As if Utah college students weren’t facing enough obstructions to their education — especially the cost of tuition, which continues to grow every semester — there’s more trouble on the financial horizon. As reported by the Deseret News on Jan. 21st, Utah’s colleges and universities had their budgets reduced 4 percent, putting jobs in jeopardy and setting up tuition for even further increases.
Commissioner of Higher Education (and former UVU President) William Sederburg said, “There’s no question that if asked to realize the additional five percent cuts, you’re looking at another 800 or more layoffs.” Let that number sink in. Eight hundred people, roughly the population of Escalante, Utah, an entire town, all left jobless.
There doesn’t seem to be any indication of which jobs will be cut, but none of the options are particularly pleasant. Cut adjunct faculty and we’ll end up with overworked tenured faculty and biology classes being held on the basketball court. It’s tough to cut tenure track positions that don’t actually exist, so that’s not much of an issue. Cut student jobs, especially in tandem with increases in tuition, and add to the money burdens of students whose parents don’t pay their tuition and who don’t qualify for much financial aid. What, then, do we do?
We raise taxes and tuition. Slightly. As someone who finds as much joy in being taxed as being forced to drink ipecac, I do not take such a stance lightly. In fact, because I pay both taxes and tuition, I (and countless others) will be hit on both counts.
But what are the other options? If we don’t trim the proverbial fat from an human resources perspective — which, make no mistake, we should not — where else could it come from? Canceling majors? We lose additional students to other schools with additional programs (and we’d have to take down that handy sign about the amount of degrees we offer), thus putting us even further down the hole. Decrease faculty and staff pay? We’d lose qualified, hard-working people to better opportunities in the private sector.
By adding a marginal, temporary increase to state taxes, the school (and its budget) can get back on their respective feet. And since students are receiving the most benefit from the additional resources, let us then handle an additional amount of the responsibility with an additional (and, of course, temporary) jump in tuition costs.
Take half of the student fees and, rather than hosting ‘80s dances or some other embarrassing and pointless activity, put them into administrative costs. When the local and national economies become more stable, bring taxes back down and stem the rising tide of tuition. Cancel sports programs that don’t recoup their own expenses. Increase facility fees by a dollar for anyone taking a PE class in a gym.
And if someone suggests we get a football team, punch them in the ear. Then charge them a dollar for the lesson.