee increase: None, fees remain $763

Snow College President Brad Cook said his school will use the $917,000 it raises with a tuition hike to also pay staff. “If this wasn’t necessary,” he said, “we wouldn’t be asking.”