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Higher Ed Boss Asks for Another Tuition Increase, Lawmakers Ask Why?

Photo illustration showing a piggy bank and dollar bills
401(K) 2012 via Creative Commons

Lawmakers who sit on the legislative committee tasked with prioritizing funding for Utah public colleges and universities asked higher education officials Wednesday why a proposed 2.5% tuition increase is necessary.

A large chunk of tuition dollars pays for the salaries and benefits of faculty and staff. Republican Representative Howard Stephenson requested a rundown of professor salaries at Utah colleges and universities before the legislature convenes in January.

“I’d like to know, are they rising similarly to what tuition is?” Stephenson asked. “Are they going faster? What is happening there with that side of the cost?”

Higher Education Commissioner Dave Buhler said there’s no indication that salaries are inflating higher education costs.

“If anything is inflating costs related to personnel it is more health care costs which we face like any employer or any individual who buys health insurance,” Buhler said.

Buhler’s request for a 2.5 percent tuition increase is the lowest in nearly two decades. He says Utah remains below the national average in the number of students who take out loans and the amount of debt they leave with.

Committee Chairman and Republican State Senator Steve Urquhart said the state isn’t doing its part funding higher education. Students pay more out of pocket these days as the state’s contribution dwindles. 

“What I’ve heard is if higher ed needs more money they know where to find it: meaning not through appropriations but through increased tuition,” Urquhart said. “And to me, that’s one of the stupidest things that can be said up here.”

Lawmakers will approve the higher education budget in March. 

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