UA president proposes tuition increases

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The University of Alaska president is recommending a 7 percent tuition increase starting in the fall of 2012, after the administration's previous call for an even higher increase received harsh criticism.

At a Board of Regents meeting in Juneau in September, members faced protests from local students and members of the statewide Coalition of Student Leaders, who said increases that ranged as high as 10 percent were too high.

Newly appointed UA President Patrick Gamble then withdrew the proposal submitted by his predecessor, and promised work on a new compromise for the board's November meeting. That failed to materialize.

Now Gamble has proposed a new tuition increase schedule, for consideration at the Regents' Dec. 9-10 meeting in Fairbanks.

Gamble said the proposal that will be presented to the board then "reflects the consensus reached by most participating parties."

The proposed tuition increase is likely to win support, said Joe Nelson, Dean of Enrollment Management at the University of Alaska Southeast.

"It sounds to me like the students are on board, and the students were pretty vocal at the last meeting in Juneau," he said.

Since the September meeting, university officials have been meeting with student leaders and representatives of the individual campuses to develop a proposal with wider support.

Peter Finn, president of the Coalition of Student Leaders, did not return phone calls last week.

Gamble, in his memo to the board, described the increases as "inflation-adjusted," but even the reduced 7 percent increases go well beyond recent actual inflation estimates. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, for example, currently predicts an inflation rate of 1.5 percent during the next 10 years.

The Board of Regents typically sets tuition two years in advance to enable students to plan the cost of their education, but say they've been getting increasing pressure from the Alaska Legislature to make students pay a larger share of the cost.

Also at the September meeting, an extra increase for the already-set year beginning in fall of 2011 was rejected. Gamble's new proposal does not resurrect that increase, and maintains the university's dependable tuition policy.

In that year, both lower and upper division undergraduate tuition would increase 7 percent, with graduate tuition increasing 3 percent. Both increases would apply equally to resident and non-resident tuition.

One additional proposal that Nelson and others say has been getting discussed is a flat tuition rate for amounts of credit hours between 14 and 18. That might help students cut costs, but could also have some benefits for the university, Nelson said.

"That would, in theory, help to push students along to graduate sooner, and that may make some sense," Nelson said.

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