SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Regents on Friday will consider a 1.5 percent tuition hike for state colleges and universities, the lowest percentage increase sought by the state's higher education system for base tuition in eight years.
The tuition adjustment comes on the heels of the 2018 Utah Legislature, during which lawmakers approved a $68.4 million increase in higher education funding. This represents a 7.9 percent increase over the previous year, counting both ongoing and one-time funding.
"It was a great year, one of the best we've had and that's reflected in the (proposed) tuition," said Commissioner of Higher Education David Buhler.
The 1.5 percent increase would apply to all institutions, although regent policy also allows colleges and universities to assess optional second-tier tuition rate increases for specific institutional needs.
Four universities have requested second-tier increases above the base tuition increase: 2.4 percent each by the University of Utah and Utah State University; 1 percent at Weber State University; and 0.5 percent at Dixie State University.
The proposed 2018-19 annual tuition increases and total tuition by institution is as follows:
• Students at the U. would see the largest increase of $300 for a total of $7,997.
• USU students would pay $238 more for a total of $6,343.
• WSU's tuition would go up by $119, reaching $4,892 overall.
• Tuition at Southern Utah University would rise by $88, totaling $6,006
• Snow College would see the smallest increase, $50 for a total of $3,326.
• Tuition would go up by $150 at Dixie State University, totaling $4,458.
• Utah Valley University's tuition would go up $74 for a total of $5,036 overall.
• Salt Lake Community College's rate would increase by $50, putting total tuition at $3,369.
Even with the proposed Tier II tuition hikes, the combined average increase would be a 20-year low for the state System of Higher Education, Buhler said.
Except for SUU and Snow College, resident tuition and fees for undergraduate studies at Utah's state colleges and universities are lower than the Rocky Mountain average, as well as the average of colleges that are part of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education. Those states include Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.
Even then, SUU and Snow's tuition and fees are only slightly higher.
"We are grateful to the state Legislature and to Utah's taxpayers for their continued investment in public higher education, which has allowed us to keep the cost of attending college in Utah among the lowest in the nation," Buhler said.
Nonresident undergraduate tuition and fees are lower at the U., USU, Weber State, Dixie State and UVU than peer institutions in the Rocky Mountain states, and among schools in the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education. SUU, SLCC and Snow College have higher nonresident tuition and fees.
Among graduate programs, tuition and fees at Utah institutions are lower than their peers, with the exception of SUU, which slightly exceeds the Rocky Mountain states average for resident tuition and is higher than both the regional average and Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education average for nonresident tuition, according to Utah System of Higher Education documents.
The board of regents will also consider proposed fee increases, which range from an 8.7 percent increase at the U. to no increase at UVU.
The U.'s increase includes a new $8 fee to enhance mental health services.
In a letter to the board of regents, Zach Berger, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, wrote that a student fee "is an entirely appropriate measure through which to provide this funding. It would contribute more immediately to the growth in the University's capacity to address mental health issues than would central funding or legislative funding, and we have found it to be strongly supported by the student body."
Buhler said across the system, students have been highly supportive of fee hikes or differential tuition increases to fund mental health services "and in some cases have demanded it."
This past year, the board of regents created a task force to study mental health issues across the system and develop recommendations, which were adopted by regents.