Tuition, fees expected to rise across Utah, Commissioner of Higher Education says

Mar 26, 2019, 2:32 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2019, 1:24 pm
University of Utah...
FILE PHOTO: Campus of the University of Utah. (Jordan Allred/Deseret News)
(Jordan Allred/Deseret News)

Utah’s education leaders will be meeting this Friday to discuss tuition prices, and Commissioner of Education Dave Buhler has warned that we can count on those prices going up.

Buhler spoke with KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic about the price hike and what parents and students can do to keep those prices from being unmanageable.

Tuition costs outpace wage increases

Thank Mom and Dad

A graduate thanks her parents by decorating her cap during the University of Utah commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 7, 2015. (Photo: Jeffrey Allred / Deseret News)

The tuition hike will be just the latest peg up in the soaring costs of a college education in America, which have been rising heavily since 1980.

Tuition costs in the United States have risen at eight-times the rate of our wages, according to Forbes, and student loan debt currently makes up the largest chunk of our non-housing debt.

In Utah alone, the price of tuition has increased by nearly $132 million over the past five years. Those increases may be going completely unchecked, as well; the Auditor General has accused Buhler and the Utah State Board of Regents of being unable to show that they have done anything to validate that any of those tuition increases were necessary.

Still, even after the Auditor General’s report, Buhler again says that we will be seeing what he describes as “some modest tuition increases.”

Buhler didn’t disclose specifics on how modest those tuition increases would be, but the University of Utah has quite publicly announced that it intends to increase tuition by 3.2 percent for the next academic year, while Weber State’s Board of Trustees have already approved a 2 percent tuition increase and 3 percent hike to student fees.

Those price increases can add up; if the University of Utah keeps increasing tuition at that rate, we can expect the cost of tuition to double within 23 years. Still, they’re not exactly abnormal. American public colleges, over the last ten years, have increased their tuition by an average of 3.1 percent per year, putting the University of Utah about on par with the rest of schools in the United States.

Like them or not, those price hikes, Buhler says, are unavoidable. He insists that they are doing everything they can to keep costs low. The cost of running a quality school, he says, is just too high to avoid.

“The desire of the board of regents and other presidents as well is to keep tuition as affordable as possible while still maintaining high-quality education opportunities for our students,” Buhler says.

The University of Utah agrees.

“We are dedicated to providing students with the very best value – ensuring they have access to the highest quality education for the most affordable price,” University of Utah’s Chief Financial Officer, Cathy Anderson, has said in a public statement. “This funding will allow us to offer more resources to students to support their success.”

Keeping costs low

University tuition

Commissioner of Education David Buhler recommends more student look into the Pell Grant as a way to afford the costs of education. (Photo: Shutterstock)

As high as the cost of education is rising, however, the University of Utah says that scholarship and grant opportunities are climbing even faster. Over the past five years, they say, scholarship dollars awarded to their students have increased by 93.13 percent.

Those grants and scholarships, Buhler says, are an underutilized way to get those tuition costs down and keep from spending the rest of your life paying off student loans.

“One of the things that we are really encouraging is for more students to fill out the paperwork to see if they’re eligible for what’s called a Pell Grant,” Buhler says.

The Pell Grant is a grant given out by Federal Student Aid that provides low-income students with help paying their tuition that, unlike a normal student loan, doesn’t have to be paid back. Students applying for the upcoming school year can receive up to $6,195 through the program.

A lot of Utahns, Buhler says, simply don’t apply, either because they aren’t aware of it or because don’t think their income is low enough to qualify. And as a result, a lot of people are missing out on a benefit that he believes they actually stood a pretty good chance of getting.

“We know, as a state, that we’re leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table each year that students are eligible in receiving,” Buhler says. “They haven’t applied for it.”

Any student interested in the Pell Grant can apply here.

More to the story

There are more options than just the Pell Grant to keep your tuition costs low.

KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic talked about some of the best and most-underappreciated ways to keep tuition affordable on their show today. If you missed it live, you can still hear all of their ideas on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Tuition, fees expected to rise across Utah, Commissioner of Higher Education says