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Utah college tuitions to rise next fall amid rising labor costs

Board member and former lawmaker Aaron Osmond votes against all increases noting historic funding from Utah Legislature

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A statue of Louis Frederick Moench is pictured on the university’s campus in Ogden.

A statue of Louis Frederick Moench, founder and first principal of Weber State University, is pictured on the Weber State University campus in Ogden on Nov. 10, 2020. Undergraduate tuition at Utah’s public colleges and universities will rise next fall an average of 3.41% across all degree-granting institutions, with the University of Utah planning to increase tuition by nearly 5%.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Undergraduate tuition at Utah’s public colleges and universities will rise next fall an average of 3.41% across all degree-granting institutions, with the University of Utah planning to increase tuition by nearly 5%.

Three universities asked for tuition and fee increases exceeding 4%: the U. at 4.8%, 4.5% at Snow College and 4.33% at Utah Valley University. Tuition at Salt Lake Community College will rise by 3.99%, under the rates approved by the Utah Board of Higher Education on Thursday.

“No one likes to raise tuition — nobody. But we are asking for you to take a look at this so that we can meet our obligations on our compensation,” said Snow College President Brad Cook.

The average increase was the highest in the past three years, although tuition assessed by Utah universities remains below their peer institutions in other states.

However, tuition and fees at the University of Utah will for the first time exceed $10,000 for a resident undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours for two semesters.

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For the fourth consecutive year, Southern Utah University proposed no tuition increase, but it requested a $44 increase in student fees over two semesters, the largest request among all colleges and universities.

The increase will largely be used to expand the availability of on-campus counseling and psychiatric services and to establish an on-campus clinic for students.

SUU Board of Trustees chairman Richard J. Christiansen said many Utah institutions are dealing with a growing demand for mental health services but “down here in Cedar City our problem with this really magnified. It’s six weeks presently to get in to see a mental health expert and our health services have been a significant challenge. This has been brought up time and again by the students.”

For perspective, SUU’s semesters are 14 weeks of instructional time with one week of finals and a few breaks.

SUU is hardly alone in long waits for mental health appointments. UVU Student Association President Karen Magana-Aguado said the wait for a mental health appointment at the Orem campus is “months long,” she said.

One contributing factor is that while the university created four part-time positions for psychiatric nurse practitioners, the positions “have gone unfilled,” Magana-Aguado said.

Student fees will be used to help make the positions more financially competitive, she said.

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Utah Valley University in Orem is pictured on Wednesday Feb 9, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The increases in tuition come following “historic spending” by the Utah Legislature for higher education in the recently concluded legislative session.

According to presentations by university and college officials, the tuition hikes are needed to attract and retain talented faculty who are being lured away by better-paying private-sector jobs and to provide scholarship support for students.

Higher Education Board vice chairman and former lawmaker Aaron Osmond voted against every college and university’s proposed increase, noting the robust funding recently appropriated by the Utah Legislature and the inflationary pressures students are experiencing as the price of fuel, housing and groceries escalate.

“I’m really concerned for the students. It is tough. I have several kids of my own that are students in the system right now and what they describe from a financial burden perspective, it’s tough, really tough. For us to increase tuition, from my personal perspective, is irresponsible at this particular time,” Osmond said.

This year, the Utah Legislature appropriated a record $236.7 million increase in funding for the Utah System of Higher Education, including $80.3 million to support a 5.75% salary and wage increase, according to board documents.

Legislative appropriations generally cover 75% of the compensation increases extended to employees at state colleges and universities, leaving the system of higher education to fund the remaining 25%, primarily through tuition increases.

Utah State University will increase tuition by 3.1% at its Logan and statewide campuses in Price, Moab and Blanding.

USU President Noelle Cockett said it is important to differentiate between the sticker price and what students actually pay after scholarships, tuition waivers and federal financial aid.

“Last year, we gave out $100 million of scholarships and over 47% of our students received scholarships, almost 13,000 students. We do this through a combination of two sources, private philanthropy and the university. Right now private scholarships are $30 million and university scholarships for both need-based and merit are $70 million, she said.

There will be no tuition increase for the state’s eight technical colleges. Most of the colleges’ compensation is covered by state appropriation, said David Woolstenhulme, Utah’s Commissioner of Higher Education.