SALT LAKE CITY — With the uncertainty of lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop, the Utah State Board of Regents on Thursday approved tuition increases of 3.5% or less at public colleges and universities for the next academic year.

The regents also granted the colleges and universities the flexibility to impose the increases on a timetable that best suits their institution’s needs. Ordinarily, the increases go into effect during the summer term.

The University of Utah may hold off its 2% increase until next January.

Utah Valley University plans to delay implementing its 1.38% increase until fall term.

“It is all about being transparent and creating a system that will remove barriers for students at every stage of their journey toward graduation,” UVU President Astrid Tuminez said in a statement.

Tuminez said Thursday the university had asked for the flexibility months ago, indicating it was not necessarily driven by the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The increases authorized by the board of regents, which met via videoconference to comply with social distancing recommendations, included none at Southern Utah University for the second consecutive year and 3% at Dixie State University.

Utah State University-Eastern will experience a 3.5% increase, which USU President Noelle Cockett described as a right-sizing measure to bring its tuition more in line with other USU campuses.

The only dissenting votes for the increases were cast by Regents Sanchaita Datta and Thomas Wright.

In terms of dollars, the tuition increases for full-time attendance range from a high of $183 at Utah State University to $0 at Southern Utah University, although its tuition is the highest among the state’s four regional, dual-mission universities, which also include Weber State University, Dixie State University and UVU.

SUU President Scott Wyatt, who also requested no increase in student fees, said university officials are being “careful stewards of our resources” and reallocate funds whenever possible.

“We can manage this,” he said.

Snow College tuition will increase 2.25%, largely to fund the college’s portion of compensation increases.

“No one wants to raise tuition, nobody. If this wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t be asking,” said Snow College President Brad Cook.

In Utah, the state Legislature funds 75% of compensation increases. The rest is funded by colleges and universities assessing tuition. Tuition also pays for costs associated with professors who achieve tenure.

The Utah System of Higher Education received $96.2 million in new ongoing funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year, $33.7 million for compensation and health insurance.

The regents also approved fee increases at five state institutions and USU-Eastern’s Moab and Blanding campuses, which was the highest dollar increase going from $520 to $726.

According to Utah System of Higher Education data, tuition at Utah’s public colleges and universities remains the lowest in the country. Most are below those of peer institutions in the region.

The tuition and fee recommendations presented by each college and university president were set after “truth-in-tuition” hearings conducted on each campus earlier this month or in late February and in consultation with student leaders.

Prior to instituting tuition increases, Gov. Gary Herbert requested that the regents develop a definition of affordability for the Utah System of Higher Education.

A task force comprised of regents, institutions and others met multiple times over the past three months to develop a model for affordability based on the work of the Lumina Foundation and the Kem C. Gardner Institute.

The task force developed a definition that was adopted by the board after a slight amendment to address student debt.

The definition approved by the board states:

Affordability is the ability of a traditional full-time Utah student from a family of four to cover the cost of attendance at a USHE institution while living at home with financial aid, reasonable family savings and the student contributing 10 hours of weekly work earnings and without incurring student debt.”

The statement is intended to guide a future higher education governing board with respect to tuition and fee increases.

Here’s a list of approved undergraduate tuition increases for the 2020-21 academic year by institution in terms of actual dollars and percent of increase. The increases apply to in-state undergraduate students taking 15 credits per semester for two semesters.

University of Utah — $165 — 2%

Utah State University — $183 — 2.8%

Utah State University-Eastern, Moab, Blanding campuses — $123 — 3.5%

Weber State University — $100 — 2%

Southern Utah University — $0 — 0%

Snow College — $76 — 2.25%

Dixie State University — $142 — 3%

Utah Valley University — $70 — 1.38%

Salt Lake Community College — $52 — 1.5%

Average tuition increase for the Utah System of Higher Education — 1.87%