The University of Utah is looking to increase tuition by 3.2 percent for the next academic year, lower than what was expected and the lowest increase that the institution has seen in two decades, university officials said Tuesday.
Last week, officials told the university’s Board of Trustees that they were aiming to raise tuition by up to 3.9 percent. The trustees had shown support in the tuition hike and a small increase in a student mental health fee. A final decision will be made by the state’s Board of Regents when it meets next week.
The increase could mean an extra $150 per semester for most in-state students, said Annalisa Purser, a university spokeswoman.
The University of Utah already has the highest tuition rate in the state compared to other public colleges and universities. Currently, the university’s in-state tuition for undergraduate students taking 15 credits is$7,997 per year. Out-of-state students taking that same amount of credits pay $27,990 per year.
The increase was scaled back after university officials learned the Salt Lake City-based campus would receive sufficient funding from the Utah Legislature, which wrapped up last Thursday, said Cathy Anderson, the academic institution’s chief financial officer.
The increase would create an extra $10 million to hire more faculty and give raises to state-funded employees. It will also fund maintenance needs, student services like academic advising and career services, and safety initiatives partially stemming from the October murder of student athlete Lauren McCluskey.
“This funding will allow us to offer more resources to students to support their success while remaining mindful of the importance of being responsible stewards of their resources,” Anderson said.
But some students raised concerns about how the money will be spent and the ability to afford tuition.
Zitlalli Herrera, a graduate student studying educational leadership and policy, said she has seen tuition go up since she came to the U as an undergraduate in 2013.
As the oldest of three, she said she is concerned about what the new hike will mean for her siblings who have yet to enter college, especially since they come from a low-income household.
“If we are increasing tuition, then we have to keep up with also helping our underrepresented students by providing more financial aid and need-based scholarships for students,” Herrera said.
The university’s tuition has been on the rise since 2001, according to numbers provided by the University of Utah. The steady increase is due to rising salaries and wages and a shift in state funding for public education. Right now, the state provides about 45 percent of the university’s funding, Anderson said.
Anderson also noted that the University of Utah is the only Tier One research institution in the state, a ranking reserved for universities with world-class research. Compared to other universities nationwide with that ranking, the Utah university’s tuition is the lowest, Anderson said.
“So you have to look at what kind of quality education you get here versus what the cost is,” Anderson said.
The university is also proposing to raise the mental health student fee from $4 to $15 a semester. The higher fee will help provide more affordable mental health access, additional psychologists, clinical case managers and victim-survivor advocates, the university said.
Freshman Shelby Galinat has a full-ride scholarship to the the U, but she said she has close friends who are struggling to pay for school.
Although a tuition increase could create more of a burden for some students, Galinat said she was pleased to see at the Truth In Tuition open house on Tuesday that the extra money will go toward important services like mental health, and not to support athletics.
Other universities are also proposing tuition increase. Logan-based Utah State University is looking to increase tuition by 3.1 percent while Utah Valley University in Orem is considering an increase of 2 to 5 percent.
Last fall, state auditors said in a report that Utah’s Board of Regents needed to be more rigorous in examining tuition increases. The auditors found that the board rarely push back on tuition increase proposals.