The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Friday voted 8-2 in favor of a 5 percent tuition increase, in an effort to gain ground on the University’s budget shortfall.
The tuition hike will bring in about $5 million more to the university.
The Regents considered a 4 percent increase last fall, but opted against it. Board of Regents chair Jo Heckman says circumstances have changed drastically over the last few months.
“Our fiscal picture has completely collapsed around us,” she said.
The University system is facing about a $28 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, and anticipates further cuts in the next budget cycle.
University of Alaska President Pat Gamble says the tuition increase will help close that gap, but it’s not the full solution.
“The amount that is would take through tuition to solve whatever the final number is would be astronomically high and unacceptable,” Gamble said. “So, this is what the market will bear, I think. It will contribute; it will help.”
President Gamble says the university needs to explore other potential revenue sources. He says one thing the university needs to emphasize is student retention.
“If I have a student who’s unprepared for freshman college work, they come in and flunk out in the first semester. If I can’t keep that student in – the average student takes five years to graduate these days – I just lost nine semesters of tuition when that student flunked out,” he said. “Now that’s money…that’s real money. So, retention is very, very important to us. What can we do raise retention?”
Gamble is also considering more out-of-the-ordinary ideas.
“As a land-grant university, we didn’t get the land, but we’re looking at an initiative to possibly work something out where we get the equivalent of the land grant through resource development..or a fraction of what resource development the state does in the future, and that fraction would go into an account that would go into capital projects for the university,” Gamble said.
That proposal is similar to one in Texas, that Gamble says has been successful. The University has introduced potential legislation to Alaska lawmakers to see if the state would be interested in a comparable system.
The tuition increase will bump undergraduate classes up between $8-11 per credit hour and graduate course up between $20-22 per credit hour.
The increase will go into effect in the Fall 2015 semester.