The Dixie State University board of trustees voted March 10 to raise tuition after strong arguments from both sides.
Tuition is proposed to have a 4-7 percent increase for the 2017-2018 academic year. This would be a raise of about $82-144 each semester for Utah residents, and $262-459 for non-resident students. Even though he attended the board of trustees meeting via phone call, Thomas Wright, president of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty and trustee member since 2014, was the most vocal in the fight against raising the tuition.
Despite the debate, the proposal passed. Wright was the only trustee member who voted against raising the tuition. The proposal now moves to the board of regents, who on March 31, will have the final say on whether or not to raise DSU’s tuition.
Tuition was raised by five percent last year, and Wright said raising the tuition by about five percent each year to keep up with other universities is unsustainable.
“I feel very uncomfortable raising the tuition again,” Wright said. “I feel terrible for [students]. To get a higher education right now is just so expensive, and it seems like there’s no end in sight.”
Paul Morris, vice president of administrative affairs, said raising the tuition is necessary for DSU to be nationally competitive in attracting high-caliber administrators and faculty members. The tuition increase will help fund a raise in salaries for faculty members, as well as new administrator positions and programs, Morris said.
“As an institution, when looking at adding the things we’re adding…these new programs cost money, and unfortunately, the way we can get it is through tuition,” Morris said. “Tuition is a predictable and more controllable revenue source for an institution of higher learning.”
Dean of Students Del Beatty stood up and offered his thoughts on the tuition increase even though he isn’t a member of the board of trustees. He said most students would not even care if tuition were increased because many students use Pell Grants to pay for much of their tuition.
“Forty-five percent of our student population actually receive Pell Grants,” Beatty said. “The vast majority of students really don’t care (if tuition is raised). If tuition is only going up $100 or so, yeah they’re going to feel it, but not really because they’re not paying for it themselves.”
Student Body President Sarah Ramaker, a senior dance major from Midland, Michigan, said a tuition increase would help classes and programs that are lacking adequate funding.
“There are some classes that I've taken that definitely need some more financial backing,” Ramaker said. “$100 may seem like a lot to some students, but at the end of the day, when you break it down, you're just investing more into your future.”
Morris said administrators will look at funding next year to decide if another tuition increase will be proposed next year. He said tuition changes depend on how much money is allocated to DSU by the state legislature.
“DSU is the least expensive regional institution in the state,” Morris said. “It does not cost less to operate DSU than it does Utah Valley University or Southern Utah University…If we want to make our institution the best that we can and have the resources here that our students deserve, it’s going to cost at least the same amount of money as our sister institutions.”
Larry Bergeson, Washington County School District superintendent and trustee member since 2014, said despite the tuition increase, DSU will “still be the best bargain in the state.”
“I know we have to grow, but it seems like the cost for higher education is never ending,” Wright said. “I employ some students, and some of them are never going to get out from under the debt that they’re in. It just worries me.”
Wright said he wanted to see a more thorough investigation of the cost and funding to see if a tuition increase was necessary before he threw in his support for the change.
Also at the board of trustees meeting, the trustees unanimously approved new bachelor’s degrees in traditional nursing, population health and sports management. They also approved new certificates in multimedia journalism, social media and strategic communication. The next board of trustees meeting will be April 28.