Truth in Tuition

By Annalisa Purser, associate director, University of Utah Communications

Update: March 20, 2019

Thanks to generous support from the Utah State Legislature, the proposed tuition increase has dropped to 3.2 percent. This amount will be presented to the state Board of Regents next week, and the final approved amount will be updated here after the vote.

The University of Utah is proposing up to a 3.9 percent tuition increase—the same as last year—that would be used to support and improve timely degree completion, capacity and growth, to support specific programs to meet strategic workforce and research needs, provide affordable access and supplement compensation for faculty and staff.

Those interested in learning more about the proposed changes are invited to attend the annual Truth in Tuition open house, which will be held Tuesday, March 19, 1:30-2:30 p.m., in the Marriott Library Gould Auditorium. The increase was presented to the university’s Board of Trustees on March 12 but will not be finalized without approval from the Utah State Board of Regents, which meets March 28-29.

“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,” said Cathy Anderson, chief financial officer for the U. “In developing this proposal, we consider the university’s strategic goals, as well as our educational, research, clinical and service missions. This funding will allow us to offer more resources to students to support their success while remaining mindful of the importance of being responsible stewards of their resources.”

The U was recently recognized by the Wall Street Journal as No. 11 in the nation for providing the best value. Presently, the U has the lowest tuition among all Pac-12 and Big Ten institutions (based on 2018-2019 total tuition and fees for a full-time resident undergraduate). It has the highest graduation rate and lowest portion of graduates with debt of all public four-year institutions in Utah among first-time, full-time freshmen, according to publicly available data. In fact, more than 70 percent of U students graduate within six years, and fewer than 40 percent have debt. Additionally, the average salary of U students immediately upon graduating is $53,000 per year—$10,000 higher than the average among all other public institutions of higher education in the state.

In addition to learning about the proposed changes, those attending the Truth in Tuition open house will have the opportunity to visit with members of the university administration who can discuss all aspects of university operations, including how the U ensures students get the best value by prioritizing efforts to promote student success while continuously working to improve operational efficiency.

For those who are unable to attend, a summary of the topics presented are outlined below:

Efforts to promote student success: Tuition and fees support a variety of student success initiatives.

  • The only anticipated fee change in the coming year is for mental health. It would increase from $4 per semester to $15 and would be used to provide additional psychologists, clinical case managers, victim-survivor advocates, a language access program and would enable campus facilities to offer more affordable mental health access.
  • While keeping costs competitive, the U continues to lead the Pac-12 in student-to-faculty ratio. In 2017, the student-to-faculty was 1:16, compared to the Pac-12 average of 1:18.
  • The School of Medicine has invested in making its Academic Success and Medical Student Wellness programs available to all of its students. Data show that expansion of both programs correlates with improved board scores, which are now well above the national average.
  • The U recognizes that a safe and secure campus environment facilitates learning and has expanded and increased trainings on topics such as mental health, anti-discrimination, bystander intervention, emergency preparedness, alcohol risk reduction and more.
  • Data show that students who participate in enhanced learning opportunities graduate in a timelier manner. Therefore, the U has worked to ensure more students have the opportunity to take advance of learning abroad programs, undergraduate research, learning communities, capstone courses and more. During 2016-17, 71 percent of U students took advantage of these experiences.
  • For students with good academic standing, finances are the most frequently reported obstacle to enrollment and/or persistence. To address this barrier, over the past five years, the U has worked to make higher education more affordable by increasing the total scholarship dollars awarded by 93.13 percent, increasing financial aid dollars awarded by 19.67 percent and increasing FAFSA completion by nearly 30 percent—helping more students receive federal financial aid. Additionally, the U introduced a new income-share agreement plan designed to help students complete their degrees faster. It is the first major university in the Western region to offer this type of financial assistance to students.

Improving operational efficiency: As stewards of students’ tuition dollars, the U works diligently to ensure efficient business practices and to preserve the environment through its sustainability initiatives.

  • Several new technological upgrades have improved business efficiencies and saved the institution money. Some of these include a new travel initiative that is expected to save the university $2.7 million; a new payment system that has allowed the Accounts Payment department to increase its payment volume by 23 percent while decreasing headcount; an electronic W2 option that saves on postage, printing and labor costs; and a consolidated student bill that also allows student to participate in a payment plan.
  • Additional administrative cost savings include improving the institution’s ability to acquire lower interest rates; a planned move toward an electronic inventory for capital assets; consolidating print services to leverage the university’s buying power; upgrading to more efficient lighting; and making changes to textbook offerings that saved students $1.4 million last year alone.
  • The U recently had a record year of research funding—more than $500 million. Some of this funding is used for administrative costs, payments to certain graduate students and funding additional departmental research. This cost recovery allows the U to keep tuition costs low.
  • A $3-per-semester fee funds the U’s Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, which supports innovative ideas for improving sustainability on campus. Since 2010, the program has abated 681 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, diverted 19,000 pounds of recyclables from the landfill, saved more than 1 million kilowatt hours per year and prevented the equivalent of more than 75,000 gallons of gas from being used.
  • The U is committed to moving toward carbon neutrality, and in 2019, the institution operated on 50 percent renewable energy, with a 25 percent reduction in its total carbon footprint.
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