Recovering from the wounds of economic decline

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Photo credit: Courtesy of stock.xchng

Photo credit: Courtesy of stock.xchng

Open your wallet and rifle through its contents. Your student I.D. card, a few receipts, a fully stamped card redeemable for frozen yogurt, a few family photos … is there anything missing? Your wallet is undoubtedly lighter because there was an increase in tuition this semester.

During the 2008-2009 school year, full-time residents were paying $1,594 in tuition per semester, while non-residents were paying $5,475.

Now in 2009-2010, residents are paying $1,732 in tuition per semester, a $138 increase, while non-residents are paying $5, 652, a $177 increase. These increases contributed an estimated $4,251,000 to the institutional budget.

“It is a challenge to set tuition,” said Linda Makin, executive director of planning and budget. “We take it very seriously and it has a really good process which incorporates student input.”

There are two steps in setting the tuition rate. The first tier of tuition, set by the Regents for all USHE Institutions, increased by one percent this year. This percentage of tuition is relative to residency, with residents paying $16 and non-residents paying $55.

The second tier of tuition is determined by the institution, with approval from the Trustees and Regents. This percentage increase equalized for both residents and non-residents, with each paying $122.

“If we hadn’t increased tuition we would have had to reduce the budget by another $2.7 million dollars. We decided to increase tuition to maintain a level of service and quality so that students would get value for their dollar,” said Makin.

With the failing economy still in shambles, every institution of higher education in Utah was called to reduce its base tax fund by 17 percent for 2009-2010. For UVU, this was the equivalent of $11.6 million dollars.

The Regents did however try to backfill part of that reduction by providing a one-time $5.4 million-dollar grant from Federal Stimulus funds in order to assist UVU in meeting the needs of this transition period.

The overall philosophy of implementing budget cuts was to make them once and be done.

“The impact was real but we tried to keep it as minimal as possible. To those that it happened to I’m sure it didn’t feel very minimal, but we tried really hard,” said Makin. In order to meet the set reduction, a series of 12 actions were carried out by June 30 of last year. While each action was significant, a few of them stood out specifically.

A total of 65 full-time equivalent positions were cut including four executive, 27 faculty, and 34 staff positions. The medical premium share for the remaining employees was also increased to help subsidize the upset.

They have reduced services and programs by considering which meet the essential needs of the community. Outreach activities were also cut back, including the restructuring of the Wasatch campus to be run mainly from the Orem campus.

Student tuition was increased which has supplied 23 percent of the backfill to the budget, and with less faculty, enrollments have been restricted to a first-come first-serve basis. The faculty to student ratio has increased, and the advisor to student ratio has also increased as a result of hiring restrictions and increased enrollment.

This dramatic change will take place in 2010-2011and students are certainly curious as to whether tuition rates will continue increasing.

“Around January we will begin to predict whether state action will give us more financial flexibility or whether we will have to cut back further,” Makin said. “It is still much too early to tell. My guess is tuition will continue to go up, but I don’t see it going up in large percentages.”

This changeover to lower base budget is final for the moment.

“We’re very comfortable with where our budget is and we’re ready to start working towards the future,” Makin said.